Tullius (centre) got the better of a thrilling three-way go at the linePICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Tough Tullius grinds out thrilling Diomed victory
Report: Epsom, Friday
Investec Diomed Stakes (Group 3) 1m114y, 3yo+
A RACE that lost its star performer at the 11th hour delivered a pulsating outcome regardless as the popular veteran Tullius came out on top in a thrilling three-way finish.
Last year's winner Arod had been favourite to record a repeat success before connections decided the ground was too slow for him to take his place less than 30 minutes before the field headed to the start.
It was Custom Cut who valliantly attempted to make all under David Nolan but he was overwhelmed by Tullius and Decorated Knight in the dying strides.
Decorated Knight swept by nearest to the stand but it was Tullius, sandwiched between Decorated Knight and Custom Cut, who stuck his head out gamely to reward punters who backed him into 5-2 favourite, providing Pricewise with a winner on the opening day of the Investec Derby Festival.
Visor does the trick
Tullius was fitted with a first-time visor for the Group 3 contest and trainer Andrew Balding said that, coupled with an excellent Jimmy Fortune ride, made the difference.
"He's a great horse and Jimmy was superb on him - they have formed a great partnership over the years and they have both still got it," Balding said.
"The visor just helped him find that little bit extra in the finish, which was epic but thankfully the right result for us. Horses like him are key to our yard - it's great to be here on the big days."
'I thought I was beat'
Fortune himself admitted he feared the worst as he flashed past the post but paid tribute to his charge, for whom the rain-softened ground was also a plus.
"He's been a wonderful little horse over the years," said Fortune.
"He's getting older and wiser and he has been taking the mickey recently but he always tries and is tough.
"I thought I was beat half a furlong out, I put my stick down and then he ran on again."
Times too slow for Arod
Connections of Arod had warned on Thursday that they intended to walk the course on Friday morning and then delayed their decision on the five-year-old's participation even further to hear from jockeys after racing began.
In the end a frustrated David Redvers, advisor to owners Qatar Racing, said the times of the first two races suggested the ground was softer than ideal and a decision was taken not to run.