Three to the fore: The Gurkha (centre) sticks his neck out on the line
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Report: Goodwood, Wednesday
Qatar Sussex Stakes (Group 1) 1m, 3yo
THE GURKHA turned the tables on Royal Ascot conqueror Galileo Gold in a scintillating finish to the £1 million contest, justifying a late plunge into 11-8 favouritism.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt finished second to Qipco 2,000 Guineas hero Galileo Gold in the St James’s Palace Stakes and filled the same spot in the Coral-Eclipse but got his head in front to maintain his trainer’s magical summer.
Like with King George-winning stablemate Highland Reel, The Gurkha was heavily-backed before the off and the money proved well placed again as Ryan Moore angled his mount off the rail to nail Galileo Gold by a neck.
Ribchester, a further short head away, came with a late rattle wide on the track to get involved in the finish but had to settle for third.
‘An exciting horse’
Frankie Dettori deployed similar front-running tactics to when successful at Ascot on Galileo Gold and with Moore hemmed in on the French Guineas winner up the majority of the home straight it nearly paid off.
“Frankie got the run of the race and they’re two very good colts,” said Moore. “Mine enjoyed the ground and he will be better on even faster.
“I think he’s had a tough campaign and he’s thrived on it. It all points to him being an exciting horse for the rest of the year.”
After gaining his fifth victory in the race, O’Brien was relieved The Gurkha’s busy scheduled had not caught up with him.
He said: “It has been tough on him. We were worried coming here after Sandown, but the lads said he was thriving. I was worried because he’s had such a big career crammed into a short space of time. He didn’t race last year, but he’s danced every dance since.”
Lot of options for winner
On future assignments, the trainer added: “I think he’d go back and get a mile and get a mile and a quarter, but he’s probably a miler.
“He has a lot of options. He has the mile races in France [Prix Jacques le Marois and Prix du Moulin], he has the Champion Stakes and he has York [Juddmonte International].”
Hugo Palmer felt his runner-up lost little in defeat and hinted at more three-year-old battles to come. He said: “There’s nothing between Galileo Gold and The Gurkha. We debated whether to run a pacemaker. It’s hard when you’re sitting in front for so long, but no-one else wanted to go on.
“Ryan Moore was in our slipstream and when he came by there was not much we could do. I thought Ryan would win by further, but the fact he didn’t shows the talent and guts Galileo Gold has got.
“I never shy away from a fight and the question is where it will be next. The Jacques Le Marois is quite soon, then there is the Moulin, QEII and Breeders’ Cup Mile.
“But it would be nice if we can leave the donkey work for someone else next time.”
Mixed feelings for Fahey
Jersey Stakes winner Ribchester also came out of the race with his reputation enhanced as he took another leap forward for trainer Richard Fahey, who also took fifth with the money-spinning Gabrial.
The trainer said: “I was delighted with Ribchester but it’s obviously frustrating when you’re not beaten far and finish strongly.
“We have minded him so far as he’s still up in the air and raw. He could be a champion, though, and I would love to win a Group 1 with him this year.”
The Sussex Stakes was billed as a clash of the Classic generation and although Irish Guineas scorer Awtaad disappointed that is how it panned out with the front three pulling well clear of Toormore, who fared best of the older horses in fourth.
var $facebookBlock = $(‘#facebook’);