Ebor Festival memories: the Nunthorpe Stakes, Dayjur blitzes them

The Nunthorpe Stakes is another of the Group 1 events at the York Ebor meeting. It was originally staged as a lowly seller in 1903, but since 1922 was upgraded to the top class 5f race it is today. The race was known as the William Hill Sprint Championship for many years but has been known as the Nunthorpe Stakes since 1990.

In that very year we had potentially the most spectacular winner of the race in its history with Dayjur landing the Group 1 prize. The Dick Hern trained colt had made a promising start as a juvenile, winning one of his two races. He was then trained as a Guineas horse, only for connections to have to change plans when the horse faded into seventh in the Free Handicap at the Craven meeting.

Back to 6f, he won a modest contest at Nottingham, but was then beaten again at Newbury. That was when Hern moved to plan C and brought the horse back to the minimum 5f for the first time. That was undoubtedly the making of the horse as Willie Carson allowed Dayjur to use his natural pace as he made all to win the Temple Stakes at Sandown.

The same tactics were then utilised to take the Kings Stand at Ascot. As a result Dayjur was sent off an 8/11 shot to take his first race at the highest level at York. He faced a field of nine that day, including American raider Mr Nickerson. His only chief market rival though was Argentum, fresh from winning at Glorious Goodwood last time.

However as had now become customary, Dayjur broke well and was immediately encouraged along by Carson to take a 2l lead. Bouncing off the quick ground, only Frankie Dettori on Statoblest was able to get within touching distance and briefly the combination threatened to make a race of it approaching the furlong marker.

Dayjur was having none of it though and he surged again close home, eventually coming home a full 4l clear of Statoblest. The time of 56.16 was a course record and stood until Battaash in the same Hamdan Al Maktoum colours bested that time in the 2019 renewal.

After that race Dayjur did successfully step back up to 6f to land the Sprint Cup at Haydock, before a successful raid on France in the Abbaye. His final race in the Breeders Cup Sprint has gone down in history as one of the most notorious finishes of all time. Making light of the unfamiliar dirt surface, Dayjur was in the process of holding off local raider Safely Kept until twice jumping shadows of the spires on top of the stands at Churchill Downs, losing momentum and getting caught on the line. He was retired to stud after that run, but Dayjur deservedly had earned a reputation as the fastest horse on the planet at that time and he certainly looked unbeatable that day at York.


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