John Pearce Racing Gordon Stakes
|Group 3, Goodwood 15:00
1m 3f 218y, Class 1
1 Desert Hero 7/1
2 Chesspiece 7/2
3 Canberra Legend 7/1
6 ran Distances: nk, 3l, 1¼l
Time: 2m 43.86s (slow by 9.56s)
The King and Queen's Desert Hero pounces on testing ground to win the John Pearce Racing Gordon Stakes under @TomMarquand @Goodwood_Races for @WilliamHaggas pic.twitter.com/j7HZQNklFf https://t.co/5LDyuIC4Tb via @RacingBetter— RacingBetter (@RacingBetter) August 3, 2023
Desert Hero backed up his memorable Royal Ascot success by coming from last to first to win in the colours of Their Majesties The King & Queen.
The son of Sea The Stars was once again the beneficiary of a cool ride from Tom Marquand, who needed to be patient as he tried to weave his way through runners from the two-furlong marker.
Once angled to the inside, the William Haggas-trained colt picked up strongly to run down long-time leader Chesspiece and score by a neck. Canberra Legend was three lengths further back in third.
Maureen Haggas said: “It was not the easiest watch, but Tom said he always thought he was going to win. The important thing with this horse is getting him switched off early, which he did really well, and I think if you can do that, you can let the rest of the race unfold. Desert Hero has guts – he wants to win and that counts for a lot.
“It is not repeatable what I was thinking in the final furlong, sorry! I was slightly concerned – he was going here, here, here, but he was hard on the bridle, though. I had a lady in a wheelchair in front of me who was screaming her head off, ‘Come on Tom, come on Tom!’ When he did get up, I said to her, ‘Thank you so much for screaming!’ I was just standing there, going aaarrrggghhh.
“Yes, Desert Hero could go further. The obvious aim would be the St Leger, I suppose, and I think, with all these things, you never really know until you run in the race. We thought Storm The Stars would stay all day and he didn’t quite get home in the St Leger [finished 4th, 2015], so you never really know until you try, but there’s no reason not to try, is there?”
She added: “We are so lucky to be training for The King and Queen and to have a horse as good as this, and I am sure they will be enjoying it and good luck to them.”
Marquand said: “Today was a testament to how tough Desert Hero really is. While he had to be brave to find gaps at Royal Ascot, he had to be brave again today on ground that is extremely tough work.
"He is obviously improving, but it's been a fantastic job by the team to get him on this path – I am thrilled. He filled me with confidence because of what he did at Royal Ascot, and while it was always going to be tougher on this ground, he has got a kick over a mile and a half. He was really tough and you can't ask for more than that."
Of Desert Hero's St Leger chances, Marquand said: "He stays well and has shown he handles ground that will be no worse at the back-end of the season. Whether that is on the agenda, I will leave it to William, Mr [John] Warren and His Majesty to figure out.
"We would all want to see a Royal runner in the St Leger and how lucky are we that they are so involved in our sport. We should celebrate every bit of success they have.”
John Warren, racing manager to Their Majesties The King & Queen, said: “It is remarkable, and so lovely to have a horse in the stable that is so committed. Royal Ascot was wonderful when he cut through horses and so wanted the race.
"Desert Hero is an incredible horse, so for The King and Queen to have a horse of this calibre in their first year, taking on from The Queen and with a horse that was bred by her, is a dream come true. They are so excited and so thrilled.
"It is a beautiful trophy – The King won a wonderful race in Australia at the beginning of the year with Chalkstream, who won the Australia Day Cup. That was the first win, then came Ascot and now this, so they are really getting a wonderful feel for it.
"The King told me many years ago that he was always going to be committed to taking on the bloodstock portfolio [from his mother] and, true to his word, he has been fascinated by it because now it is on his watch. The story is wonderful for racing in particular because The Queen [Camilla] is so interested and they get such pleasure together out of it. The King and Queen looked at the stock ten days ago and they are really getting their head around the young stock that is coming on. A race like this on an amazing track like Goodwood makes the effort worthwhile.
"As anyone knows it is a very sophisticated thing to breed, train and ride a thoroughbred and The King understands that and The Queen is a tremendous horsewoman who understands all the nuances. It is about taking the disappointments and understanding that, because they are both horse people brought up around horses. As we know there are more disappointments than success stories.
"It's now time for them to build on the detail and enjoy the pleasure of racing. People used to ask me why the late Queen liked racing, where horses started over there, ran around there and finished over there - what's the point? The explanation is the back story. The King and Queen can now really start enjoying the back story with the stock that is coming along. They can enjoy the half-brother or sister, the foal, the mare – they are all the back stories. We are lucky they are so engaged.”
Of Desert Hero's St Leger prospects, Warren said: "Why not give it a go? I am not saying that lightly and there's a bit to think about. When you have horses that try, things can happen."
Chesspiece’s co-trainer Simon Crisford said: “We just got outpaced at a crucial moment. Chesspiece wants a mile and six furlongs. He loved the ground and ran his heart out – fantastic. The St Leger dream is still alive.”
James Ferguson said of Canberra Legend: “I was very pleased with the run. Most importantly, it is the first time he got all the prelims bang on. He has really grown up and mentally matured. He handled the occasion and the step up in trip no problem. I think the winner is very impressive and it’s great for His Highness to have a winner here, and I think Chesspiece has proven a very good horse. Canberra Legend has certainly run a career best. We thought he was very good at the beginning of the season, so onwards and upwards, and if he is ok, we will go back to York for the Voltigeur.”
Daniel Muscutt added: “Canberra Legend ran a huge race. I found a really nice rhythm in behind Chesspiece. We went an even gallop, without going mad on the underfoot conditions. I thought he worked into the race really nicely, although we did get racing quite early. I had to challenge on the inside, which I didn’t really particularly want to, but he toughed it out well and the front two were just too good.”
£200,000 guaranteed, 3yo only, 1m 3f 218y, Class 1
POS. (DRAW) DIST HORSE AGE WGT TRAINER JOCKEY SP
1 (2) Desert Hero 3 9-3 William Haggas Tom Marquand 7/1
2 (4) nk Chesspiece 3 9-3 Simon & Ed Crisford James Doyle 7/2
3 (1) 3 Canberra Legend 3 9-3 James Ferguson Daniel Muscutt 7/1
4 (5) 1¼ Artistic Star 3 9-3 Ralph Beckett Rob Hornby 3/1
5 (3) ½ Burdett Road 3 9-3 Michael Bell Neil Callan 28/1
6 (6) 3¼ Espionage 3 9-3 A P O'Brien Ryan Moore 7/4F