Alcohol Free denies Poetic Flare in Sussex Stakes
Successful in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, the Andrew Balding-trained filly attempted to make all in the Falmouth at Newmarket last time out but had to give best close home to Snow Lantern, who took her on again.
Champion jockey Oisin Murphy was determined to delay his challenge on this occasion and made sure he played his hand late.
After a slow early pace Century Dream injected some speed into it a long way from home and caught a few rivals on the back foot.
Kevin Manning set off in pursuit on the favourite Poetic Flare and on entering the final furlong hit the front – but Jim Bolger’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero was soon to face a bigger challenge, as Alcohol Free (7-2) quickened impressively and went on to win by a length and three-quarters.
Snow Lantern, who could have run in the Nassau Stakes over 10 furlongs later in the week, made up plenty of late ground to claim third, the same distance away.
Smith last won the race in 1984 with Chief Singer, while he has also tasted Goodwood glory with the likes of Lochsong and Persian Punch.
He said: “This filly is something else, the way she has won that, it’s simply incredible.
“I’m thrilled to pieces, and what a wonderful job Andrew and the whole team have done.
“She’s a champion. There’s no question in my mind, she’s the real deal.”
Balding said: “It’s a privilege, it really is.
“Just watching her at home in the mornings is demoralising for the other horses, we have to keep swapping the lead horse because she’s just so good.
“She’s hardly blowing afterwards, it’s just effortless for her.
“I was awful (watching the race), I was calling Oisin all sorts of names! It was a rough race and I’m sure there were hard luck stories, but I think she was easily the best horse on the day.
“It’s just lovely to see her do that because we’ve always believed in her, it’s no easy task coming and taking on the colts and the older horses and to do it in that style is just fantastic.”
Looking to future plans, Balding suggested the daughter of No Nay Never could be seen on the Knavesmire next month.
He said: “We had a long debate yesterday, Mr Smith and I, about spending five grand of his hard-earned (money) keeping her in the Juddmonte (International).
“It’s a mile and a quarter, it’s a big ask, but as Jeff said she’s won Group Ones already.
“We’ve got nothing to prove, but it’s a possibility she may turn up there.”
He added: “She doesn’t need too much (training), she doesn’t even need training to be honest, she does it all herself.
“She’s always been very good, right from the start, we ran her on one bit of work when she went to Newbury and absolutely hosed up.
“She’s been the victim of bad draws whenever she’s run and I think she probably could have won more – in the Guineas she’d have been placed if she was drawn in the middle or on the far side.
“There is trepidation with taking on any of those horses, Poetic Flare and Snow Lantern as well.”
Manning felt ground conditions had not played to the strengths of Poetic Flare.
He said: “It was the same story as in Paris (sixth in French 2000 Guineas), and we were running a little bit behind the bridle, while on good ground he travels into his races. This ground has blunted his speed.
“I felt he was spinning on the ground and going up and down on one spot, though to give him credit he dug very deep and fought back when the filly went past him.
“The ground was tacky and holding, and there was no bounce in it.”
Of Snow Lantern, Richard Hannon said: “I’m delighted with her run, it was a good sound effort. She hit a flat spot, but the way she stayed on suggests she might want a mile and a quarter.
“The ground was a little bit sticky, but she showed she handles it, while she doesn’t have much to find with the winner.”