Jamie Lynch

After the recent announcement of his retirement, Jamie Lynch looks at the magic mix of Mohaather and why he captured the racing imagination like he did in his coming-of-age season.

  • Thursday 27 August
  • Blog
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The Magic Of Mohaather

There’s something about a miler that excites the eyes and satisfies the soul like no other racehorse. Actually, more accurately, there’s something about a miler like Mohaather that excites the eyes and satisfies the soul like no other racehorse.

A miler of the merit and mechanics of Mohaather is, in many ways, the epitome of equine excellence, that magic mix, of a sprinter who’s more than just a sprinter, the Holy Grail for breeders and owners, the keys to the kingdom, so to speak: the need in the breed for stretched-out speed.

The fastest a horse has ever run a mile on a dirt surface is 1:32.2, the honour belonging to Dr. Fager, who set it over 50 years ago. A freakish talent, so fast yet so flexible, Dr. Fager was bred by John Nerud, a giant of American racing and a co-founder of the Breeders’ Cup.

“A sprinter with stamina,” was Nerud’s deft description of a miler. “They make the best sires because they have everything – versatility, lung capacity, muscle tone, tenacity, guts, and they’re fast. At a mile, the pressure is on from the gate. It is very demanding because it makes you pick your head up and run every step of the way. Watching a good miler is like watching an Olympic swimmer.”

The secret of success in swimmers is in the combination of aerobic and anaerobic capacity. The aerobic energy system, expressed as endurance, or stamina, pertains to the rate of oxygen uptake during maximum exercise intensity, and the power output at that point is the anaerobic capacity.

The compound consequence is the ability to swim fast at either end of a race without much of a breather, and it’s precisely those qualities that make an outstanding miler, perhaps more so than any other distance in racing.   

The “sprinter with stamina” megamix is the common denominator of the finest milers in history, from to Dr. Fager to Frankel, Miesque to Winx, Tudor Minstrel to Kingman, Selkirk to Cigar, amongst all the other greats; and Mohaather was revealing that rare blend by the end of a career that finished with a comma, rather than a full stop, his statement incomplete, just when he was finding his voice.

The line between sprinter and miler is more blurred than balanced, maybe because their component parts are the same, aerobic and anaerobic, a matter of measures.

When Prize Exhibit won the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes at Santa Anita, over 6½f, her trainer James Cassidy said: “It was a success, but I think a mile is her game.” And a winning debut over 6f at Sha Tin by Super Sixteen prompted rider Silvestre de Sousa to say that “actually he feels like a miler.”

And the significance of Prize Exhibit and Super Sixteen looking and even feeling like milers masquerading as sprinters is that they’re the full-sister and full-brother respectively of Mohaather.

It’s understandable, if still unusual, that the blood is quite so branded as the familial fuel, and one of the striking statements by Jim Crowley after the Sussex Stakes was that he has no doubt that Mohaather “could win a Group 1 over 6f,” a Sussex Stakes that had the second, third or fourth had won you’d have classed it an authentic A-list race, and yet Mohaather stormed by them all in the finish.   

The other subconsciously satisfying element to the Mohaather story was how it so nicely and neatly followed the classic “hero’s journey” narrative, the template for any and every adventure in fiction, book or film, as set out by Joseph Campbell in 1949.

Every beat of the mythic structure is hit with Mohaather’s journey, from the moulding by the mentor, Marcus Tregoning, which is a story in itself; the primary progression that teases something special, up to the Guineas in Mohaather’s case; the adversity (and absence for him) that threatens to delay or derail his destiny; the crossroads of the Queen Anne and the will-he-won’t-he conundrum therein; and then the transformation, all the way to the dramatic denouement at Glorious Goodwood.

The final trope of the hero’s journey is the homecoming, not direct for Mohaather, who was bred by the Johnson Houghton family, but back to the generation game of transmitting the talent, to Shadwell Stud for the sequel, the stallion sequel.

The current incumbents at Shadwell are Eqtidaar, Tasleet, Mukhadram and Muhaarar, none of which are in the top 50 in the current sire standings, the one area of Hamdan Al Maktoum’s operation that isn’t absolutely zinging along. But Mohaather might well be the stallion they’re looking for.

The reasons Mohaather will be such a marketable stallion are all the reasons he was a magic miler, because of that beguiling blend, seen so starkly when he set the Sussex Stakes alight. The fact he got there via a proximate path of the archetypal hero’s journey only magnified the myth of Mohaather, augmented by the sub-plot of a trainer’s renaissance.

But the thing, above all, which made him one of the horses of 2020, and a member of a very exclusive club in the history of racing, was that aerobic-anaerobic amalgam which made his peak performance so enthralling, engaging and exciting, a precious fusion that always has been and always will be the “secret sauce” of the sport: a sprinter’s speed with the miler’s mindset.

Jamie Lynch
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