Red Avenger snatched the Betfred Mile by a short-head, two necks and a head from Heavy Metal, Magic City, Steeler and Belgian Bill in one of the highlights of day four at Glorious Goodwood.
Winning trainer Ed Dunlop revealed that he pinched a trick from Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien. Red Avenger, a lazy type like others by his sire War Front, was wearing, and responded to, first-time blinkers to score his first victory for more than a year.
“I’d seen Aidan had put blinkers on top horses by the sire like Declaration Of War and War Command,” he said. “This horse has always had talent, but wouldn’t always express it. That was quite obvious in the John Smith’s Cup at York last time out. And no real offence to his apprentice rider that day, but the horse was taking the piss.
“So I worked him in blinkers earlier in the week and he took off like a Ferrari. He’s got an excellent temperament, though, and I can well see why Mr Magnier and his friends like to buy these War Fronts. I thought we were beaten today but, finally, it went well. He loves fast ground and I think it’s the same with all War Fronts. We bought him as a breeze-up horse and we always thought he was a good but he flattered to deceive a little bit.”
Red Avenger’s rider Jimmy Fortune admitted that his win owed a little to luck as well as some good judgement. “Ed was confident - he’d worked the horse in blinkers during the week and he’d gone very well,” he said. “I was drawn five, but I had to give my draw away a little. He didn’t jump too good and it was getting a bit tight so I eased out so I wouldn’t get stopped in my run. They go plenty quick enough here and if the ones in front had started dropping back there was always the danger of not getting a clear shot at it.
Heavy Metal came within a short-head of giving trainer Mark Johnston a sixth Betfred Mile.
The rejuvenated four-year-old, who was shouldering a 3lb penalty on the back of a win at Ascot six days ago, moved through to lead approaching the final furlong but could not resist the late, late surge of Red Avenger. In a bunched finish, Magic City was a further neck behind in third with same distance back to Steeler in fourth and a further head to fifth Belgian Bill.
Johnston said of the 6/1 joint-favourite: “Heavy Metal was in the wilderness for so long with no real explanation for that. It goes back to the old adage of looks well, runs well - he looks an absolute picture and is obviously in top form.”