Farraaj takes John Smith's Cup

Farraaj takes John Smith's Cup

Farraaj is set to try his hand in Group company after defying the steadier of 9st 11lb in the 55th John Smith's Cup at York.

A return to the Knavesmire for the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes on July 26, won last summer by subsequent Coral-Eclipse winner Mukhadram, could be on the cards for the fast-ground loving five-year-old.

Andrea Atzeni, winning back-to-back John Smith's Cups, had the Roger Varian-trained Farraaj smartly out of the gates to try to overcome his wide draw, and it worked as he was soon tracking the pace-setting Zain Eagle with the Queen's Bold Sniper not far behind.

Approaching the last half-mile it looked like Zain Eagle and Tom Eaves might have slipped the field after injecting some pace, but Farraaj (6-1) responded to Atzeni's urgings and got on top late in the day to prevail by a length and a half.

Bold Sniper, the 4-1 favourite, was third with Educate fourth.

"He's a good horse on his day, he just needs rock-hard ground. There was no pace in the race, which was unusual for a race like this," said Varian's assistant David Eustace.

"From stall 22 we knew he had to go on and Andrea gave him a great ride, got him in the box seat and the horse making the pace (Zain Eagle) gave us a good tow into the race. For a second I thought he might not get to him as they don't come back in this ground.

"He's got to step into proper Group company now. He could come back for the Sky Bet Stakes."

Varian was at Newmarket, where he said: "He's been a grand servant over the years and it is lovely to see him win a big one. I was glad there was not rain at York earlier in the week, because he needs top of the ground.

"I'm not sure what we'll do next as handicaps are out of the question now - he won off a mark of 111, so we will have to see what suitable Pattern races there are.

"A mile and a quarter on fast ground seems to be ideal for him, but I am delighted to see him win a race like that - he deserves it."

Atzeni, the first rider to win the race two years in a row on different horses after scoring on Danchai in 2013, said: "It's a great race to win and he's a lovely horse.

"I was drawn really wide but he jumped really well and I managed to get a good position.

"He's a good horse on his day and the key with him is the ground - he has to have it fast."

Atzeni completed a big-race double when picking up a spare ride on Take Cover in the John Smith's City Walls Stakes.

The David Griffiths-trained seven-year-old could now go up in class with the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and the Coolmore Nunthorpe at York on the cards.

G Force put down a strong bid but Take Cover was still a length and a quarter down on the all-the-way winner at the line .

"Hopefully we can kick on now. He'll probably go to Goodwood for the King George Stakes and then back here for the Nunthorpe. I think he's a Group One horse," said Griffiths.

"We couldn't get Andrea at first so we booked Raul da Silva. When his horse (Eton Rifles) was a non-runner we got him."

Kevin Ryan introduced a potentially smart youngster when Flaming Spear made an impressive debut in the John Smith's Median Auction Maiden Stakes.

Ryan took the corresponding race with this season's French Derby winner The Grey Gatsby and Flaming Spear was sent off the 11-10 favourite on the back of glowing home reports.

Flaming Spear did the job well once he realised what was required by jockey Ryan Moore as he scored by two and three-quarter lengths.

"He'd been showing the right signs at home and it was just a case of education. We've always thought a lot of him," said Ryan's son and assistant Adam.

"There was a big crowd and it was his first day at school, but once he got rolling he lengthened out and galloped straight to the line."

Bronze Angel (6-1 joint-favourite) registered his first success since the 2012 Cambridgeshire when making light of the fast conditions in the John Smith's Racing Handicap.

The Marcus Tregoning-trained five-year-old pulled nicely clear under Martin Dwyer in the final furlong to win by two and a quarter lengths from Bartack.

Continuum (11-1) gave trainer Peter Hedger his first winner on the Knavesmire when coming fast and late to claim the John Smith's Silver Cup Handicap under Joe Fanning.

Danny Tudhope reached 50 winners for the season when steering home David Simcock's Gabrial's King (14-1) in the John Smith's Stayers' Handicap.

Tom Queally came in for the winning ride on Kibaar (6-1) in the John Smith's Nursery after Kieren Fallon was stood down after injuring his wrist in the John Smith's Cup.

It was a close-run thing, however, as the Barry Hills-trained Kibaar got the verdict by in a finish of noses from Denzille Lane and Bahamian Sunrise.

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