Irish raider Sonnyboyliston came out on top in a thriller to the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap at York on Saturday.
Sent off at 10/1 under Ben Coen, the Johnny Murtagh-trained four-year-old denied the closing Quickthorn to score by a head, with the pair a length-and-a-half clear of the third Alounak.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Coen. “I just wanted to get him relaxed and he picked up so well three out. When he got there, he ran around a bit but I thought I had it on the line. I’m thrilled.”
Coen had Sonnyboyliston settled in the second half of the field as Euchen Glen and then Humanitarian and Blue Cup set a generous pace up front. The field darted across to the stands side rail as they came into the straight, by which time the winner was in a lovely rhythm and making relentless progress through the field. He hit the front two furlongs out and had overcome the challenge of Quickthorn and Alounak, only to drift into the centre of the track and allow Quickthorn another run at the winner.
“To have a winner at Ascot, Goodwood and then to win an Ebor, it’s what this game is all about and a credit to all the hard work from the team at home,” said Murtagh. “When I’m doing the entries for those big races, I’m going back to my experiences as a jockey – I know what the kind of horse it takes to win these races having ridden in them.
“The last time he ran here [when sixth in the John Smith’s Silver Cup], he ran very well. They went a bit slow and he got a bit outpaced and I loved the way he came home.
“The Melbourne Cup was the plan but I also have him in the Irish St Leger and we’ll have to think about that first.”
Owned by the Kildare Racing Club, Sonnyboyliston was winning for the fifth time in 13 starts. The Power gelding was bred by Diane O’Neill out of the Dylan Thomas mare Miss Macnamara, a Flat and hurdles winner from the family of Classic-winning miler Bachelor Duke.
Godolphin at the double
The reliable Space Blues justified 11/8 favouritism in the Group 2 Sky Bet City Of York Stakes to run out an easy winner and seal a York Group-race double for Godolphin following the earlier success of Real World in the Group 3 Strensall Stakes.
Always travelling well under William Buick, Space Blues made smooth headway to take it up a furlong out and had enough in reserve to hold Highfield Princess at bay.
“We all love him, he’s a proper yard favourite,” said Buick of the Charlie Appleby-trained Dubawi colt. “He’s a high-class 7f specialist. The rain we had so close to the races was a little bit of a concern but he’s so durable and honest.”
Meanwhile, Real World continued his relentless progression with a smooth victory under Marco Ghiani to take the Strensall Stakes.
Bidding to make it three in a row this season, Real World was always prominent under his young jockey and having struck the front two furlongs out, galloped all the way to the line for a length-and-a-half score over Lord Glitters.
“He’s a very nice horse and is improving all the time,” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said of the four-year-old colt. “After he won at Ascot [Royal Hunt Cup] and the Listed race [Steventon Stakes at Newbury], we were very happy with him. I think that a mile to a mile and a quarter is the best distance for him, and he’s a nice horse for the future.”
Moon enters Classic picture
The Queen’s homebred Reach For The Moon was introduced at 14/1 for next year’s Derby after a highly impressive win in the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown Park.
The Royal runner was bidding to enhance the excellent Solario record of trainer John Gosden, who previously sent out the likes of Kingman, Raven’s Pass and Too Darn Hot to win this race, and this year’s result was never in doubt as Reach For The Moon strode clear under Frankie Dettori for a four-length win.
“He was quite babyish at the beginning of his career but with racing he’s getting better and better,” said Dettori. “I was a bit concerned about the slow pace so I asked him a fair way out and he went through the gears and did it very well.
“He’s a good size, he’s got a wonderful stride and gears. He’s very exciting.
“The more he’s racing, the better he’s getting, so I suspect you’ll see him out a couple more times this year. I suspect the Dewhurst could be the plan.”
Reach For The Moon is a half-brother to the Group 1-placed Invictus Prince and out of Golden Stream, a Listed-winning member of the Queen’s noted Expansive family. He becomes the 82nd stakes winner for Sea The Stars.