Wednesday 12 December 2018

Mecca’s Angel Wins Nunthorpe Stakes (Group 1) (Twice)

Foaled in Ireland on February 11, 2011, Mecca’s Angel is a daughter of Dark Angel, who won the Middle Park Stakes as a juvenile and has since proven himself as one of the best stallions in Europe, from whom she inherited her grey colour. Owned by David T. J. Metcalfe and trained by Michael Dods at Denton Hall Stables in Piercebridge, near Darlington, County Durham, Mecca’s Angel raced, almost exclusively, over 5 furlongs and was ridden, almost exclusively, by Yorkshire-based jockey Paul Mulrennan. All told, she won nine of her 19 races, including back-to-back renewals of the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, and earned nearly £680,000 in win and place prize money. 

Mecca’s Angel made her racecourse debut in a maiden fillies’ stakes race, over 5 furlongs, at Thirsk in May, 2013. Easy to back, at 10/1, on that occasion, she came off worst of all in a four-way photograph for first place, finishing fourth, beaten a nose, a nose and a nose. Nevertheless, the in-running comment in the Racing Post finished with the word ‘improve’ and thereafter, according to her trainer, that’s all she did.

After a fair, if unspectacular, two-year-old campaign, she won the first two starts as a three-year-old, in handicap company, by wide margins, before trying her luck in the Prix Texanita at Maisons-Laffite. In the latter contest, run over 5½ furlongs on very soft going, she was gradually left behind in the closing stages, eventually finishing fifth of 10, beaten 4 lengths. Even so, 2014 proved a breakthrough year because, on her return from a 121-day break, in September she opened her account at both Listed and Pattern level by winning the Scarborough Stakes at Doncaster and the World Trophy at Newbury. 

In 2015, Mecca’s Angel ran just three times, nut made her first foray into Group One company in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York. On the Knavesmire, she faced the two-year-old filly, Acapulco, trained in the United States by Wesley A. Ward and the winner of the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot on her previous start in June. Unusually described by Timeform as a ‘big, powerful filly’, Acapulco was arguably the biggest juvenile filly to ever set foot on a British racecourse yet, under the race conditions, received a 24lb weight age allowance. Unsurprisingly Acapulco started favourite, at 13/8, with Mecca’s Angel third favourite, at 15/2. Nevertheless, relishing the good to soft going, stayed on strongly in the closing stages to overhaul Acapulco, who had led on the far side from halfway, to win by 2 lengths in a lightning-fast time of 57.24 seconds.

In 2016, Mecca’s Angel returned to York for the Nunthorpe Stakes as defending champion, but again started second favourite, at 9/2, behind impressive July Cup winner, Limato, at 15/8. This time, on good going, Mecca’s Angel was close up as first Take Cover and then Thesme took the 19-strong field along, but led inside the final quarter of a mile and kept on strongly to beat Limato – who chased her, in vain, in the final furlong – by 2 lengths. Her winning time, of 56.24 seconds, was only fractionally slower than the course record, of 56.16 seconds, set by Dayjur in 1990.