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Melbourne Cup odyssey awaits Ebor maestro Mustajeer

Sat 24 Aug 2019

Irish raider Mustajeer bagged Britain’s biggest handicap pot of all as he put the rest of the Ebor field in their place on the Knavesmire.

In the race that gives York’s Ebor Festival its name, there was no denying the supremacy of Ger Lyons’ gelding on the final day of an increasingly sun-drenched meeting.

Much of the pre-race conjecture was centred elsewhere – whether for example Yorkshire-born William Haggas might carry the prize down south, in the first million-pound edition of the historic race, with the well-backed 5-1 favourite Raheen House.

Or perhaps the prolific King’s Advice could cap his remarkable sequence of success since joining Mark Johnston by scooping the Knavesmire riches too?

Instead, it was 16-1 shot Mustajeer – back for another attempt after his creditable fourth place last year – who proved the master of all, under a fine ride from Colin Keane and in a course-record time to boot.

The six-year-old has put himself in a new bracket with a win more emphatic than the three-quarter-length margin first suggests – and future assignments are set to take him still further afield, with the Melbourne Cup firmly in focus.

Saturday was not exclusively about the Ebor, though – and the preceding Sky Bet City of York Stakes served up its own spectacle to savour.

Home hopes, in a race elevated for the first time to Group Two status, were pinned on pride-of-the-north filly Laurens.

Yet, hard as Karl Burke’s multiple Group One winner tried, she could not quite peg back former stablemate Shine So Bright.

At the line, the front-running grey was still in front by an official nose under supersub jockey James Doyle – deputising for the injured Silvestre De Sousa and completing a quick double after the victory of improving stayer Hamish in the Melrose Handicap.

On ever quicker ground, track records were in peril throughout – and it was no surprise to hear confirmation that Shine So Bright had set a new one.

Picture – and performance – of the day

Shine So Bright (right), by a grey whisker, from the admirable Laurens in the Sky Bet City of York Stakes
Shine So Bright (right), by a grey whisker, from the admirable Laurens in the Sky Bet City of York Stakes

Mustajeer was a decisive winner of one of the world’s most famous handicaps, but the stirring battle between Shine So Bright and Laurens may live longer in the memory for many. There was barely a flared nostril between them at the line – and the filly will always be second-best on this occasion in the form book. But with no recourse to the substantive evidence of a photo finish, it seems broadly fair to award the accolade here in equal parts.

Quote of the day

He’s like a pocket rocket. He’s not very big, but he’s got a huge heart and he’s a star Trainer Andrew Balding's wife Anna Lisa, on Shine So Bright

Tweet of the day

What’s next?

Mustajeer is all set for an Australian adventure
Mustajeer is all set for an Australian adventure

The Ebor has become a stepping stone to globe-trotting assignments, and none more so than for Mustajeer – who has already been sold out of Lyons’ County Meath stable to race in Australia this winter. The Melbourne Cup is his intended destination, and he has already attracted a new quote of 16-1. Mustajeer may well go off significantly shorter at Flemington in November.

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