Autumn Looks Bright

Gordon Lord Byron sends Autumn warning with great win in Gr1 BetfFred Sprint

Easy Does It. Gordon Lord Byron wins easily under Johnny Murtagh

Easy Does It. Gordon Lord Byron wins easily under Johnny Murtagh

Grey clouds and rain-softened ground meant that it looked and felt like autumn at Haydock Park and never more so than when Gordon Lord Byron hit the front in the BetFred Sprint Trophy on Saturday a long way from home. Tom Hogan’s gelding comes alive as the days draw in, and the second Group One win of his career, by three easy lengths against the far rail, suggested that the autumn of 2013 will be his best yet.

Mike De Kock’s Tiger Ridge gelding Kavanagh never got into the hunt and finished nine lengths behind the runaway winner.

Gordon Lord Byron won the Group One Prix de la Forêt on heavy ground on Arc day last October, but Saturday’s win was not down to the going alone, for all that Lethal Force, the favourite, was struggling to cope with the surface from an early stage.

He has always been a genuine and consistent performer, but now he also seems to have the mental and physical maturity to make the most of his talent.

Johnny Murtagh proved to be an ideal partner on Saturday too, as he quickly had Gordon Lord Byron settled against the far rail from his low draw and slowly applied more pressure until, about a quarter of a mile out, it was clear that nothing could live with him.

“The horse looked amazing before the race, he went down very nice and smooth and he was really on top of his game,” Murtagh said. “By the time I got to the three marker, I was galloping all over the pacemaker and at the two I let him go and it was all over.”

Murtagh is now enjoying significant success as a trainer, but remains one of the safest pairs of hands in the business on a top-class horse in a major race.

Two Jobs. Jockey and Trainer Johnny Murtagh

Two Jobs. Jockey and Trainer Johnny Murtagh

“When you don’t expect these things to come along, you tend to appreciate them more, because at the start of the year, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Murtagh said. “I’m doing two jobs, and I thought the way that people were talking, they might be giving up on me, but I still had belief that getting on the good horses, I’d be able to do the job.

“I don’t know if it’s made me hungrier than ever or more determined, but I’m trying to make the best of each opportunity I get.”

Gordon Lord Byron is now likely to return to Longchamp next month for another run in the Forêt, but could then step up to a mile, with both the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot and the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita under consideration as possible targets.

“The possibilities are endless, because he’s won Group Ones now over six furlongs and seven, and I’m sure he can win one over a mile,” Hogan said. “He’s improved this time of the year every year, and I just knew for the last week that he’d been so well.

“Lethal Force is a serious horse, so the competition was intense, but I thought if we were going to beat him, it would probably be today. Hopefully there’s more to come.”

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