Bathrat Leon a strong fourth in Sussex Stakes
On July 27, Japanese raider Bathrat Leon took on the Sussex Stakes, a turf Grade 1 over the mile at Britain’s Goodwood Racecourse, and as a rank outsider, surprised by nearly making the money.
The race, the fourth of the day, got under way at 3:35 p.m. Wednesday afternoon (11:35 p.m. in Japan) with a small field of seven dominated by the unbeaten and overwhelming race favorite Baaeed.
Japan’s challenger Bathrat Leon was away quickly and, despite a stumble as the door opened, he immediately recovered. The 4-year-old son of Kizuna grabbed the lead and led to the final stage, with Baaeed and Alcohol Free held up one off the rear.
When Baaeed began his move up the outside, Bathrat Leon did not make closing the gap easy. The latter held his ground despite the threat and Baaeed had to work for his ninth-straight win. But, when Jim Crowley asked for top gear, the 4-year-old colt complied to claim the top with 100 meters to go, with the 3-year-old colt Modern Games overtaking Bathrat Leon shortly after.
The Yoshito Yahagi-trained Bathrat Leon looked set to clinch third but was overtaken in the final stride by Alcohol Free, a 4-year-old filly by No Nay Never and just off a win of the July Cup at Newmarket. The Charlie Appleby-trained, Dubawi-sired Modern Games, under William Buick, finished a length and 3/4 behind the winner. Rob Hornby brought Alcohol Free home behind Modern Games by the same margin.
“The results were unfortunate,” said the 61-year-old Yahagi. “But, he was able to run his own race amid the strong competition,” he said of Bathrat Leon.
“Having had a lot of work in his 1 month stabled in Newmarket, his footwork has improved and I think he has gotten stronger.”
A Grade 2-winner in Japan, Bathrat Leon was racing for the first time in 4 months following his win of the Godolphin Mile (G2, dirt) at Meydan and, like Baaeed, also carried 61.5 kg, the top weight of his career by a huge 4.5 kg.
Bathrat Leon was only the fourth U.K. runner for Yahagi, a travel aficionado who first opened his Ritto stable in 2005. A Triple Crown winning trainer in Japan, Yahagi has also scooped top races in five other countries and three continents.
Ryusei Sakai was the jockey for Japan’s first-ever entry in the Goodwood event and he had been prepared for the somewhat rough start.
“When I got on him in the paddock, he was calm and he loaded as he always does,” said Sakai. “But, the start is on a downward slope and I’ve been unseated with this horse at the break before (in the 2021 Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup) so the stumble was not unexpected.”
“The course is quite undulating but he felt really good under way. When I had walked the course earlier, I felt it was going to be tough, so when we turned for the stretch, I was thinking, ‘Wow!’ ”
“I knew Baaeed was a very strong horse, so in order to avoid everything coming down to the late speed, I widened my lead from 600 meters out,” said the 25-year-old Tokyo native, who has ridden eight of Bathrat Leon’s 15 starts.
“The race went as planned and I think it’s only my fault that we didn’t make third place. Bathrat Leon really gave it his all and I think this bodes well for his next start.”
Baaeed gave trainer William Haggas his first win of the Sussex Stakes. The Sea the Stars-sired bay colt clocked 1 minute 37.74 seconds over the 1,600 meters of turf officially rated “good to firm, good in places.” The race carried a purse of 1 million pounds sterling, with just over 567,100 pounds (about 90 million yen) going to the winner.
The Sussex Stakes, part of the British Champions Series, is held on the second day of the five-day gala known as Glorious Goodwood. The race is one of three Grade 1s held at the West Sussex racetrack and is considered the venue’s most prestigious. The Sussex Stakes dates back to 1841, but has been held in its present form since 1878.
Bathrat Leon’s next start will be the Aug. 14 Prix Jacques Le Marois. The Jacques Le Marois is a Grade 1 mile turf race over the straight course at Deauville and was won by Japan’s Taiki Shuttle in 1998.