Minzaal powers to Sprint Cup glory
Minzaal claimed the first Group One victory of his career as he demolished his rivals in the Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock.
Trained by Owen Burrows and ridden by Jim Crowley, the four-year-old had placed at the highest level on multiple occasions but had yet to get his head in front.
However, he righted that statistic with an effortless performance on Merseyside, sitting in behind the early pacesetters before laying down his challenge entering the last of the six furlongs.
When Crowley gave the signal, the 7-2 shot hit top gear and he powered away to win by three and three-quarter lengths from last year’s winner Emaraaty Ana.
Rohaan kept on for third but 3-1 favourite Naval Crown dropped away in the closing stages having held every chance.
Minzaal chased home subsequent Nunthorpe Stakes winner Highfield Princess on his most recent run in the Prix Maurice de Gheest and Burrows was thrilled to see the Mehmas colt get the verdict this time.
The trainer, who was enjoying his second Group One success of the year following Hukum’s Coronation Cup win, said: “All credit to the team back home, they’ve been working hard and to get the job done is amazing.
“It’s been a big year for me, you are soon forgotten in this game and I’ve been trying to attract outside owners, we don’t have a lot of horses to run but a lot of two-year-olds.
“These big winners on a Saturday in Group Ones are hard to come by. This lad deserved one, he was knocking on the door at two, had an injury at three and was still Group One placed at Ascot and he ran a big race in France last time.
“Shaun (Muscroft) who looks after him was telling me he was in better form than before France and he was right, he blew them away.
“His biggest asset is his temperament, it’s to die for for a sprinter, he’s so laid back about life. He’s a pleasure to train.
“The race went to plan once he jumped, he was just behind the leaders which didn’t quite happen in France. I’m thrilled because he’s been knocking on the door for a few years and didn’t get the chance to show what he could do last year.”
Minzaal is the 5-2 favourite with both Paddy Power and Coral for next month’s Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot and Burrows confirmed he will head there.
He added: “The French winner (Highfield Princess) franked the form in the Nunthorpe and we’ll be heading to Ascot next, that looks the obvious target.”
Crowley admitted he was expecting a big performance from Minzaal before the race.
He said: “That was very smooth. I was very confident coming here, I thought he ran a good race in France but I just got stuck behind one at the wrong time, so I was delighted to see Highfield Princess come out and win the Nunthorpe.
“He’s always promised to win us a Group One. He used to be slowly away from the stalls and lose his race at the start a little bit but he broke well, travelled smoothly and it was a very easy race to ride.
“He’s a good horse, he’s not ground dependant, that’s as fast as he’s ever run on and he skipped off it. He’s a proper horse, he was a Gimcrack winner at two and this day has been coming. The lad told me on the way out he’s never been better and it certainly felt like that.
“It’s great for Owen, too, he’s flying.”
Jockey Andrea Atzeni was on board the runner-up Emaraaty Ana and felt his mount lost little in defeat.
He said: “He ran a blinder. It was very similar to last year in that he travelled beautifully through the race and when I let him down he really picked up for me. He just found one a bit too good on the day.”
Hollie Doyle was pleased with third-placed Rohaan, who previously finished fourth behind Minzaal in the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury in July.
She said: “It was a great run and they went flat out, a lot quicker than at Newbury and I think that played into most of our strengths. It was a great run.”