3 October 2004
Brough Scott sees Mark Johnston’s amazing filly blaze a trail and overshadow the shock Cambridgeshire result.
A 100-1 win by Spanish Don in the Cambridgeshire, a bubble-pricked 10th from Pedrillo the red-hot favourite but neither drama will last in the memory one hundredth as long as Attraction’s blazing run to land the Sun Chariot Stakes, her fourth Group One victory of this, her Classic season.
We know and opponents know what we are going to get from Attraction. Kevin Darley is going to jump her out of the stalls and let her run. In all six races last season and then the 1,000 Guineas on this track in May, the Irish equivalent three weeks later and most gloriously in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, she had left pursuers adrift in a nine-race unbeaten run.
But British racing dreads defeat, no matter that her failure in France was in hopelessly unsuitable soft ground, and her two other reverses were both to the super four-year-old Soviet Song. So despite her eight wins, two Classics, and more than £660,000 to her name, Attraction went to post yesterday to put her stardom back on track.
Truth to say this has been enhanced by the combativeness of her trainer, Mark Johnston, who railed against any handicapper who decided not to put Attraction at the top of the table and has got such a phobia about racecourses watering in the autumn that he withdrew the filly from Ascot because of the mere possibility that the ground might come up soft – which it didn’t. Even yesterday there was much sucking of cheeks and prodding of turf before Johnston, Darley and the owner, the Duke of Roxburghe, completed the full mile on foot and decided to let Attraction take her chance.
Even then it was only on the understanding that Darley steered a course tight against the far rail which the reconnaissance trip had suggested was a quicker, albeit more chewed up, racing surface. This the jockey did to some effect, tacking over so fast from the stalls which were placed in the centre of the track that the recall man up ahead had to grab his white flag and run for his life.
Newmarket’s invaluable timing system gives a unique definition to the gallop Attraction set. After completing that opening maneouvre she blazed through the third furlong in 10.93sec with Nebraska Tornado, Chic and the other two rivals strung out in her wake. Attraction did the next two furlongs in sub-11.50, then stayed sub-12 through the sixth and seventh furlongs. At this point Nebraska Tornado began to hurt, leaving Chic and Kieren Fallon looming up to surely snatch the race.
But pace is what kills. Attraction had put enough in it to take the punch out of Chic. Hard though she and Fallon tried, they could not wear down the class and courage that makes this one of the most special racehorses we have seen in years. In a slugging, 13.41sec final furlong, Attraction held on by a neck. Her front legs may splay wide enough for a poultry farm but she is a star in any firmament.
“She’s incredible, unbelievable,” a clearly moved Darley said afterwards, “very definitely the best horse I have ever ridden.” The great news is that she will return to action next year. By then Mark Johnston will have berated anyone else who dares question Attraction’s credentials, but as long as his horses continue so brilliantly to emulate his refusal to accept second best, who cares if we get a bit of stubbornness?
For since Attraction ran the mile in an ultra rapid 1min 36.27sec, it is impossible to agree that the ground could be in any way soft. And the fact that Spanish Don then swept through in the last 50 yards to snatch the Cambridgeshire closely followed by three others on the near side, it is hard to sustain the argument that the far rail was the only quick racing surface.
The most unfavoured strip was up the centre but racing up that could not explain hot favourite Pedrillo’s undoing. This inexperienced but, in hindsight, over-hyped horse was in trouble a long way out and finished 22nd of the 31 starters. His 7-2 starting price ensured the bookies left with bulging satchels and smiles almost as wide as that on the face of winning owner Richard Cohen and trainer David Elsworth, who had happily helped themselves to Spanish Don at 100-1.