Historic John Smith's Cup triumph for Atzeni

Gazette & Herald: Farraaj, ridden by Andrea Atzeni, wins the 55th John Smith’s Cup at York.   Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire Farraaj, ridden by Andrea Atzeni, wins the 55th John Smith’s Cup at York. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

ANDREA ATZENI became only the third jockey in the 55-year history of the John Smith’s Cup to win the race in successive years after Farraaj claimed the £150,000 handicap at York Racecourse.

Not since Geoff Baxter won on board Prominent in 1971 and 1972 and Tony Ives scooped the contest in successive years on Chaumiere in 1985 and 1986 has a jockey managed to win back-to-back renewals.

But Atzeni, who was victorious in the extended mile and a quarter contest on Danchai 12 months ago, ensured Farraaj reeled in Zain Eagle inside the final furlong to win by a length and a half.

The latter had led from the start and, having gone a couple of lengths clear of the field into the home straight, looked at one stage as if he might hold on.

It took Farraaj, trained at Newmarket by Roger Varian, almost a furlong to get into top gear as Zain Eagle tried to kick further clear inside the two furlong marker.

Once he did, though, he swept past his rival as the winning post closed in.

The favourite, Bold Sniper, was third.

Atzeni said: “It’s a great race to win. I managed to get in a good position throughout and he was always going to get there in the end.

“I wanted to get some cover straight away, managed to do that, and the key to him is the ground. He has to have fast ground and he is progressive.”

David Eustace, Varian’s assistant, said: “He just needs rock hard ground, which he loves. There was no pace in the race, which is unusual for a race like this.

“We knew we had to go on and Andrea gave him a great race. The second gave us a good tow but they don’t come back very often here.

“We will have to step him up into proper group company now. That was some performance.”

The race did not come without a cost. The Godolphin horse, Tarikhi, died of a heart attack - collapsing after the line - and rider Kieren Fallon was stood down for the day after hurting his wrist.

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