Overlooked at 10-1, Society Rock benefited from a savvy ride by Kieren Fallon to capture the $349,000 Betfred Sprint Cup (Eng-I) at Haydock Park Sept. 8.
It was the second group I victory for the 5-year-old horse by Rock of Gibraltar, winless since capturing the Golden Jubilee (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot last year.
A field of 13 sprinters went to the post in the Sprint Cup, with Australia's Ortensia sent off as the favorite. The daughter of Testa Rossa was seeking to add the Sprint Cup to her resume after an impressive victory in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (Eng-I) last time out.
Also in the field was Roger Charlton's Bated Breath, who was hoping to finally break through and win his first group I after just missing on numerous occasions, including a narrow loss to Dream Ahead in last year's edition. Another also seeking a breakout win was the Richard Hannon-trained Strong Suit, a multiple stakes winner by Rahy who had won the Betfred Hungerford Stakes (Eng-II) in his last start.
Longshot Es Que Love reared slightly coming out of the gate but quickly rushed up to join Strong Suit on the lead. Majestic Myles raced with those two up front, as Society Rock was settled in mid-pack early. Bated Breath, who also broke a step slowly, was just behind the leaders in fourth, and Ortensia raced near the back of the field early.
Es Que Love held a slight advantage over a tightly-bunched field through the first couple of furlongs. Richard Hughes had Strong Suit placed prominently, and the chestnut colt looked ready to pounce whenever asked. Bated Breath loomed menacingly between those two, with Society Rock edging closer while tracking Bated Breath.
Strong Suit took over the lead at the halfway point as Es Que Love began to fade. Majestic Myles continued to race prominently up front, but Bated Breath and Society Rock were making up ground with every stride.
With a furlong left to run, Hughes implored Strong Suit to hang on. But Hughes and Strong Suit were soon engulfed by Gordon Lord Byron, who was flying on the far outside, Bated Breath in the center, and Society Rock who was moving along the inside rail.
It was left to those three runners to battle it out in the final yards. Bated Breath was the first to surrender, fading slightly in the last strides to eventually finish third. Society Rock and Gordon Lord Byron matched strides briefly until Society Rock put him away, charging to the wire to win comfortably by three-quarters of a length.
Gordon Lord Byron was 1 1/4 lengths in front of Bated Breath. Final time for the six furlongs was 1:10.20 over the firm turf course.
Ortensia was never a factor in the race and finished 12th. Afterward it was announce that she had suffered a nasty cut on her right fetlock during the race. Trainer Paul Messara commented via Twitter, "Ortensia sustained an inch long cut to her right fetlock today at Haydock. The cut was right on the point of the sesamoid and certainly would have been painful enough to restrict her action."
Society Rock provided both Fallon and trainer James Fanshawe with their first winner in the Sprint Cup. After the race, Fanshawe was quick to thank his team and the gate crew, who put in long hours with the horse on getting him to settle and load properly. "It's been a real team effort. He's a very underrated horse, this fellow. He was runner-up in the Golden Jubilee before (and) he won it last year but then we had a nightmare with the stalls."
"Yarmy (Steve Dyble) and all the team have done a lot of work with him at the stalls since Newmarket and I'm delighted. I think it's my first winner at Haydock for three years."
Society Rock was bred in Ireland by San Gabriel Investments, and is owned by Simon Gibson. The dark bay horse is out of the Key of Luck mare High Society, who captured the listed La Habra Stakes at Santa Anita in 2002.