Steady rain was not what most of the 15,000 spectators wanted when they arrived on the Knavesmire on Friday, but for Michael Dods, every drop was a blessing. By the time his mare Mecca’s Angel went to post for the Nunthorpe Stakes, Thursday’s good-to-firm going had changed to good, and Mecca’s Angel blazed through the five furlongs so rapidly that her second successive victory in the Group One sprint was assured with almost a quarter of a mile still to run.
Limato, the July Cup winner and favourite, was within two lengths at the line but this was a one-horse race from the moment Paul Mulrennan moved into the lead and asked Mecca’s Angel to go for home. “I’d love to say she’s complicated and I have to do this and that,” Mulrennan said, “but I just have to point her. At the two pole, I said ‘go’, and she did.”
Mecca’s Angel stopped the clock within a second of Dayjur’s course-record time, set on good-to-firm going on a sunny and memorable afternoon in 1990. On her day and her ground, she is an exceptional talent and, with the conditions now turning in her favour, Mecca’s Angel should add further Group One wins to her record before retiring to the paddocks at the end of the season.
“At her age, it’s not fair to race her next year and she’ll be sold to go to stud,” Dods said. “I’ll be keen to try her over six [furlongs] before she retires. There’s the sprint at Ascot on Champions Day [in mid-October] and also the [five-furlong] Abbaye on Arc weekend [two weeks earlier]. It’s possible she could run in both. This is the ground she wants. She doesn’t want it soft, on good ground she’s got another two gears.”
The locally owned Mecca’s Angel is top-priced at 6-4 for the Prix de l’Abbaye, to be run this year at Chantilly, and as big as 7-1 in a place for the Champions Sprint Stakes, while Limato is 6-1 with Paddy Power for his main autumn target, the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in November.
That race is staged over six-and-a-half furlongs on what is, by American standards at least, an unusual track with a downhill run in the opening stages. It should hold no fears for Limato, however, as he has the speed to win a July Cup and finish second in a strong Nunthorpe but also stays seven furlongs well, and he looks tailor-made for the challenge.
“That was a fantastic effort behind a true five-furlong specialist,” Henry Candy, Limato’s trainer, said. “Our only hope of beating her, I think, was if the ground stayed quick, but the rain arrived just at the wrong time. I think the ground will have gone by Ascot. Chantilly [for the Prix de la Forêt] could be an option, but it would be no surprise if he doesn’t run again until the Breeders’ Cup.”
Nemoralia returned to the scene of her impressive success at the Dante meeting in May and found her way back to the winner’s enclosure too, following two unsuccessful outings in Group One company. Her one-and-a-half-length margin in the Sky Bet City Of York Stakes was no match for her six-length stroll at Listed level three months ago, but Jeremy Noseda, her trainer, remains confident that she has the talent to win at the highest level this year.
His ultimate target for Nemoralia is the Breeders’ Cup, where his dirt-bred filly has options including the Mile, on turf, and the Filly & Mare Sprint, over seven furlongs on the main track.
“She was a Group One filly dropping back into Group Three company, she’s done what she should do and I’m delighted to see her doing it,” Noseda said. “The Park Stakes [at Doncaster in September] could be next and then we’ll head to America and look at the Queen Elizabeth for three-year-old fillies at Keeneland in mid-October.“We’ve got a choice of races at the Breeders’ Cup. She goes on the dirt as well so we could consider that. She’s a kind, lovely filly to deal with, she makes a trainer’s life very easy and it’s good to have her around.”
Quest For More recorded his first victory since taking the Northumberland Plate in June 2015 with a front-running success in the Lonsdale Cup but is unlikely to return to Australia for the Melbourne Cup, in which he finished ninth of 24 starters last year. “Nothing has quite gone right for him this year and when it started raining I thought our chances were diminishing,” Roger Charlton, Quest For More’s trainer, said. “I thought it would suit him [to make the running], every time he runs a mile and six the jockey says his best furlong is the one past the line. He takes a bit of time to get going.
“I like to see the horses and be with the horses a lot, and I found it very difficult [last year] when he was on the other side of the world. He’s a fragile horse who needs looking after and I think I’d rather look after him in England than Australia.”