International glory will always be savoured by Ian Mongan

An integral part of the Frankel story, Ian Mongan enjoyed a day in the sun he will never forget when winning the 2011 Juddmonte International.

The Glasgow-born jockey was a 32-year-old whose riding career was nearer its end than its start when teaming up with the late great Sir Henry Cecil in the mid-noughties, but became a vital cog in the Warren Place wheel.

While opportunities to showcase his talent at the top level were relatively infrequent, Mongan proved he was more than capable of getting the job done on the Knavesmire when breaking his Group One duck aboard the popular Twice Over.

“I’ve always thought a lot of him,” Cecil said in the immediate aftermath.

“He’s my second jockey and is very underrated. If he got better rides he’d be right in the top flight.”

Twice Over was already dual Champion Stakes hero and a Coral-Eclipse winner when returning to York 12 years ago, having been narrowly denied by Rip Van Winkle in the 2010 International – and yet he lined up as the apparent second string.

The stable’s chief hope was the brilliant racemare Midday, a six-time Group One winner and the pick of Cecil’s number one rider Tom Queally.

Both horses carried the colours of Khalid Abdullah, who at that stage was still chasing an elusive first victory in a race he had sponsored since 1988.

Mongan, keen to grasp the moment with both hands, was optimistic. He said: “Obviously Tom was on Midday because he’d done very well on her, but going into the race I felt I actually had the best chance.

“Twice Over was such a lovely horse, such a gentleman and such an easy ride as well, so I was full of confidence beforehand.”

Only five runners went to post, with Midday and Twice Over second and third in the betting behind Aidan O’Brien’s dominant Hardwicke Stakes scorer Await The Dawn.

Midday and Await The Dawn locked horns inside the final quarter-mile, but it was Twice Over who finished best to beat his stablemate to top spot by three-quarters of a length.

“Things went to plan,” Mongan recalled.

“I was getting there almost too easily actually and I remember as I passed Daryll Holland (riding Zafisio, finished fourth) he shouted ‘Go Mongy go’!

“I went for Twice Over, then I waited and then I went for him again. Midday had maybe gone a bit soon, but he stayed on really well.

“He was probably one of the easiest winners I’ve ridden and for it to be in a Group One was fantastic.”

Mongan remembders the return to the winner’s enclosure with great fondness, adding: “It was a great day, especially for Henry to finish first and second. I’ll always remember Aidan O’Brien coming over to congratulate him and Henry gave him a pat on the backside!

“I’ve never ridden a horse like Twice Over as he not only needed a lead horse on the gallops, but he also needed one to get him there as he was so lazy. It was quite funny actually.

“But as soon as he turned onto the gallops and went, he covered so much ground it was amazing.”

Another Cecil inmate Mongan remembers fondly, albeit for different reasons, is Bullet Train, who was perhaps the most famous pacemaker of modern times.

While well fancied for the Derby in 2010 and a smart horse in his own right, the son of Sadler’s Wells is best known as the galloping and racing companion for his illustrious half-brother Frankel.

In all Bullet Train made the running for his unbeaten sibling in six Group One races, with Mongan the man on his back on five of those occasions.

“It was an easy job because Bullet Train was brilliant – he knew his job, he’d ping the gates and lead Frankel, as he did at home as well,” said Mongan.

“Myself and Henry and Tom had a chat about it and it was all about treating the races almost like a piece of work.

“I think Frankel’s most devastating performance was when he won the Queen Anne (in 2012) and I just went a good gallop without going silly and I tried to pick up from the four pole to the two to get the race going. Frankel would normally take over two out and go and do his thing.

“It worked for us because Bullet Train was such a good horse. I think he could have won a Group One at one point, but he had a job to do and he did it great.

“With him being Frankel’s half-brother it was such a great story and I was really lucky to be part of it all. They were such good times and I miss it.”

Frankel, of course, retired unbeaten at the end of 2012, with that year’s Juddmonte International one of the standout performances in his remarkable 14-race career.

The following year the sport mourned the lost of his legendary trainer and Mongan retired from the saddle at the end of that season.

He said: “When Henry passed I think I rode the first winner for Jane (widow) at Yarmouth and at the end of that season I handed my licence in.

“Henry got me going as I was struggling for a long time to get good rides and struggling with my weight, but getting out of bed each morning to ride Henry’s horses was so enjoyable.

“After Henry passed I was going to go back to riding at Wolverhampton and Brighton, but I didn’t have the hunger for it so I called it a day and personally felt I ended on a high.”

These days Mongan acts as assistant trainer to his wife Laura, who memorably secured Classic glory with Harbour Law in the 2016 St Leger at Doncaster.

Mongan admits times are tougher seven years on, but the appetite for success remains fervent.

He said: “Laura is the only lady to ever train the Leger winner, so that was fantastic.

“We’re still training now. We haven’t got the calibre of horses we did, but we’ll keep trying.”

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