Glorious Goodwood: Sussex Stakes Day - Alcohol Free wins £1m race

A thrilling renewal of the £1m Qatar Susex Stakes was won by Alcohol Free.

Alcohol Free and Oisin Murphy on their way into the winners' enclosure after victory in the Qatar Sussex Stakes / Picture: Malcolm Wells
Alcohol Free and Oisin Murphy on their way into the winners' enclosure after victory in the Qatar Sussex Stakes / Picture: Malcolm Wells

Alcohol Free led home a 1-2-3 for three-year-olds in the G1 Qatar Sussex Stakes, a clash of the generations over a mile and the highlight on day two of the Qatar Goodwood Festival.

Jockey Oisin Murphy held the Coronation Stakes winner up in the early stages, seeking cover before pouncing as the race developed two furlongs from home. Trained by Andrew Balding, the 7/2 chance had too much in reserve for the 11/8 favourite Poetic Flare, who was trying to add to his 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes victories this season.

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The winning distance was a length and three-quarters at the line, with Falmouth Stakes heroine Snow Lantern (6/1) running on late to take third and complete a clean sweep for three-year-olds.

Alcohol Free holds off Poetic Flare to win the Sussex Stakes / Picture: Malcolm Wells

Winning owner Jeff Smith has enjoyed much success at the Qatar Goodwood Festival over the decades, most memorably with Chief Singer, who landed this race in 1984, Lochsong and Persian Punch.

Smith said: “I won my first Sussex Stakes 37 years ago – I had jet black hair and no worries in the world! I thought it was very easy and that I would come back and do it again. This filly is something else. The way she has won is simply incredible, I am thrilled to pieces. What a wonderful job Andrew and the whole team have done.

“It wasn’t so much the opposition; I was more concerned that we did not have a repeat of the Falmouth where she got left in the lead having broken too well. She needs to get cover and something to aim at. Then she got bumped around and pushed back, but then the way she picked up showed what she really is. She is a champion – there is no question in my mind."

Balding, who won the 2017 Sussex Stakes with outsider Here Comes When, said: “Maybe we got lucky with Here Comes When, although that was hugely rewarding, don't get me wrong. But this filly has already won two Group 1 races, so it was lovely to see her cement her place at the top of the tree.

"Oisin was at pains to try and tuck in and get some cover because she's so much better when you are able to do that and she has got something to aim at. Poetic Flare is a very good horse, but she really did it well in the end. I am sure there were hard luck stories, but I am sure she was the best horse on the day. It was lovely to see her do that because we have always believed in her. It is no easy task taking on the colts and older horses, and to do it in that style was just fantastic."

Balding continued: “It is a privilege, it really is, watching her at home in the mornings. Cassia, who rides her every day, does a wonderful job as she tends to get a little highly strung. Watching her work is demoralising for the other horses; we have to keep swapping the lead horse because she is just so, so good. You see her afterwards and she is hardly blowing – it is effortless really.

“She has looked very good right from her first bit of work, and we ran her on one bit of work. She had been cantering, we worked her once and thought we’d better run her. She went to Newbury and hosed up. She has been the victim of bad draws whenever she has run, to be honest. She probably would have won the Dick Poole, and, with a good draw, I think in the Guineas she would have gone close had she been drawn in the middle or to the far side. Anyway, I will take this over all of those!”

Murphy said: “I can't thank everyone at Park House enough. Alcohol Free really can be a handful in the mornings. Cassia has to deal with her every day and deserves a medal because she can be really tough work.

“Anyone who follows me on Instagram will see that, when I go to tack her up, she looks like she is going to bite or kick me. Then when you get near her, she is quite the opposite. She is a special character.

“Alcohol Free is so, so talented and what a thrill I got from that. I've won this race before on Lightning Spear and last year it all went wrong on Kameko. Day to day, you have to just keep kicking. Alcohol Free thrives on racing, and she felt super on Saturday; we only went four furlongs, but I was full of confidence to be honest, particularly when the rain came.

“I knew James Doyle would go forward on Century Dream but on his own terms and in his own rhythm. I knew Tilsit under Kieran Shoemark and Alcohol Free would fight for the same position. Unfortunately, she is 440kgs and Tilsit is probably 500kgs plus. I was never going to win that battle and was happy to come back and trust that Kieran would move at the right time and that I would be able to get out and slip into the race. The race really ran from when we turned into the straight and then it was a grind to the line.

