Roger Varian has paid tribute to his “trainer’s dream” and Royal Ascot winner Mountain Angel.
The six-year-old was being prepared for the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes when suffering a fatal injury in his final gallop before this weekend’s race.
Mountain Angel proved himself better than ever by beating the classy Sir Dragonet in the Wolferton Stakes at the Royal meeting last month – and Newmarket trainer Varian was so impressed that he was planning ahead to a possible return to Ascot in October for the Champion Stakes.
Among Mountain Angel’s five career victories from 23 starts, as well as his final triumph at Ascot, back-to-back handicap successes at Epsom last spring were highlights – and he also went on to twice finish a close second in Group company in France.
Varian said: “He got better with age – he was a trainer’s dream.
“He was a very sound horse, a very straightforward horse, always gave 100 per cent and just got better as he got older.
“It was probably a career-best on his final start at Royal Ascot – who knows, maybe the best was still ahead of him.
“He gave us a great time last year, winning those two big handicaps at Epsom – they’re the days it’s exciting to get your winners, Oaks day.
“The City And Suburban is a race I have fond memories of, going back to when I used to work for Michael Jarvis – he used to like winning that race.”
Mountain Angel made the most of his ability to handle soft ground to win the Listed Wolferton decisively.
Varian added: “He had a great progression. He didn’t jump straight up to the Pattern races – he won some big handicaps along the way, and obviously knocked on the door of Group races last autumn.
“He had everything in his favour at Ascot – he likes that soft ground – but it was a very good performance, I thought, winning the Wolferton.
“It may sound a bit pie in the sky, but we were working Champion Stakes backwards – take a fresh horse back to Ascot in October, on soft ground.”
Addeybb, who beat Mountain Angel into fifth in the Wolferton last year, proved it can be a stepping stone to the Champion Stakes by going on to finish second to Magical in the showpiece autumn Group One.
“As Addeybb proved last year, when you do get a horse who likes those conditions, the Wolferton can be a strong pointer to the Champion Stakes,” said Varian. said Varian.
“We’re obviously very upset at what has happened.
“He was a great horse for the owner (Ziad Galadari), and we feel for him losing his horse – and for (groom) Mark Whitehead, who’s looked after the horse his whole life since he’s been with me.
“It’s always sad when you lose any horse, but a horse like him especially.”