Super Sergeant marches to Ebor victory

Sergeant Cecil made the 550-mile round trip from Devon pay a handsome dividend as he completed a rare double when taking the totesport Ebor at York.

Sergeant Cecil made the 550-mile round trip from Devon pay a handsome dividend as he completed a rare double when taking the totesport Ebor at York.

In doing so, the 11-1 chance became the first horse for almost a century to land this prestigious event having already taken the other big staying handicap in the North, the Northumberland Plate.

Pillo in 1911 was the last horse to win both prizes.

It was a remarkable feat, both for trainer Rod Millman – better known for his handling of early-maturing two-year-olds – and for jockey Alan Munro, enjoying his first season back in Britain after a lengthy hiatus in the Far East.

Once in the winner’s enclosure Millman, who looks after a team of about 40 near Cullompton, was understandably keen to point out that he can “train any kind of horse” as this victory proved.

For Sergeant Cecil is an unquestionably quirky customer, but at the age of six he is improving with every race and is set to step into pattern-race company for his next start in the Doncaster Cup.

Sergeant Cecil’s transition from ’nearly horse’ into big-race winner might have something to do with the abilities of his rider.

Munro has enjoyed something of a topsy-turvy season, the undoubted low point coming when he received a seven-day suspension for his part in a weighing-room incident with fellow pilot Richard Quinn.

But considering the obvious rustiness which he encountered earlier in the year when attempting to resume his career after a lengthy spell out of the saddle, Munro has collected a most respectable tally of 38 victories for the season.

“I guess I was apprehensive about this year and it has been steady at times, but things are just getting better and better now,” he said.

Munro’s mount came from off the pace to win by a length from the strong-finishing Carte Diamond (20-1), with Grampian (16-1) a neck away in third and the 9-2 favourite Balkan Knight fourth.

The predictably fierce early pace was set by Jagger and Odiham, who led the field towards the near side in the long straight.

There were plenty in with chances in the final three furlongs and at different stages in the home straight both Grampian and Balkan Knight looked set to land the spoils.

However, it was Munro and Sergeant Cecil who made relentless progress from the rear to lead in the last 100 yards and claim the honours.

Connections of Carte Diamond were thrilled to finish second and the prize-money collected by the runner-up might just have persuaded owner Ashley Carr to stump up the cash to enter the colt in the Melbourne Cup – a race for which Coral issued a quote of 25-1 about his chances.

Brian Ellison, trainer of Carte Diamond, said: “That was fantastic, at Cheltenham he boiled over so we gave him a holiday and brought him back for this.

“He’s had five months off, he’s come back in a competitive race and he’s missed the break, so he’s run a fantastic race.

“He’s in the Melbourne Cup and we’ll give that some consideration. I’ll talk to the owners but he would have to go out at the end of next month.

“His main target is the Tote Gold Trophy in February. He’s rated 125 so he’s well handicapped over hurdles.”

Kerrin McEvoy captured his second Group One in the space of four days when Punctilious landed the Aston Upthorpe Yorkshire Oaks.

Registering his 50th success of the season, McEvoy brought the 13-2 chance through to lead inside the final furlong, with the pair running on strongly to beat Dash To The Top and Kieren Fallon by half a length.

French raider Lune d’Or came home two lengths back in third.

The shape of the race changed several times down the home straight as front-running Iota came back to the field.

Vodafone Oaks winner Eswarah made up eyecatching ground down the outside but threw her her chance away when hanging violently left towards the far rail.

Then it was Dash To The Top who took up the lead two furlongs out, next to the stands rail.

But close home she was reeled in by Godolphin’s charge, who easily improved on her fourth place in last year’s renewal of the race.

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