“Jeff Smith has been an incredible supporter of horse racing for a long time. I don't know how many employees there are at Park House Stables, but they all play their part and this will mean the world to them.”

Earlier, day two's main race card kicked off with Nagano battling bravely for David Egan to score in the Unibet “15 To Go” Handicap over a mile and a half. Held up in last of the 13 runners, the improving three-year-old swept down the outside to challenge 10/3 favourite Siskany with two furlongs remaining. The two protagonists – who had finished a length apart when taking minor honours in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot – battled hard, but it was the Roger Varian-trained Nagano (4/1) who prevailed by three-quarters of a length.

Varian said: “Nagano has proven to be quite versatile and is learning on the job. That is only his fifth career start. He learned a lot at Ascot and we learned a lot about him at Ascot. Me and David Egan watched the video the other day. We had a good draw and, probably because we had a good draw and were keen not to give it up, we maybe him rushed in the race.

“Today, we rode Nagano very patiently and it showed what he could do. In all of his races before Ascot, he came home like a train and he did the same today. His best days are still ahead of him. He’s a very laid back horse, he’s got a wonderful attitude and is a very easy horse to train.

“He went off at 33/1 because he doesn’t show up at home. He is a very idle horse on the gallops but he’s run five great races to be fair to him. I was worried about the ground. I think he’s a better horse on better ground, he’s a beautifully moving horse.”

Last Empire upset more-fancied rivals when winning the G3 Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes for fillies and mares over seven furlongs. Sent off a 16/1 shot, the Kevin Ryan-trained five-year-old led approaching the final furlong and fought hard to repel the closing Onassis (15/2) and pace-setting Highfield Princess (9/2). Just a half-length and a neck separated the front three as they crossed the winning line.

Jockey Danny Tudhope and trainer Kevin Ryan were both enjoying a fifth Qatar Goodwood Festival winner. Ryan said: “I spoke to Steve Parkin [of Clipper Logistics, owner] this morning and he was very confident that Last Empire would get the trip. If you are going to get it, you are going to get it around here.

“Last Empire loves soft ground and, although her last run was very disappointing, she came back very heavily in season, so we brought her back, got her nice and fresh, and started again. She looked great again today and Danny gave her a great ride. When you have a good draw here, you have to keep it and you have to believe they are going to get the trip, you can’t ride them without doubt.

“I am delighted for everyone involved with Clipper. They are great supporters of the yard and it’s nice to repay them with a big winner. We were always aiming for the sprint on Champions Day because we felt that she would likely get her ground there and the stiff six furlongs will suit her. I would say that will still be on the agenda.”

The Richard Hannon-trained Armor (6/1) quickened impressively to win the five-furlong G3 Markel Molecomb Stakes for juveniles. Jockey Ryan Moore sat behind the early pace and, when a gap appeared on the stands’ side rail, the son of No Nay Never lengthened smartly to go clear of his rivals.

The 13/8 favourite Fearby was quickly left behind by the authoritative winner, going down by three and a quarter lengths, with Boonie (9/1) a further three-quarters of a length back in third.

Hannon, registering his 20th success at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, said: “We have always thought a lot of Armor and he worked very well on Sunday morning. He ran very well at Royal Ascot even though he still looked a little inexperienced, and he's won very well there.

“He was tapped for speed a little bit coming down to the furlong and a half marker, but he would have loved that ground. Ryan [Moore] said he would like the ground, I think he knows what he's on about, and he did. I've not made too many flash entries for him but we'll look at something like the Prix Morny now, maybe the Flying Childers. He's not a big horse. This is his year and, if he makes a three-year-old, then great, but he is good enough now. He will get six furlongs and we'll have to have a go at a Group 1 race over that trip now."

llustrating could be called the winner for every one of the five furlongs of the British Stallion Studs Alice Keppel EBF Fillies’ Conditions Stakes for juvenile fillies. The Karl Burke-trained filly took the eye throughout, travelling strongly under Danny Tudhope before quickening clear for an impressive success. Runner-up Anadora (15/2) was beaten two and three-quarter lengths, with Canonized (11/4) a short head behind in third.

