One of England’s time-honoured stallion-making events takes place on Saturday in the form of the Emirates Airlines Champion Stakes over the extended ten furlongs of the Rowley Mile course at racing’s headquarters in Newmarket. Those that follow our stallion brochures (and even believe them!) will recall our rather cheeky piece on whether or not the Coolmore team would live to regret the sale of Mullins Bay, come Champion Stakes time. The time has now arrived, yet the final decision on his participation will be taken once we know what the ground conditions are like.
Heavy rain is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, and though we will only be able to decide towards the end of tomorrow whether to jump left or right, the alternative race is the Darley Stakes (Gr.2) in which Mullins Bay started favourite two seasons ago, and finished a desperately close second, beaten a short head. The esteem he enjoys as a racehorse is reflected in the riding arrangements, with Irish Champion Jockey, Johnny Murtagh requesting the ride in the Darley Stakes (on Friday,) but he’s unable to do the job if we go the Champion Stakes route on the Saturday, because of his retainer commitment to Aidan O’ Brien’s Ballydoyle Stables (where they have three engaged in the big race). In that case, current leader on the English jockey’s log, Jamie Spencer, has asked for the ride on Mullins Bay. In either instance, he will have a Champion on board, and that’s some kind of a compliment to the horse himself.
From an interest perspective, it’s worth noting that there are no fewer than five Group One winners in the line-up, commencing with Notnowcato, Literato, the Guineas winning filly Speciosa, Creachadoir (hero of the colt version of the Irish Guineas), and Man O’ War (Gr.1) winner, Doctor Dino, though there is a lot of talk about Henry Cecil’s two runners, Multidimensional and Passage of Time. While he isn’t a Group One winner in his own right, Maraahel, Sir Michael Stoute’s runner for Sheikh Hamdan, is a dual Group Two winner this season, and he’s been denied twice in this race by less than a neck on each occasion. It’s going to be one helluva competition, but Mike de Kock believes he’s got Mullins Bay as well as he’s had him (bearing in mind his suspect joint), and he thinks either way, he’ll be competitive.
Just like the Springboks, we hope the best team wins.