Wonderful Tonight was all class when winning the 14-furlong G2 Qatar Lillie Langtry Stakes for Pulborough-based trainer David Menuisier.
Sent off the 4/5 favourite, Wonderful Tonight’s partner William Buick sat the four-year-old second in the early stages as she raced keenly behind the leader. As the front-running Makawee faded, Buick was left with no choice but to commit, making his challenge under half a mile from home. Wonderful Tonight stretched clear on the stands’ side but was emptying slightly in the closing stages – that early exuberance appearing to be a factor.
The two-time Group 1 winner had enough in reserve to see off the staying-on Tribal Craft (16/1), ultimately scoring by a comfortable two lengths.
Menuisier said: “Wonderful Tonight won a Group 1 over a mile and six furlongs last year, and she is a lot stronger this year. But William came back in and said please don't run her over a mile and six furlongs again, it really is the end of the world for her.
“You kind of have to break her stride the whole way as she wants to go. She probably has more speed than last year. You could probably get away with dropping her down in trip, rather than stepping her up.
“I decided not to run her in the Nassau as I wanted Emma Banks [Lady Bowthorpe, owner] to win the race, so we went for the Lillie Langtry instead.
“She will probably have a run in the Yorkshire Oaks or at Deauville next. She will then go for the Prix Vermeille before the Arc.”
It was a seventh win of at this year’s Qatar Goodwood Festival for Buick, who ends the week as Leading Jockey.
The final race of the meeting went to another Pulborough trainer, Amanda Perrett, who was delighted to Rebel Territory do the business in the Signature Apprentice Handicap. Ridden by three-pound claimer Rhys Clutterbuck, Rebel Territory (7/2 fav) was switched off early before being asked to challenge as the field drifted towards the stands’ side.
Runner-up Sweet Reward (14/1) was briefly checked as the winner grabbed the running rail but couldn’t make any in-roads late on and went down by a length and three-quarters. The Whipmaster (6/1) was three lengths further back in third.
Perrett said: “Rebel Territory loves the cut in the ground, he's one of the few of ours this week that did. The race that he was due to run in at Sandown in midweek was cancelled, so for him to come out and do that is just fantastic. Rhys got down to a light weight to ride him. I was quite confident, but the horse was quite keen on the outside at Ascot, so I told Rhys to try and get some cover early on and he gave him a beautiful ride, he didn't rush or panic.
“He's a young, inexperienced horse and handled everything really well. It's amazing for the owners who bred him. Let's hope that he is back here next year!”
Commanche Falls (10/1) took the Unibet Stewards' Cup to the delight of jockey Connor Beasley. He said: "It means a lot. He's a horse that's just got better and better with each run. Fair play to the boss and the team at home. They've got him in tremendous form. He comes to every gig and today was his best performance ever.
"The ground was a bit of a question mark but I knew that he would pull out all the stops for me. It was a bit rough and I might have travelled a bit too well into it but I knew when I got him rolling that he had a good shout."
Commanche Falls' co-owner Ian Drysdale said: "It was amazing, absolutely amazing. We weren't sure he would like the ground but he's been coming up the weights and we knew that he would get in so we decided to take our chance. The first three furlongs we couldn't see him but that's just the way he runs, once we saw him we were confident that he would finish his race strongly.
"The heart was fluttering a bit. We've been very lucky because Dakota Gold won some very nice races for us. The first time Dakota Gold won a big race we were in cloud cuckoo land but this is the biggest occasion we've had. This fella is his half brother. The mare sadly died when foaling this horse.
"He's in the Ayr Gold Cup. The handicapper will have his say but Michael [Dods] makes all the decisions."
The action began with apprentice jockey William Carver enjoying his first winner at the Qatar Goodwood Festival when taking the Thames Materials Handicap aboard Oo De Lally. Riding for his boss Andrew Balding in the seven-furlong contest, Carver produced top-weight Oo De Lally (10/1) with a well-timed challenge and had enough in reserve to fend off Seven Brothers (25/1) by a length. The third Shark Two One (20/1) was another to run well at big odds, a further length behind.
