‘The sky is the limit’ - Annaf scrapes the paint to land Saudi National Bank 1351 Turf Sprint under stunning Rossa Ryan ride

Michael Appleby enjoyed one of the finest successes of his training career to date when Rossa Ryan delivered star sprinter Annaf to perfection in the Group 2 Saudi National Bank 1351 Turf Sprint at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh.

ANNAF (green silks) winning the Bengough Stakes at Ascot in England.
ANNAF (green silks) winning the Bengough Stakes at Ascot in England. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Annaf took his form to a new level in 2023, winning five times with a season culminating success in the Group 3 Bengough Stakes at Ascot in October.

A daring international bid would follow for Michael Appleby's charge, an ambitious plan that could ultimately only be described as sensational, with horse, trainer, and jockey all showcasing their talents and performing to the very best of their ability.

Stepping back up to seven furlongs for the first time since finishing third off a mark of 95 at Goodwood in May 2022, combined with the far-from-ideal draw in stall twelve, left plenty of question marks surrounding Annaf, who was pitched up against some of the world's best sprinters on his second outing outside of the British Isles.

The in-form Rossa Ryan was the man entrusted with attempting to navigate the tricky draw. It seemed as though it was going to take something special from the County Galway-born jockey and something special he would produce.

Credited for his ride on Shaquille  in last year's Group 1 July Cup, Rossa Ryan once again showed why he was a young rider heading right to the very top after producing the Mick Appleby-trained Annaf to absolute perfection after a daring rail run.

Held up towards the rear of the fourteen-strong field, Annaf and Ryan looked to have plenty to do as the front-running Matilda Picotte kicked for home rounding the final bend. However, one by one the pair began to pick their way through the field down towards the rail and although a gap looked unlikely with two furlongs to run, Ryan managed to squeeze his mount through up hard against the inside fence. Annaf stuck his nose to the front with 150 yards to travel and in front the 12/1 chance would stay, fending off a late rattle from the Japanese raider La La Christine, who made his bid more towards the centre of the track.

"With Annaf I have always tended to ride for luck. It seems to work for him. He lets hard-hitters do the work for him and picks up the pieces," explained the winning rider.

"The trip today was a huge concern, but he got six furlongs on grass at Ascot on heavy ground, we went a right good gallop, and I was where I wanted to be following Jumby and lucky the gaps came.

"The owner and trainer don't put any pressure on me, and I know he has pace to get me out of trouble. I didn't have a lot of room, but he stuck his head out for me. It's brilliant because I picked this lad up as a spare one day in Lingfield, I had to drop him out and bide my time and the relationship formed from there.

The draw was a big concern and so was the trip, but we are here now, thank god."

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