The red-hot favourite Cracksman, ridden by Frankie Dettori, left it late but eventually got on top in an eventful running of the Group One Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs this afternoon.
The eventual runner-up Salouen (33/1) was given a peach of a ride by jockey Silvestre De Sousa and almost made every yard of the running but was denied by a head, with the 2/7 favourite getting up in the shadows of the post.
Cracksman's trainer John Gosden was in a reflective mood after the Group One event and pinpointed Royal Ascot as the four-year-old's next target.
“I was pleased with the way he finished,” said the trainer.
“He's got a lot of guts and he's got a lot of class. I could see from a long way out that Frankie's elbows were just moving a little and, coming down Tattenham Corner, he wasn't comfortable.
“However, when he finally met the level ground, he just flew. They were strung out weren't they? This is testing ground – I hope it dries out for tomorrow. They were well strung out though and they are all decent mile and a half horses.
“I don't know why but he wasn't comfortable during the race – it certainly wasn't the horse we know. However, he showed guts to get up and win and that's what I'm pleased about.
“It was a brilliant ride from Silvestre (De Sousa on runner-up Salouen) as it's very difficult to come from behind on this ground – especially if you're not enjoying running downhill.
“I'm pleased he showed so much courage though – it's a good test for a horse. He didn't really take off until he met the rising ground. We'll point him towards Royal Ascot now (for the Group One Prince of Wales's Stakes over 10 furlongs) – it's only 19 days away but he loves the track. He gets to Swinley Bottom and eats up the ground – he adores it.
“I only really enjoyed the last 50 yards of that race – but Frankie didn't panic. It was a lot more exciting than people thought it would be though with a 1/3 shot as favourite!”
Owner Anthony Oppenheimer was a relieved man after the race.
“It was quite a surprise. The other horse kept going and that was as close as I like it!
“Cracksman is fantastic. He is so well-bred and a bit similar to Golden Horn (Oppenheimer's Investec Derby winner in 2015) in many ways. He loves racing, but we knew he doesn't like Epsom. The first time he ran at Epsom over a mile and a quarter, he struggled a bit, and it was the same in the Derby. He definitely fell down the hill. And it was the same again today.
“This is the last time we will be running him on a severe downhill.”
Odds-on (2/7) favourite Cracksman prevailed in the Group One Investec Coronation Cup – but only by a head from 33/1 shot Salouen.
It was a third Group One for the four-year-old son of Frankel, who is trained by John Gosden and ridden by Frankie Dettori.
Dettori has now won five Investec Coronation Cups – Swain in 1997, Singspiel in 1997, Daylami in 1999, Mutafaweq in 2001 and now Cracksman.
The jockey said: “It was a decent pace. Cracksman was a bit sleepy today, but he does not enjoy galloping downhill and when I wanted to close the gap, I couldn't. He felt lethargic, like he did in the Derby last year.
“Silvestre [de Sousa, Salouen's jockey] got five lengths on me and, God, he made it hard work for me but once we flattened out, the turbo kicked in. Then he started to motor and I thought I might still run out of time, but we got there. I didn't want to win like that, but, a bit like Man United, we find a way to win, and we did.
“You did not see the best of Cracksman today. He was never happy on the track – he is so big -and we know he is a better horse than he showed today. His class pulled him through because any other horse would have downed tools and finished second.
“It was a massive effort to make that ground up. The damage was down round Tattenham Corner because I couldn't really lay up.
“It wasn't a Champion Stakes or a Great Voltigeur performance, but it's three times we've taken here and he's run a very similar race each time – lethargic, not responsive round Tattenham Corner and in the straight. It was only in the last 100 yards that he made the two lengths up.
“I am happy that I've won, but I wanted to show the world a good display. Now that we've got this one out of the way, I think a track where he meets the ground is more for him, like Ascot in the Champion Stakes. We got this job done but by the skin of my teeth.”
Trainer Sylvester Kirk was left wondering what might have been after 33/1 chance Salouen, the outsider of the six runners was edged out in the thrilling closing stages of the £420,000 G1 Investec Coronation Cup by 2/7 favourite Cracksman.
Ridden by Silvestre De Sousa, Salouen set a steady gallop in the mile and a half contest and quickened up smartly in the home straight to go clear.
However, the John Gosden-trained Cracksman, ridden by Frankie Dettori, finally got going in the closing stages to score by a head in a gripping finish at Epsom Downs.
Salouen was 13th in last year's Investec Derby, with Cracksman third, and Kirk was delighted with the four-year-old son of Canford Cliffs.
Kirk said: “I'm delighted with Salouen as we have seen him do what we think he was capable of.
“He jumped out in front and made the running and has just been beaten by a very good horse.
“Of course we are disappointed but we would have been delighted with that result beforehand.
“I thought he was home and hosed. I don't usually count my chickens, but I thought a furlong out he had won.
“He was the outsider of the race and he had won from the front before so we were happy to let him go and do it.
“We'll sit back and find a little race for him before aiming for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
“It's a pleasure for a small yard like us to have a nice horse like him.
“Cracksman was laboured and looked to be under pressure from a long way out, so I thought Salouen was going to hang on – I'm very proud of the horse.
“It was a great race and I'm delighted we've come. He has been in plenty of Group One battles and it was lovely that he shows that he really does belong at that level.”
3.10pm £420,000 Investec Coronation Cup (Group 1) 1m 4f 6y – Result
1 (6) CRACKSMAN JOHN GOSDEN 9ST 0LB FRANKIE DETTORI 2/7 FAV
2 (4) Salouen (IRE) Sylvester Kirk 9st 0lb Silvestre De Sousa 33/1
3 (1) Windstoss (GER) Markus Klug, Germany 9st 0lb Adrie de Vries 20/1
4 (2) Idaho (IRE) Aidan O'Brien, Ireland 9st 0lb Ryan Moore 8/1
5 (3) Hawkbill (USA) (Sheepskin C/P) Charlie Appleby 9st 0lb William Buick 6/1
6 (5) Yucatan (IRE) Aidan O'Brien, Ireland 9st 0lb Donnacha O'Brien 33/1
Winner owned by Anthony Oppenheimer
Time: 2m 38.49s
Distances: hd, 3¾, 4½, 17, 24
Breeder: Hascombe And Valiant Studs
Breeding: 4 b c Frankel – Rhadegunda (Pivotal)
Tote Win: £1.10 Places: £1.10, £8.90 Exacta: £11.30
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