By Duane Fonseca
Trainer Andrew Balding followed in the footsteps of illustrious father Ian when winning the Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday after numerous close calls.
“I’ve had two seconds and a third before this,” Balding said after the favourite he saddled, Array, showed great heart to hold off the competition in the 1200m contest that was run on ground deemed heavy.
Balding’s father had twice won the Mill Reef, named after the horse that won him the Epsom Derby in 1971. Balding Sr. first won the Mill Reef in 1986 with Forest Flower and then again in 2001 with Firebreak and after a series of near misses, Balding Jr. was happy to see Oisin Murphy hit the front two furlongs out and pull in under pressure for victory by a half length. It was the No Nay Never colt’s second win in five starts.
Eve Johnson Houghton’s Mister Sketch was second under George Bishop with George Scott’s Seven Questions a further short head back in third under Callum Shepherd.
Balding added: “Obviously this race is important to our family. We tried to find one for it, but Dad trained our last winner, Firebreak. I can’t see why this won’t be a horse with a big future and Oisin thinks it would be worth trying him over further. It’s not impossible he will get a mile.
“He was very tough today and has a great mind on him. The Middle Park is too soon and if he was supplemented into the Dewhurst it would need a unanimous decision.”
On the undercard, Thunderbear brought trainer Jack Davison a second Group level success after scoring under Sean Levey in the Group 3 Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes. Going 1000m, the Kodi Bear gelding, racing off the pace set by Balding’s Nymphadora, was asked by Levey to challenge at the two furlongs pole and he obliged with a sustained effort that won him the lead quickly. Thereafter, he kept on and kept finding more to win by a neck from Nymphadora, the ride of Murphy. A further two lengths back in third was Nymphadora’s St Albans Bloodstock Ltd. teammate Sense Of Duty, trained by William Haggas and ridden by Tom Marquand.
“Once we saw the rain was coming we were happy to give him the entry and we were glad it stayed soft,” said Davison.
“We decided to drop him back to five and ride him prominently, and Sean gave him a lovely ride. I had an odds on winner here (She’s Quality) earlier in the season – there was pressure that day – and she will run in the Cheveley Park at Newmarket on Saturday.”
Levey said: “Give credit where it’s due, they came here and they conquered. He was a great ride and he loved the ground.”
Elsewhere on the card, Murphy scored aboard Hughie Morrison’s Not So Sleepy in the 2700m Dubai Duty Free Autumn Cup Handicap, while Ralph Beckett’s Balance Play nicked the 2000m Dubai Duty Free Handicap under Hector Crouch. Beckett and Crouch completed doubles after scoring in a 1400m Novice event with Feigning Madness, while David O’Meara’s partnership with James Doyle won the pair the 1400m Conundrum Consulting Handicap with Pearle D’or and David Simcock and Shepherd combined to win the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Handicap over a mile with City Of York.