WHEN Gleneagles was declared a non-runner, Golden Horn was supposed to face a fairly straightforward task in the Juddmonte International at York – but no-one banked on Arabian Queen causing a 50-1 upset.
The race had been billed as a clash for the ages, the Investec Derby winner against a dual Guineas hero in Gleneagles, not forgetting the promising Time Test, hugely impressive at Royal Ascot.
She can be a bit of a madam at home, but is obviously very talentedSilvestre de Sousa
Throw in The Grey Gatsby and a top-class Australian raider in Criterion and it was no surprise that Arabian Queen, the only filly in the race, was sent off as the rank outsider, bar Golden Horn’s pacemaker Dick Doughtywylie.
John Gosden’s pacemaking idea for his unbeaten Epsom victor unravelled right at the start. The seven-year-old missed the kick and jockey Robert Havlin then shot Dick Doughtywylie into a six-length lead, meaning he was ignored by everything else. Silvestre de Sousa was content to lead the rest on Arabian Queen, with Frankie Dettori never too far behind.
That was how it stayed until two furlongs out when Arabian Queen hit the front, with Dettori looking like he just had to press the button to seal the deal.
But, after 14 millimetres of rain on Tuesday, the ground was good to soft and Golden Horn took an age to pick up. He did eventually hit the front briefly, but Dettori was getting increasingly animated in the saddle and the filly was fighting back.
De Sousa is rarely beaten in a tight finish and the Brazilian managed to get her head back in front and his mount was going away at the line, winning by a neck to cause the shock of the season so far.
African Queen is trained by David Elsworth – the man responsible for Desert Orchid – who also won this race in 1990 with the brilliant In The Groove.
His last top-level winner was Absalom’s Lady in the 1994 Christmas Hurdle, while, on the Flat, it was Seattle Rhyme’s 1991 Racing Post Trophy win.
Straight after the race, Elsworth bolted to the car park to gather his thoughts, but, speaking later, he said: “She’s a filly of the highest class. She’s tenacious and loves to battle. If we hadn’t turned up today, they would be hailing the favourite as the best horse since Frankel.
“She’s certain to stay further.Her dam [Barshiba] won over a mile and five furlongs. It took me three years to work out Barshiba’s best trip, but I worked this one out a bit quicker.”
For De Sousa, a big win was just what he needed. He said: “She’s not an easy filly to deal with, she can be a bit of a madam at home. She has her own ideas about the game, but is obviously very talented.
“I had a clear run, picked the pacemaker up two furlongs out and I always felt I had a bit left.
“I couldn’t say I was confident coming here – she was 50-1 – but she had been third in a Group One on her last run and she’s bred to get further and ran right to the line.”
For the vanquished favourite a combination of being too keen having not run since the Coral-Eclipse and the rain-softened ground were put up as excuses.
Dettori said: “He was too fresh, having missed the King George. He pulled hard and wasted a lot of energy. He couldn’t skip away on that ground like he usually does.”
Gosden said: “Golden Horn was too fresh and keen and he did too much, too early. Frankie found it hard to settle him for the first six furlongs and he gassed himself out.
“He got in front, but I think we know now he’s definitely better on faster ground and the filly just outstayed him.”