The generous losers become marvellous winners as Mabs Cross takes the prize
This was a day when the connections of Arc runner-up Sea Of Class could not have been more magnanimous in agonising defeat. At York in August those associated with Mabs Cross behaved every bit as impeccably when narrowly denied a huge success.
Compensation was owed to them. At Longchamp they got it.
For David and Emma Armstrong, owners and breeders of the 2018 Prix de l'Abbaye heroine, that near miss in the Nunthorpe was not the first they had experienced. In this very race six years ago their Mayson was burgled on the line by a rival partnered by Gerald Mosse. This time they employed Mosse to do a little more burgling.
As the line approached in France's most prestigious sprint it appeared Soldier's Call was set to become the race's first two-year-old winner in four decades. He had reached that point after seeing off the persistent challenge of hot favourite Battaash, but such an extreme effort left him vulnerable to late-lunging opponents, two of which passed him.
To the delight of Mabs Cross fans, when the lollipop arrived she was a little bit further past the juvenile than was home outsider Gold Vibe.
A little tribute to Mabs Cross... pic.twitter.com/VnlEILmPRJ— Michael Dods Racing (@mdodsracing) October 7, 2018
When Mabs Cross was bobbed out on the Knavesmire by Abbaye 11th Alpha Delphini, the missing man was Paul Mulrennan. Injury robbed him of that experience. Tom Eaves, who was aboard at York, was the one this time forced to miss out. The Armstrongs and trainer Michael Dods selected Gerald Mosse as the latest replacement rider. He did them proud.
"This is what we dream of, so it's unbelievable, especially with a homebred filly," said Emma Armstrong.
"I asked Gerald to do what he did to us in 2012 when he came late on Wizz Kid to beat our horse Mayson. That's exactly what he did. It was incredible."
Also full of praise for Mosse was Dods, who had chosen to swerve the far easier Flying Five at the Curragh last month and prioritised the Abbaye.
"We were dead keen to come here and it's paid off because she has delivered," said Dods.
"Every time she has run she has improved – and she has improved again today. She has definitely got a bit faster as well. In the middle of the season we thought she might want stepping up to six but, as you've just seen, she's an out and out five-furlong horse.
"She's a very talented horse and we'll be aiming her at all the top sprints next year."
Archie Watson can look forward to similar races with Soldier's Call, who might possibly go to the Breeders' Cup.
"He’s gone toe-for-toe all the way with Battaash and fought him off before just getting caught by a very good sprinter," said the young trainer of his young horse, while Battaash's trainer Charlie Hills reflected on an admirable but below-par display.
"Things looked good for the first half of the race but he just hasn’t quite finished his race out, for whatever reason," said Hills, who took defeat impressively, just as did Emma Armstrong on Nunthorpe afternoon.
"Don't worry, we're fine," she'd said that day. "It's another northern winner, so we're so thrilled. She's run a marvellous race. You can't get any better than that."
It turns out you can.
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