Balding was scoring for the fourth time this week which put him top of the Leading Trainer standings.
Carver said: “It's good to have a winner on my home track. I've had a win and a second on Oo De Lally and now another win. He's got a lovely attitude. He was going so well for me. I kind of wanted to be a bit handier than I was. He's not the sort of horse that you can rush along, you've got to let him find his feet.
“He was travelling so well that I was tempted to go for him sooner, but I went for him soon enough in the end because he finished quite tired. He does like that soft ground. He really appreciates it and kept going all the way to the line. There was a big shower about an hour ago and it's really got into the ground. I'd say there isn't too much good in it now.”
There was a 16/1 winner of theUnibet Stewards' Sprint with Jason Hart taking the honours on Mr Wagyu for trainer John Quinn. The six-furlong handicap is a consolation race for the Unibet Stewards' Cup later on the card, and the winner would likely have been a factor in the main event, such was his dominance here.
Hart grabbed the stands’ rail to make his challenge before forging clear for a decisive victory. My Wagyu (16/1), trained in North Yorkshire by John Quinn, had two and three-quarter lengths to spare over runner-up Able Kane (33/1). Power Over Me (9/1) was a further length and a half back in third, with Music Society (13/2) and Be Proud (12/1) filling the remaining places.
Quinn said: “We decided to come stands' side being drawn 17 and I think that was a help. We felt the ground was slightly better on the stands' side, but I think he would have won anyway. This year he's just found form that he never has before and all credit to the lads and lasses at home, they've done a great job with him. He doesn't take much or any training at all and loves to race.
“I felt the track would play to his strengths because he's great early and he's very good in the first couple of furlongs in a race. When he's travelling like that early on, he normally finishes."
The Rossa Ryan-ridden Prince Alex outstayed his rivals to win the valuable 14-furlong Summer Handicap on his first start since joining Newmarket trainer Michael Bell. Ryan and Prince Alex always took the eye as the race developed, travelling well in behind as the field headed for the centre of the track on the rain-softened ground.
Prince Alex (13/2) had a protracted battle with 9/2 favourite Urban Artist, as the two edged back towards the far side, and stayed on dourly to prevail by a neck. Third went to Future Investment (7/1), a further length behind.
Nick Bell, assistant to his father, said: “We have not had the horse long – credit has to go to Ralph [Beckett, previous trainer] and the team at Kimpton for preparing him. It shows what a good constitution the horse has to be able to move stable early on in the week and then come here today and perform like he did. He seemed to really relish that soft ground and stays very well.
“He has been very laid back and hasn’t missed an oat in the feed bin. He seems a very pleasant horse to have around the place and a nice addition to the yard. He has only won a short-head today, so I don’t think he is going to go up enough to get in the Ebor and he is quite ground dependant.
“I’d say we’ll go wherever the weather takes us, but I believe this has been the plan for a while. It is nice for the horse’s sake that he got his head in front. I am sure he is a horse that is going to get better with age.
There was a downpour before racing that sent the large crowd running for cover. And Ed Arkell, Goodwood’s Clerk of the Course, said: “We had nine millimetres of rain in total yesterday (Friday). That was before, during and after racing, so the ground has eased a little bit to Good to Soft.”
Imperial Fighter made an impressive winning introduction for Andrew Balding in the British European Breeders Fund EBF Maiden Stakes over seven furlongs. The son of The Gurkha – who won the G1 Qatar Sussex Stakes in 2016 – was pushed out by Oisin Murphy to score in decisive fashion.
The 9/1 chance defeated Ring Of Beara (3/1) by two and a half lengths, with a further gap of three lengths back to Capital Theory (22/1) in a well strung-out field. The first three were all making their debuts.
It was a fifth win of the meeting for Balding, helping him claim the Leading Trainer title for the week. Balding said: “Imperial Fighter has been shaping nicely at home and I liked him. I didn't know if he would handle the ground, but he obviously has and looks a very nice horse going forward.”
Here's a recap from what we've seen on the Downs earlier this week.