Lightning Spear finally claimed a long-overdue Group One success in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
A field of eight runners went to post and much of the attention was on the three-year-olds Without Parole and Expert Eye, following their respective triumphs at Royal Ascot.
With Andrea Atzeni deputising in the saddle for the suspended Frankie Dettori, the previously unbeaten Without Parole was the 7-4 favourite to follow up his victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes and found himself in front at an early stage.
Expert Eye, who was supplemented for the Sussex off the back of an impressive win in the Jersey Stakes, was always on his tail as they went just a steady pace and that pair, along with Beat The Bank, were the first to commit for home.
Without Parole weakened out of contention disappointingly, but Expert Eye stuck to his guns for James Doyle and held a narrow advantage over Beat The Bank entering the final furlong.
However, David Simcock’s 9-1 shot Lightning Spear – who had been narrowly beaten in the Lockinge at Newbury and the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot on his previous two starts this season – found a gap between the pair and powered home under a jubilant Oisin Murphy.
Expert Eye was best of the rest in second, with Lord Glitters flying home to grab third.
Simcock’s charge was hitting the Group One jackpot at the 16th attempt, and the trainer said: “He’s done very little wrong apart from win a Group One, until now.
“He’s a lovely horse to train. He’s been placed in six Group Ones and has never really let us down.
“That was the horse we see at home all the time, it’s just getting it to click (on a racecourse). I’m more pleased for the horse than anybody.
“For the horse to get his nose in front in a Group One like that, it’s great.”
Plans remain fluid for Lightning Spear, whose trainer added: “He quickened well, travelled well and did everything right.
“Oisin’s grown with the horse. I’m not sure he’d have done that (deploy waiting tactics) two years ago and now he’s a very confident jockey.”
Lightning Spear’s narrow defeat in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury to Rhododenron was particularly tough for Simcock to take, and he admitted: “I think the horrible thing is when you think you have won before and after the line, and half a furlong out – it sort of takes the wind out of your sails.
“We get attached and we want them to win. It’s important and if you didn’t feel aggrieved or emotional in one way or another there is something wrong.
“He races properly now. Three years ago I would have been really worried (about the lack of pace), but he races properly and you can put him where you want.
“They are all important and they all cost the same to train and they are somebody’s baby. Yes, of course it’s great because it’s a Group One, but they are all important.”
Simcock also paid tribute to the part played at his yard by his wife, Jennie, who was to reveal after the race that the trainer’s father, Michael, had sadly died on Monday.
Simcock said: “I do as I’m told with this horse as Jennie rides him every day and she does a wonderful job with him. I don’t think Lightning Spear would be here today without her.
“Jennie is a special part of the whole thing. Jennie and my children are so fond of him and he is just a very special horse to have in the yard.”
Murphy said: “I never ever get nervous before Group Ones, but I was nervous today and was trying to hide it down at the start. He’s deserved to win a major Group One.
“He loves travelling behind heels and I was sure Expert Eye was going to fade away at some stage.
“What a horse, what a training performance. At seven years of age, outstanding.”
John Gosden felt the race was not run to suit for Without Parole, who beat just one horse home.
The Clarehaven handler said: “I knew very early on he was beat. I just hoped one person would go on (and make the running).
“I didn’t have a pacemaker to put in. To that extent, you are stuck there (in front) and that just isn’t his style of racing.
“There was no pace and that is not his style of racing, being in front, so he was not going to perform to his best like that.”
Connections of Expert Eye were satisfied with the Sir Michael Stoute-trained runner-up, who is now likely to remain over a mile.
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner Khalid Abdullah, said: “They didn’t go much pace. He was second in a Group One and we will have much worse results than that this year.
“The way he has done it has been pleasing and I think there is something to build on still.
“We have to look at a variety of races now. I don’t see why you wouldn’t keep him to the mile now.”
Andrew Balding was also left to rue a distinct lack of pace for Beat The Bank, who finished fifth.
The Kingsclere handler said: “He is a four-year-old gelding so he will have many more days as long as he keeps sound.
“He is high class on his day and he could have probably done with a stronger gallop, but the best horse won.”