FAST becoming the star of a muddling season in Britain, favourite Al Kazeem was a touch lucky to lift the £420,000 Group 1 Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown yesterday.
The finish to the ten-furlong race featured Roger Charlton-trained Al Kazeem under James Doyle clearly crossing to the rails right in front of long-term leader Mukhadram, ridden by Paul Hanagan.
The interference caused 15-2 shot Mukhadram to snatch up, but the stewards took the correct view that the favourite would have won in any case.
More contentious was their decision that the overall result was not affected, as Aidan O’Brien-trained Declaration Of War stayed on for a clear second past the badly hampered Mukhadram.
Doyle was given a five-day ban for careless riding, and connections of William Haggas-trained Mukhadram might contest the stewards’ verdict, there being £45,000 of difference between second and third prize. Then again, since the owner is oil-rich Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, he probably won’t bother. This was Al Kazeem’s fourth victory and third Group 1 prize in a row, and Charlton nominated the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in October as his target.
Also at Sandown, Grand National winner Graham Lee proved that he is going from strength to strength as a jockey on the flat, producing a peach of a ride on board Prince of Johanne to win the one mile Coral Challenge handicap in course-record time.
Lee, pictured, won the Northumberland Plate aboard Tominator at Newcastle last week, and his supporters will have been pleased with the 16-1 odds on Prince of Johanne. Tom Tate’s charge looked to be longer odds than that when stuck on the rails in mid-division, but Lee cleverly brought the grey through to win in impressive style.
Meanwhile at Haydock, the Group 2 bet365 Lancashire Oaks saw a big surprise when the outsider of the entire eight-strong field, 20-1 shot Emirates Queen, came with a late run to beat Moment In Time and 5-4 favourite Albasharah by less than a length. Andrea Atzeni showed perfect timing on the Luca Cumani-trained winner, while Moment In Time, the 5-1 second, was denied a clear run under Jim Crowley.
Scots-born trainer Mark Johnston made a four-strong assault on the prestigious bet365 Old Newton Cup, and the best-backed of the quartet, Star Lahib, duly won the £62,000 first prize under Franny Norton at the rewarding odds of 8-1.
Another of Johnston’s horses, the Neil Callan-ridden Fennell Bay, was third at 20-1, behind 16-1 shot Tepmokea, another second for Jim Crowley.