GOODWOOD, ENGLAND // Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed's Sea Lord scored a battling victory over Godolphin's Invisible Man in the Totesport Mile handicap yesterday under a tactically astute ride from jockey Royston Ffrench. Ffrench, who was riding for Sheikh Hamdan's trainer Mark Johnston, sent Sea Lord into the lead from the off. Despite a persistent and sustained challenge from Frankie Dettori on Invisible Man, Sea Lord hung on by three-quarters of a length.
"It's very tough to win a race like that," Ffrench said. "Mr Johnston's horses do not know how to give in. I knew something was coming to challenge about a furlong and a half out but my fella found more and kept going." With 19 runners careering around the contours of this Sussex track there is generally a melee in the home straight, but Dettori stalked his way through and found a dream run up the far rail two furlongs from home. The Italian looked to have a considerable amount of rein with which to work away at Sea Lord, but Ffrench had forced his mount to keep a little in reserve and pushed out.
"I am able to clock a race in my head," Ffrench said. "In a race like that you are talking about running 12 to 13 seconds a furlong in the early stages, and then up the tempo to around 10 or 11." It was the fourth win in the race for Johnston, who also saddled Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum's Laa Rayb to victory last year. But the Scot used the moment to underline his anger at the poor prize-money in Britain for Pattern races, which earn horses black print in sales catalogues.
"My gut feeling is that Sea Lord shouldn't be in this kind of race," Johnston said. "We have a terrible dilemma with a horse like this. Do we run in handicaps for the prize money or do we go for the Listed prize? The races for the best horses should carry the best prize money. "What value is a Group race to this horse? What is black type really for? "I know how good this horse is. What it comes down to is that I have to demonstrate, by prize money, race status, or by official rating, that the horse is of a certain level that it can be selected for the Dubai royal family's elite team. That process ultimately decides whether my horses go to Godolphin or go to race in Dubai."
Sea Lord picked up £72,840 (Dh420,500) for winning yesterday's race - formerly known as the Golden Mile - andJohnston revealed that the gutsy son of Cape Cross could well contest this afternoon's Listed Thoroughbred Stakes, a race for which the winner gets a comparatively paltry £28,385. "He is declared to run tomorrow and, whether he can realistically do that, I will have to see. It is a possibility but it would be a lot to ask of him and we would be putting our heads on the block. There is the question of whether the incentive is there or if there is any chance of doing any damage to the horse. We have a bit of thinking to do."