Born in Ireland, owned by a Welshman exiled to the USA, superbly ridden by an inspired Scotsman, the aptly-named Millenary won a thrilling Rothmans Royals St Leger at Doncaster yesterday.
There may have been an international flavour to this victory, but the single biggest factor was the brave heart of a horse who looked as if he was beaten, but fought back to win the Classic marathon.
Millenary and Air Marshall fought out an exciting finish that had the large Yorkshire crowd cheering two magnificent horses all the way. Within the last 50 yards, Millenary fought back to lead on the line by three-quarters of a length, and jockey Richard Quinn punched the air.
It was the Scotsman’s second Classic of the season, adding to his Oaks win aboard Love Divine, and his third Classic in all, as he previously won the St Leger aboard Paul Cole’s Snurge 10 years ago.
In a race that was always guaranteed to be a quick one, given that Takwin had broken the one-mile, four-furlong course record earlier in the day - the second time that record had gone at the meeting - it was no surprise to see one of the outsiders try to set a fast pace in the hope of burning off the stamina-laden horses at the top of the market.
Aiden O’Brien’s Rostropovich under George Duffield went off at a fair lick, but Pat Eddery aboard Dalampour was unhappy, and wanted to go even quicker as they rounded the home turn. That tactic was to backfire on the second string of Sir Michael Stoute, and he faded badly to finish fifth.
Millenary had won the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood by coming from last to first, and snatching the race from Air Marshall virtually on the line. Now there was something of a reversal of roles as Richard Quinn found himself in front far earlier than he might have liked. John Reid brought Air Marshall through with a smooth run, and certainly got the Stoute second-favourite into the lead.
But just as he had drifted in the betting market, so Air Marshall appeared slightly to veer away when taking the lead - a sign perhaps that he was coming to the end of his tether.
Richard Quinn has never been an exponent of the whip, and he again largely eschewed its use as he fought out the finish. Millenary gradually came back on to the shoulder and then to the head of Air Marshall, before finally forcing himself in front for a truly-enthralling win.
Millenary had been backed as 11-4 favourite to give trainer John Dunlop his tenth Classic and third St Leger after Moon Madness in 1986 and Silver Patriarch three years ago. Dunlop said: "He’s been through the process, and really done nothing wrong except for a bad run in the French Derby on very soft ground. We gave him some time after that, and then he won at Goodwood. He hadn’t gone beyond a mile and a half, and hadn’t run against some of these contenders.
"I shut my eyes after he was headed and thought, oh no it’s going to be the Derby all over again (reference to the defeat of Sakhee by Sinndar). I have no idea what sort of distance or races he will run in next year, but he has a turn of foot, and I would be happy to run him back over a mile and a half."
Quinn said: "He was always travelling well, and if anything was in front too soon. I would have liked Dalampour to have stayed in front, but he just died on me two furlongs out. Millenary was not really racing then, but when Air Marshall came up to us, he really started to race properly. He was going away inside the last 100 yards, and he won with a spare in reserve."
Matt Jones collected the prize on behalf of his father, Neil, at home on the family farm on the Washington-Oregon border, which is named after the Abergwaun Valley in Wales, from whence the owner hails. Jones said he was "speechless", but being American he did not remain so for long, and noted: "My father bred the horse, and always had a lot of hopes for him. He is by Rainbow Quest, so we had no worry on stamina grounds."
In Ireland, the "iron horse" Giant’s Causeway did it again when he fought out another close finish to lift his fifth Group One prize on the trot. Giant’s Causeway battled to beat off Frank Dettori on Best of the Bests, which was headed in the last few yards by the fast-finishing Greek Dance.