Connor Beasley is unlikely to end up with any Classics or Group One races on his CV but he earned at least a footnote in racing’s history books on Saturday as he steered Commanche Falls, a 25-1 chance, to a second successive victory in the Stewards’ Cup.
Commanche Falls was a much-fancied 10-1 chance for this ultra-competitive sprint handicap last season and was just 2lb higher in the weights for this year’s renewal. The punters, though, preferred to look elsewhere, with some of them perhaps deterred by the fact that no horse had won back-to-back runnings of the Stewards’ Cup since Sky Diver 54 years ago.
Inver Park, in particular, attracted sustained support to set off as the 9-2 favourite but the closing stages were a near-facsimile of last year’s race as Beasley brought Commanche Falls through to lead well inside the final furlong and edge out Tabdeed, a 12-1 shot, by a short-head.
Michael Dods, who trains Commanche Falls in County Durham, has a masterful touch with sprint handicappers and Tinto (33-1), his other runner, finished close up in fifth. For the second year running, though, he was not at Goodwood to enjoy his success, preferring to stay closer to home at Thirsk.
“I was watching thinking Tinto was travelling nicely just to the right of him,” Dods told Racing TV at the Yorkshire track. “Then I saw Connor pushing him and coming through and I thought, ‘he has a good chance here’. I think the other one came and headed him and he fought back on the line.
“I’m delighted for everybody involved, especially Connor. To go down there, probably with only one ride today, he has shown how good a jockey he is again.”
Commanche Falls is the sixth horse to win a second Stewards’ Cup since the race was first staged in 1840, and while no horse has won the race three times, his affection for this sharp six-furlongs will mean he has plenty of supporters if he returns next year.
“He seems to come alight when he comes down here,” Beasley said. “It’s a long way from home but he seems to like the stable yard and the track.”
Earlier on the card, Sea La Rosa edged home in a close finish to the Group Two Lillie Langtry Stakes under a finely judged ride by Tom Marquand, after Jason Hart briefly appeared to have stolen the spoils with an enterprising ride on Urban Artist, the 18-1 outsider of the field.
Goodwood’s long downhill run from the home turn means it is tailor-made for front-running tactics, and Hart kicked Hughie Morrison’s mare into a clear lead from the start. She was still around 15 lengths clear turning in and her rider was able to ease down a notch to prepare her for the drive for the line.
Sea La Rosa’s more nervous backers may have been feeling slightly queasy at this stage, but Marquand, who was sitting in third, was clearly confident that he would bridge the gap. William Haggas’s filly quickened well when asked and got to Urban Artist with a few strides to spare, but the outsider deservedly finished a length away in second with Emily Dickinson, the 13-8 favourite, only third.
“It was always a case of trying to run down the leader at the right time,” Marquand said, “and not giving the second wave a chance to come and get us.
Some horses give you more confidence than others going around and she’s a filly that you can almost feel her gritting her teeth, to try and go and run one down.”