The grey filly Alborada won the Champion Stakes in 1998 at the Rowley Mile and in 1999 at the July Course. Owned by Kirsten Rausing, trained by Sir Mark Prescott at Heath House, the filly was ridden by experienced jockey George Duffield.
With George's help we have been able to look back at the career of Alborada and those two memorable autumnal days at Newmarket.
When did you first meet and sit on Alborada and what do you remember?
I had never ridden her at home, so the first time I had anything to do with her was on her debut run at Nottingham in July 1997.¬† Prior to that head man Colin Nutter used to ride her as a two year old and before I ever sat on her¬† he told me he thought she was pretty good .
You rode her in her first three races winning the third race at Beverley in mid September, what did you think of her progress as a two year old and her hopes as a three year old?
I knew she would improve hugely between races and so it proved at Beverley when she won very easily , she won like a really good filly.
Her three year old season was delayed until 27 June due to an equine influenza outbreak at Heath House but she then won two Group 2 races; Pretty Polly and Nassau Stakes, did you think she was now ready to win a Group 1 when she lined up in the 1998 Champion Stakes at Newmarket?
I thought she was the one they all had to beat in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket after she finished second to Swain in the Irish Champion Stakes on her previous start.
What were your race instructions from Sir Mark and did the race go according to plan?
Sir Mark would always say keep it simple and in this case he said to get a nice lead in 3rd or 4th, but the race did not go to plan because it was a slowly run affair so I found myself sitting second on the pacemakers tail, which was not ideal but it is always better to be on the front end of a slowly run race than at the back.¬† I was the first to set sail for home going into the dip and the field could not catch me.
The following year Alborada's programme was again severely interrupted as she didn't make her debut until the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood on 31 July.¬† What had gone wrong and how did Sir Mark get the horse ready for another crack at the Champion Stakes?
Alborada ran below par in the Nassau Stakes, there was no sparkle to her at all, at home she worked with her usual lead horses in particular 'Farmost' who always led her, we always used to work up the Al Bahathri but she was only going through the motions. I wondered if she went elsewhere to work would it brighten her up¬† and it did, we took her over to racecourse side to work on grass using the same horses at the same weights but in a different environment and she annihilated them. I knew then she was back to her best.
What did you think of her chances of winning the race for the 2nd time?
After that piece of work on the back of the flat on racecourse side I thought she was the one they had to beat again.
How did the race work out for you?
The race worked out well, I wanted to track the leaders but I found myself on the outside for a while with no cover so I had to nudge another jockey out of the way and take their position, after that we had perfect cover and she was always travelling like the winner, we cruised into the dip and I gave her a kick in the belly, she set sail for home and it was all over bar the shouting.
What were the celebrations like afterwards?
The atmosphere in the aftermath of the race was incredible, we were all so high especially having thought she was might not regain her form, it was a very special moment for a very special filly. Very few owners/ breeders, trainers or jockeys are privileged enough to achieve winning back to back Champion Stakes and on two different tracks, the July course and the Rowley mile.
What were the key components which made Alborada such a successful filly?
Alborada was not a big filly but she was very well balanced, she had a great cruising speed, and possessed a good turn of foot and her temperament was fantastic. Obviously she had a big engine and she really wanted to win.
What did she mean to you? I understand Alborada's successes brought you some additional benefits.
Alborada meant everything to me at the time, throughout your career as a jockey you ride far more ordinary horses than good ones so when a superstar like Alborada comes along it means such a lot to you. I was lucky enough to be the man on board when she was running in those good races. My winning on Alborada prompted Aidan O'Brien to call Sir Mark as he was looking for a jockey to ride in the Racing Post Trophy. I understand that Sir Mark said all the right things and I won the Racing Post Trophy on Aristotle. That also led to other good rides for Aidan, most notably on Giants Causeway in the Eclipse.
What are you up to now?
Riding out for my wife Ann and gardening, I now ride a lawnmower around the farm daily in summer, it doesn't go as fast but it's slightly safer!
We would like to thank George and his wife Ann for their help with the blog.