Universal (far-side) defeats Noble Mission (centre) and Quiz MistressPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Universal denies Noble Mission in John Porter
Report: Newbury, Saturday
Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes (Registered as the John Porter Stakes) (Group 3) 4yo+, 1m4f
THE Mark Johnston-trained Universal hung on for a gutsy victory at Newbury, denying Frankel's brother Noble Mission who looked a sure-fire winner for much of the race but eventually finished only third.
Noble Mission, a full-brother to undefeated champion Frankel who represents the same connections of owner Khalid Abdullah and trainer Sir Henry Cecil, was sent off the 5-4 favourite to score at the same meeting that launched his Classic season in 2011.
Everything went perfectly to script until late in the race. Jockey Tom Queally nestled his charge in the hole behind the front-runners Fattsota and Universal and when the four- and then three-furlong markers whizzed by with the statuesque Queally motionless in the saddle victory appeared a question not of if but by how far.
Three furlongs from home Queally angled Noble Mission out from the rail and into space where he tracked Universal, who was showing plenty of tenacity under a hard-at-work Silvestre de Sousa.
Yet when the time came for Queally to press the button there was an underwhelming response. Two worrying strides went by before Noble Mission picked up and went alongside Universal, possibly snatching the lead for a stride or two.
But Universal, who was second in the Rosebery at Kempton last month, was overflowing with determination and fought back to the lead to seize a narrow victory. To compound the surprise the late charge of Quiz Mistress then relegated Noble Mission to third.
"He needed the run and if he had been waited with a bit longer he could have got away with it," said Cecil. "He could run in the Ormonde Stakes next which is slightly further but an easier course."
Universal's trainer Mark Johnston said: "He doesn't do anything quickly and the big long straight stood him in good stead. He's in the Jockey Club Stakes so we'll have a look at that and I entered him this morning for the American St Leger at Arlington, which looks tailor made for Europeans."
Richard Hughes, riding the second, received a four-day ban for using his whip above the allowed limit. He misses the first two days of Chester's May meeting during his ban from May 6 to May 9.