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Sands Of Mali rises to occasion in Champions Sprint

20 Oct 2018

Commonwealth Cup runner-up bounces back to form for Richard Fahey and Paul Hanagan.

Hanagan and Sands Of Mali after their success on QIPCO British Champions Day. Photo Healy Racing / Racingfotos.com

Sands Of Mali bounced back to form with a bang to spring a 28/1 surprise in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint.

The Richard Fahey-trained three-year-old colt had been in good form earlier this summer, and was beaten just half a length in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, but his form since had been below that level.

He rediscovered his mojo, making all under Paul Hanagan to beat Harry Angel (4/1) and Donjuan Triumphant (16/1) by a length and one and a quarter lengths.

Yorkshire-based Fahey said: “It’s been very frustrating – he just got nailed at the Royal Meeting and things went pear-shaped after that. He’s always worked like a nice horse at home, and today he’s proven that he is. He’s had a couple of goes [at Group One races] and today it’s come good so I’m delighted.

“I don’t know why he’s been beaten lately – maybe he just hurt himself a little bit on the quicker ground at Royal Ascot, and I felt he ran OK at Haydock last time out, but today was where we thought he should be. What they should be and what they actually do are quite different sometimes.

A delighted Hanagan said: “I quite enjoyed that! We’ve always thought a lot of Sands Of Mali and today he showed everyone what we’ve always believed.

“I was never headed and I couldn’t believe how well I was going with two furlongs to go. I just loved the way he picked up again when Harry Angel came to challenge him.

“I did think he was a very big price as I knew he would handle the ground. We’ve been saying for a while how good we think he is, so we’re really chuffed.”

Hanagan has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Malton handler Fahey throughout his career and he paid tribute to the trainer after the race, commenting: “I can’t put into words what it means to win for Richard. He’s never left my side and always been there for me, so I owe him a lot.”

Both trainer Clive Cox and jockey Adam Kirby declared themselves “very proud” of Harry Angel, second in the £632,500 G1 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes.

Cox said: “He’s run an absolute blinder and I’m very pleased with him. He’s shown his true level today. It’s been a frustrating year because he’s been a better horse at home all year, so to bring him here and show everyone else what we’ve been seeing – that he’s a proper, proper Group One horse – I’m very proud of the performance.”

Kirby said: “Of course I’m proud of him – he’s a superstar, isn’t he? It’s a shame to get beat but nice to end things on a high. He’s been a great horse. The ground here just blunts his gear-change, so I feel a bit sorry for him.

“Harry Angel probably gets a little bit claustrophobic in the stalls, but one thing I will say is well done to Clive Cox and all involved with the horse. They have always done a remarkable job with him – not only do you have to train a champion but you also have to train his mind as well.

“It has not been an easy run for Clive. He is a great guy to deal with and fair play to him. I am just a little gutted that the horse was beaten – I think he would have taken them apart if the ground was livelier. It was a bit of a bog out there and the last furlong is exceptionally slow.

“But he owes us nothing; he’s been a fantastic sprinter and a pleasure to deal with.”

Andrew Balding was thrilled with Donjuan Triumphant, saying: “He’s just a really solid performer on that sort of ground and he doesn’t know how to run a bad race when conditions are right for him.”

Brando  finished an honourable fourth on his third appearance in the race. Sent off the 3/1 favourite, The Tin Man, ridden by Oisin Murphy and trained by James Fanshawe, came home in seventh.