Tudhope and owner Clipper Logistics were registering a double with Illustrating (2/1 fav), following the win of Last Empire in the G3 Whispering Angel Oak Tree Stakes earlier on the card. Trainer Karl Burke said: “I was happy with Illustrating’s position until she got a bump and it pushed us out. She has to have a little bit of cover and be ridden for that turn of foot she has got. She has an amazing turn of foot really. The only filly that I have trained that has a turn of foot like her was Quiet Reflection. She has that burst.

“I was keen to go to Ascot with her. It was getting late on and we ran her at Catterick 10 days before on ground that we thought would be a bit quick for her. It was close to home, so we took the chance, and she bolted up. Then we went to Ascot and she was a bit gassy – she was very sharp out of the stalls and ended up chasing the speed of the Americans. She just did too much too soon in the race, really.

“She relaxes as soon as she gets cover, which is what Danny did today. Then she got a bump halfway but she had relaxed enough by that stage, so I wasn’t too concerned. She travelled beautifully into the race and, when he picked her up, she was electric.

“She handles that ground and she is in the Lowther. We have to step up to six furlongs but I think, if she relaxes, she has a great chance of staying it. She has developed since her last run and is getting stronger.”

Sussex Stakes winner Balding chalked up a day two double with the success of Achelois in the British EBF Premier Fillies' Handicap. Balding was following up the G1 Qatar Sussex Stakes triumph of Alcohol Free earlier on the card, with Rob Hornby doing the steering this time on the 3/1 chance.

Sat second for most of the race, the combination soon put the race to bed as the 10-furlong contest developed, scoring by a length from 11/4 favourite Timeless Soul. Freyja (14/1) attempted to make all of the running and held on for third, two and three-quarter lengths behind the runner-up.

Nikki Stafford of Thurloe Thoroughbreds said: “It is putting more money into the Royal Marsden coffers for the Oak Cancer Centre, which is a new treatment centre they are building.

“We set up this syndicate two years ago with three horses - Achelois is one of them, Buzz is another and another who is exciting with Richard Hannon. How lucky are we, how lucky are the syndicate and it is for the best cause in the world. 25 per cent of the winnings will go to the Royal Marsden, it’s exciting. Achelois was flying. I have to say thanks to Andrew Balding her trainer who said it would be good to step up in trip to a mile and a quarter and he was right."

Balding said: “Achelois has done nothing but improve all year and loves this ground. She is so uncomplicated and Rob gave her a lovely ride. She's going the right way and it's lovely for Thurloe, the Royal Marsden and everyone connected with the horse.

“She deserves a crack at something better now. She's out of a Sadler's Wells mare so it's not inconceivable that she will go up further in time but we'll likely stick at this sort of trip for now. She's so straightforward and a really lovely filly to deal with.”

Pat Dobbs and Magical Wish timed their challenge to perfection to win the World Pool Handicap over seven furlongs, the final contest on day two of the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Magical Wish (12/1) emerged from the 17-strong field as the race unfolded, finishing powerfully to give trainer Richard Hannon a third win at this year’s meeting.

Hieronymus (20/1) was beaten a head into second place in a thrilling finale, with Be Prepared (7/1) a half-length behind in third and Sunset Breeze (17/2) in fourth.

Hannon, who now tops the Leading Trainer standings, said: “We weren't sure whether to run Magical Wish. I spoke to Tim [Palin of Middleham Park Racing] this morning and we thought the ground might be a bit too soft but he's been dropped a little in the weights and was due a good run.

"He's had a couple of unlucky runs, especially here where he's been second or third but I'm very pleased to see him get his head in front today."

Before the main race programme, French challenger Lady Princess, ridden by Oisin Murphy, stormed to success in the Qatar International Stakes, the opening contest on day two. Murphy will have enjoyed his first ride of day two around the Sussex venue, as the Group 1 race for purebred Arabians is a valuable one, with £226,840 going to the winner. Held up early, Lady Princess travelled into the race supremely well, before quickening clear for an empathic success.

Murphy said of the Thomas Fourcy-trained five-year-old: “That was a brilliant performance from Lady Princess – she travelled really well and then quickened up in good style. She showed a brilliant turn of foot. I was really impressed and she looks to have a bright future. It is lovely to win this race.”

Will Douglass, representing the owner Khalifa Bin Shaeil Al Kuwari, said: “Oisin got off and told me that he enjoyed it a lot. She has a great turn of foot. She is very, very good. Mr Fourcy is a phenomenal Arabian trainer and this has been the plan for a long time.”

Below are links to yesterday's reports and pictures and some selections for Wednesday's racing...