Juddmonte International Stakes: Mishriff crushes rivals with victory to lift the heart

THE TIMES, 19 August 2021

It was everything we could hope for and more. Mishriff crowned this Juddmonte International’s claims to be “the world’s best race” with a winged-heel victory that has to be a contender for the year’s best performance.

Six lengths he left them at the end of this famous Knavesmire straight. Love was the dual classic-winning star of last season and a group one winner at Royal Ascot this June. Alenquer also won impressively at Ascot and had started his year beating the Derby and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth winner Adayar, with yesterday’s Great Voltigeur winner Yibir in third. These are good horses, but Mishriff made them look leaden-footed and eased past the line in 2min 5.92sec, only just over half a second outside Sea The Stars’ 2009 track record.

The Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney made the running with Love and Alenquer at his heels, Mishriff behind them and Alcohol Free along the rail to give her doubtful stamina every chance of staying this mile and a quarter. It was a brisk but not hectic gallop with all the main contenders moving up to play as they came to the three-furlong marker, all of them moving but Mishriff and young David Egan moving far better than any.

At 22 and in only his sixth season as a jockey, Egan has a glittering career ahead of him if he can keep mind and body together. In a decade’s time you can bet he would have held on to Mishriff for a good furlong longer, allowing the others to battle themselves out before decisively sliding the knife home.

Yesterday it did not matter, and it was heart-lifting to watch the way both horse and the day’s young hero buckled down to leave their rivals mere drifters in their wake.

On Mishriff, Egan was completing a unique treble, having started the year winning both the £2 million Sheema Classic in Dubai and the surely unnecessarily over-endowed £7 million Saudi Cup. Such riches can be a mixed blessing but other than splurging six figures on a new car, this reed-thin son of jockey John Egan and grandson of the late Dessie Hughes, who won Champion Hurdles both as trainer and rider, seems admirably well-balanced. It was at Dessie’s yard at the Curragh that the grandson first rode racehorses.

“I thought of him as I passed the post,” said the red-haired inheritor of talent. “I hope he would have been proud of me.”

Mishriff is a triumph for owner Prince Faisal’s breeding programme, being the best son yet of Make Believe, who won the 2015 French 2,000 Guineas in the same maroon silks that Egan sported yesterday.

Decisions as to the four-year-old’s future will be made between the owner and 70-year-old John Gosden, who started training in California 30 years before Egan was born. It is in the Golden State that Mishriff may end his season by pitching at the Breeders’ Cup, run this November at Del Mar where Gosden won the Pacific Classic way back in 1984.

“This is the race we’ve talked about since last summer,” said the four-times champion trainer, before adding that the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Champion Stakes would be considered as well as a possible tilt across the Atlantic. “At a mile and a quarter he’s a brilliant horse. He has now come to his very best. I think we’ve seen the finished article.”

Those of us back at the happily crowded Knavesmire can also take away that most precious of things: a race that will shine in the memory.

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