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Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Lucky 16: Lightning finally strikes at top level after so many close calls

Lightning Spear wins the Sussex Stakes under Oisin Murphy
1 of 1

So close so many times, Lightning Spear looked destined to be remembered as the greatest nearly horse of his generation.

Beaten a short head in the Lockinge in May when leading a stride before and after the post, and three-quarters of a length away from a career-defining victory at Royal Ascot, Lightning Spear always tried like a terrier but could never quite deliver at the top.

It was not for the fun of it, however, that in his seventh year the flashy chestnut continued to face off against a fresh crop of pretenders at the highest level, as those closest to him never stopped believing he had that elusive Group 1 in him.

Finally, at arguably his favourite track, that faith was rewarded with a hugely emotional Group 1 victory at the 16th attempt in the £1 million Qatar Sussex Stakes.      

While there was no fault to be attributed for his Lockinge defeat, which was cruel at best, perhaps rider Oisin Murphy was in the front rank too soon at Ascot. 

There was no chance of a repeat here, though, with the cards falling perfectly for Lightning Spear to strike deep in the final furlong under a ride that oozed confidence and unwavering belief in his old sparring partner.

“He’s done very little wrong apart from winning a Group 1,” said trainer David Simcock, who had looked shattered after Lightning Spear’s defeat at Newbury.

“Just to see him fill up like that and quicken, that’s the horse we see at home an awful lot, and it was just fantastic. We felt slightly robbed at Newbury and this more than makes up for it.

"It’s great for Sheikh Fahad, the Qatar team and the yard but I’m more pleased for the horse than anyone. He deserves that.”

Simcock is the third trainer after Ralph Beckett and Olly Stevens to nurture Lightning Spear, the horse’s Group 1 journey starting for Stevens in August 2015.

His first start for Simcock came the following June, when third in the Queen Anne Stakes, and while he has twice won the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood, the post and crossbar have been rattled time and again at the highest level.

“As a trainer you’ve got to be optimistic and positive,” said Simcock. “We’ve been close several times but he’s never really let us down. We get attached and want them to win but if you didn’t feel aggrieved or emotional when they go so close there’s something wrong.”

As much a part of the success as trainer and jockey is Simcock’s wife and Lightning Spear’s gallops partner Jennie, who was the first to well up. The weight of an emotional week eventually had her husband in tears too, with Jennie revealing the trainer was dealing with the loss of his father Michael only on Monday.

“All he said was someone’s looking down on us - that’s all we’ve said to each other,” she added.

The main purpose of Lightning Spear staying in training was to secure a future career at stud, which after looking unlikely for so long was finally secured in less than a minute and 40 seconds of Group 1 action.

“Whatever happens he will go to stud at the end of the year,” said David Redvers, racing and breeding adviser for owners Qatar Racing.

“He’s by Pivotal, who is turning into a supreme sire of sires. You’d have to think that before that he might end up at a Breeders’ Cup.

“There’s plenty of season left for him and plenty of races left for him, but all that matters as far as I’m concerned is that he’s won his Group 1 and won it in style.”

Full race replay and result 


LIGHTNING SPEAR'S GROUP 1 NEAR-MISSES

Date

Race

Finishing position

Distance beaten

19/06/18

Queen Anne

3rd

¾ length

19/05/18

Lockinge

2nd

short head

02/08/17

Sussex

3rd

1 length

20/05/17

Lockinge

2nd

3 ¾ lengths

15/10/16

QEII

3rd

1 ½ lengths

14/06/16

Queen Anne

3rd

1 ¾ lengths

 

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We felt slightly robbed at Newbury if anything, but this more than makes up for it
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