Buick steers Wuheida to Filly And Mare win
First Breeders’ Cup success for jockey after injury pain World Approval takes Mile ahead of Lancaster Bomber
The Breeders’ Cup has not been kind to William Buick in the past. Indeed, after he broke a vertebra in a fall at Arlington in August, he might not have listed the United States as one of his favourite places either, but it finally all came good for him last night when Wuheida won the Filly And Mare Turf. Most famously, Buick, riding The Fugue, was touched off on the line in the 2013 Turf by the late arriving Ryan Moore on Magician and the emotion of that heartbreak was very evident at the time.
But the boot was on the other foot this time with Moore – whose victory on Mendelssohn in Friday’s Juvenile Turf was one of the barnstorming rides of the season – finishing three quarters of a length second on Rhododendron.
Charlie Appleby’s filly, who had run well in four Group Ones without winning one this summer, was withdrawn from the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Keeneland in October with a corn.
But she has thrived on her month long sojourn in America where former jockey Kirsty Milczarek had been riding her out and she had been getting rave reviews in the mornings for the way she had been training.
Having endured his own baptism of fire at Del Mar on Masar on Friday when the colt stumbled and he lost a stirrup, the Filly And Mare could not have gone smoother or more to plan for Buick. Wuheida broke well and was in the box seat in second throughout, enabling Buick to give her a breather going into the final bend.
Angling out off the final bend, she quickened clear and had the race won before the on-rush of fast finishers held up in traffic tried in vain to peg her back. “The race dropping back in trip to nine furlongs was never a concern for us,” said the jockey, who returned from two months on the sidelines just before Champions Day.
“She won well and really quickened in the straight. She’s very professional. She’s a push-button ride. I was waiting for a split but I had plenty of horse and it was just a question of not going too soon. This is my first Breeders’ Cup winner and it’s nice to get it done. It’s tough coming here to the Americans’ backyard and even though Europeans do well, it isn’t easy.”
Appleby can now claim a better strike rate at the Breeders’ Cup than Aidan O’Brien. This was his second winner from three runners, with Outstrip winning for him in 2013. Though practices on social media – always a sign of optimism in the camp.
Tuesday’s match will represent an important staging post in this journey. It is possible for players at this level to stage an entertaining exhibition without really exerting themselves; Murray himself did this when he visited Zurich in April to play Federer in the Match for Africa 3, even though he was off the tour at that point because of a damaged elbow tendon.
Yet the word is that he wants a more rigorous test this week, to give himself a barometer of how close he might be to tournament readiness.
“We’re going to have a good time,” said Federer last week, “and I think it’s wonderful what he [Murray] is doing in his philanthropic efforts.
“When people came away from Zurich, so many told me how much fun Andy actually was, what a great sport he was, so I was so happy he did that, and I can’t wait to return the favour. Going to new places is something I always really enjoy, so I’m excited to be going to Scotland for the first time.”
As the finest tennis player Britain has produced, Murray stands at the centre of a mini-industry, involving sponsors, agents, manufacturers and so on. Yet his appointment as Godolphin trainer at the time was something of a surprise he has certainly paid back Sheikh Mohammed’s faith with interest.
“Travelling is the key thing,” he reiterated. “If they come off the plane as well as they get on it is a huge bonus.”
Even flushed as he was by this success, Buick was unable to add the Mile to Godolphin’s first winner. In a desperately bunched finish behind the winner, World Approval, the first favourite, Yorkshire neighbours Suedois (fourth), and Ribchester (fifth) were only beaten by a length and a half although Lancaster Bomber ran well for O’Brien in second.
Earlier there had been no fairytale outcome to Sir Mark Prescott’s first excursion into Breeders’ Cup territory when Marsha finished a fast closing sixth to the locally trained 40-1 shot Stormy Liberal, although she managed to beat her old adversary Lady Aurelia the true state of his health remains opaque to everyone. Even Murray himself does not know how his body will respond to competition, let alone the stress of daily combat on hard surfaces in the 40C heat of Australia.
“Tennis is a difficult sport for coming back from injuries,” says Michael Davison, a sports medicine specialist and managing director of Isokinetic London. “You can’t manage your minutes, like you would in football by coming on for half an hour towards the end. No one knows how long a match will last or how far you might go in a tournament. So an exhibition like this is the nearest thing Murray will be able to get to playing competitive tennis in a controlled environment.”
At least Murray still believes he can do without an arthroscopy, which would probably put him out for six months without offering any guarantee of resolution.
Still, Davison suggests that Murray’s progress to date sounds promising. “Murray’s people talk about rest and rehabilitation but it’s not as if he isn’t training hard,” he said. “Joints do wear out, but Andy is still relatively young. He won’t opt for surgery unless it really is the final option.” again. Prescott, who has been training for 48 years and has made no secret of the fact that he will hand over to assistant William Butler in the not-too-distant future, admitted he could get a taste for it. “But you need to bring a good one,” he said after his Nunthorpe and L’Abbaye winner, the best horse he has had for a while, had been flat to the boards from start to finish.
“She’s better going straight and some of the others might not have been quite so good going straight but I have no complaints,” he said.
“I thought she ran a great race closing all the time. I think she’s been the most consistent sprinter in the northern hemisphere this year and a credit to Elite that they bred her.”
Stormy Liberal was not the longest priced winner of the meeting. That honour went to Bar of Gold who got up on the line in the Filly And Mare Sprint to win at 66-1.
Andy Murray crashed out of the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in July after suffering problems with his hip in his loss to Sam Querrey. He will have been off competitive tennis for nearly four months when he takes on Federer
Joy: William Buick celebrates after riding Wuheida to victory in Filly And Mare Turf