Dubai: Godolphin were narrowly denied a fourth Group 1 victory of the season when Lyre delivered a huge but belated effort in the A$600,000 Robert Sangster Stakes at Morphettville racecourse in Adelaide.
Ridden by the 24-year-old Damian Thornton, who had only just won his first Group 1 race aboard Toffee Tongue in the Australasian Oaks, Lyre raced wide of the 16-strong field before she made her bid at the 200 metre marker.
Although the Godolphin-bred daughter of Lonhro was catching up, the finishing line came too soon and she had to settle for second place, a head behind the winner, Bella Vella. Godolphin’s second runner in the race, Savatiano, ridden by Hugh Bowman in the stable’s first colours, finished a respectable sixth.
Appearing to have every chance as the field spread out at the two furlong post, Savatano could find no more under pressure and stayed on at the same pace.
Racing took place behind closed doors and with all the jockeys, trainers and staff following strict government rules for followed strict social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the 16-horse field broke for the Robert Sangster Stakes, ockey Todd Pannell rode a safe race aboard Bella Vella, who made all the running at the head of the 16-runner field, before he asked his mount for an extra effort inside the final furlong.
The response was immediate and Bella Vella, who is enjoying an amazing second racing career after a failed stint at stud, just held on although it looked like was tiring fast in the final strides.
It was a career first Group 1 success for Adelaide trainer Will Clarken with bargain-purchase Bella Vella who was bought online by her connections for $22,500.
She has since proved that the racecourse is where she belongs, having notched a sixth victory in 11 starts since joining Clarken’s stable.
Clarken described his first Group One win being ‘very, very specia.’
“I’ve had lots of runners in Group Ones and I suppose you’ve just got to keep rolling the marble,” he said.
“Today she got left alone in front. She’s been in super form and things went our way.”
Three-time Group 1 winner Sunlight started as the favourite and raced on the pace but faded to finish last.
Meanwhile, Godolphin’s Asiago finished ninth in an ultra-competitive renewal of the Australasian Oaks. Nine runners raced to the line in a cavalry charge with Damien Thornton delivering the ride of his life aboard the Chris Waller-trained Toffee Tongue to win by 3/4 length from Zac Spain - aboard Moonlight Maid.