Epictetus shocks hot favourite Nostrum in Thoroughbred Stakes

Epictetus inflicted a shock defeat on the much-vaunted Nostrum to land the Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood.

Winner of his first two juvenile starts before finishing third in the Dewhurst, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Nostrum was considered a legitimate Classic contender at the start of the year before injury ruled him out of the first half of the season.

Having made a dominant comeback in the Listed Sir Henry Cecil Stakes at Newmarket last month, there was talk of a tilt at Group One glory in the Sussex Stakes, but connections instead elected to take another step forward in this Group Three contest.

For much of the one-mile journey the race appeared to be going according to script, with Ryan Moore adopting the same pacesetting tactics which worked so impressively at Newmarket three weeks ago aboard the 4-6 market leader – but it was a clear with a furlong to run he had a race on his hands.

Having sat in Nostrum’s slipstream throughout, the John and Thady Gosden-trained Epictetus produced the better finishing kick of the pair and passed the post with a length in hand under Frankie Dettori.

Of the vanquished favourite, Stoute’s assistant James Savage said: “Ryan thought he had the horse in the perfect place and that the race was for us, but in the last 100 yards he said it was like having a puncture.

“We always thought he would handle cut in the ground, but it found him out in the final 100 yards.

“He’s never not hit the line and we felt he just didn’t hit the line today. We’ll give him a good check over and regroup.

“All of our horses are trained to hit their heights at a certain time, and this horse – for sure he’s a very good horse this year, but he will be an even better horse next year.”

Epictetus, trained by John and Thady Gosden, was a 6-1 shot to notch a first win since making a successful reappearance at Epsom in April, having since failed to trouble the judge in the Dante, the French Derby or the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Dropping back to a mile for the first time this season Epictetus looked the real deal, much to the delight of his connections.

“The horse has shown plenty of speed over a mile and two (furlongs), we thought he’d progress to a mile and a quarter this year,” said Thady Gosden.

“Obviously it hasn’t necessarily panned out, he’s run good races without getting his head in front but dropping him down in trip today on ground he’s enjoyed has suited him well.

“It was a perfect ride. He broke well, sat where he was happy on the fence and it panned out, he followed Ryan and it was a Houdini move to get out of there with a furlong to go. Being Frankie, he obviously managed to do it!

“Obviously there is a mile race back here, the Celebration Mile, which fits in well.”

Dettori added: “We tried three times over a mile and two furlongs and we always had an excuse – the ground, the competition in the Jockey Club, and we thought maybe George (Strawbridge, owner) was right when he said, ‘Maybe you guys are running this horse too long!’

“John and Thady found this race over a mile and the favourite looked very hard to beat, I had a good passage and he passed the horse and was not stopping, I give him full credit

“He is ready to go up in grade – the Celebration Mile in three weeks springs to mind and then there are lots of races in the autumn – at Newmarket, maybe over Arc weekend. He has beat a decent field today in style and we can go back and make big plans.

“As he handles some ease in the ground, we can look to the autumn.”

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