Future looks bright for Commonwealth Cup cracker Eqtidaar

By Tom Peacock@tompeacock
Fri 22 Jun 2018

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 Connections of Eqtidaar after Commonwealth Cup glory. Pic: Focusonracing
Connections of Eqtidaar after Commonwealth Cup glory. Pic: Focusonracing

Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup has tended to attract fly-by-night winners rarely seen beyond that same season but don’t be surprised if Eqtidaar is the one to break the mould.

Owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum ought to know. His Muhaarar collected the inaugural renewal in 2015 and became the sprinting champion of that season through his exploits in the July Cup, Prix Maurice de Gheest and back to this track on Champions’ Day before being retired to the breeding sheds.

Caravaggio followed a similar path last year and is now at stud, whilst Quiet Reflection’s three-year-old season was her best.

This fourth winner, Eqtidaar, is far more of a slow burner and had only a Nottingham maiden to his name from four previous career starts, albeit not being beaten far in the Commonwealth Cup trial over course and distance last month and again at Newbury.

Being trained by “a genius”, as jockey Jim Crowley described Sir Michael Stoute, probably helped but the colt himself needed to raise his game, proving he had learnt from the experiences as he charged down the far side and held off a diving Sands Of Mali on the near side by half a length.

Whether he follows the path of his predecessors towards the Darley July Cup, for which he is 12-1 with Betway and Ladbrokes, is by no means certain.

More light might be shed after tomorrow’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes, which includes defending July Cup winner Harry Angel, Australian arrival Redkirk Warrior and his old sparring partner Merchant Navy, now with Aidan O’Brien.

“The July Cup is the obvious race but he’s quite lightly-raced, he’s a big long horse,” said Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold. “Whether the July Course is his track, I’m not sure.”

Sheikh Hamdan has been a long-term supporter of Stoute, whose third winner of the week enhances his position as now the meeting’s most successful trainer, as he moved on to the 78 mark . “I congratulated him on 76 and 77, and I wished him good luck,” said the Sheikh when asked what he had said to Stoute before the race.

“In previous races he came from behind, he didn’t quicken like a sprinter but he lengthened,” said Sheikh Hamdan. “This time we tried to keep him close to the front. I’m sure that he will improve. The older brothers were better as four-year-olds and it depends what we will do this year.”

Stoute himself gave little away about plans, but reported: “We have always liked this horse. I thought things just didn't go quite right for him the first time he ran here in the Pavilion Stakes. Then at Newbury last time, he was on the wrong side of the track and at halfway was too far out of his ground.

"He worked very well the other weekend under Jim Crowley, so we were hopeful.

"He just showed how talented he is. We have had some good ones like Marwell, Ajdal, and Green Desert. He is progressing nicely."

Gold expanded on that promising piece of work, which would have been notably informative given the way stablemate Expert Eye bolted up in Wednesday’s Jersey Stakes.

“I’d been disappointed with his runs but Sir Michael gave me a going over for being disappointed,” he said.

“We weren’t sure if he was a seven or six-furlong horse. When we worked him last week with Expert Eye, he worked very well and thought we would try six. He’s got great speed and is by a great stallion in Invincible Spirit.”

The most relieved man of all was Crowley, Sheikh Hamdan’s retained jockey, who was getting off the mark for the week.

“When you’ve had three seconds you start wondering when it’s going to come,” he said.

"Eqtidaar was one of my best rides of the week and it's great he could pull it off. He is trained by a master and just keeps on improving.

“I knew his potential. He had been working unbelievably well, and you could make excuses for his last two starts. We knew coming here today that he would have a great chance."

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