AS one door closes, so another opens wide. Or to put it in a horseracing context, as one stable door swings shut, with its previous occupant heading into retirement, so another is opened to usher in a new stable star.

At the start of next month, Mabs Cross will go through the sales ring at the Tattersalls December Mares Sale in Newmarket before embarking on a new career as a brood mare. For the last two years, she has been the leading lady at Michael Dods’ County Durham yard, landing Group One honours at Longchamp, contributing to one of the most dramatic finishes imaginable in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York and earning more than half-a-million pounds in prize money.

She will be missed, just as Mecca’s Angel, her forerunner at Denton Hall, was also missed when she retired after a similarly successful sprinting career. But just as Mabs Cross emerged from Mecca’s Angel’s shadow, so a new generation of horses are preparing to have their own moment in the spotlight.

Horses like Troubador, who capped an impressive two-year-old career with a fine second place in Redcar’s prestigious Two Year Old Trophy. Or Que Amoro, second in a Listed race at Ayr, Queens Gift, beaten just a head at Listed level at Doncaster, and Pendleton, winner of a classy handicap at Ascot.

Then there is Dakota Gold, one of the stars of the entire Flat season after racking up a remarkable sequence of five wins from six races that featured wins at Listed level at York and Ascot. Thanks to his commendable consistency and trailblazing front-running style, Dakota Gold is already one of the most popular horses in training. So much for Mabs Cross being impossible to replace.

“Every winter feels like a bit of a changing of the guard, but it’s probably even more so this year with Mabs Cross heading to the sales and a few other older horses leaving us too,” said Dods, as he sits in his kitchen-cum-office reflecting on another whirlwind summer. “It’s always a shame when a horse like Mabs Cross goes, but with the horses coming through, I think we’re in a pretty good place.

“We’ve got a fair few sprinters that could be pretty exciting next year. Pendleton, Queens Gift and Que Amoro have all taken big steps forward, and then you’ve obviously got Dakota Gold. Jawaal is a horse I don’t think we’ve quite got to the bottom of yet, and he could be interesting next season going back to five furlongs.

“At six furlongs, Troubador looks to have a bright future, and there’s a few other two-year-olds that should really come on next year. Horses like El Naseri, Arch Moon and Challet have a lot of potential.

“It’ll be strange to watch Mabs Cross going through the sales ring, but as a trainer, you always know that day will come. It’s about making sure you can still move forward, and I think we can do that.”

Dakota Gold has been the star of the season, although there was little sign of what was to come when he started his 2019 campaign by finishing fifth on the all-weather at Newcastle in June. His next outing saw him land double-figure odds in the Sky Bet Dash Handicap at York, and he did not look back from there.

“At the start of the year, you might have predicted he’d win one decent race,” said Dods. “You could maybe see him winning a decent York handicap – but only one. What he’s gone on to do is incredible really.

“I think his best performance was when he won the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon – he’d put the race to bed two-and-a-half or three furlongs out, which is remarkable in a five-furlong sprint.

“He’s really captured the public’s imagination. The day he won at Ascot, I was at Redcar, and I nipped into the bar under the grandstand to watch him run. No one knew who I was, so I could just watch, and when he pulled away in the final furlong, the place just erupted. People were cheering all over the place, waving their betting slips in the air. That’s when I thought, ‘Bloody hell, this fella’s got a bit of a following’.”

Mabs Cross established her support base when she followed up last summer’s near miss in the Nunthorpe with a victory in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.

She started this season with a bang, triumphing in the Group Three Palace House Stakes at Newmarket, but while she ran creditably on a number of occasions, finishing in the first four in both the King’s Stand Stakes and the Nunthorpe, she wasn’t quite able to match the successes of her four-year-old campaign.

“She’s been a tremendous servant for the yard,” said Dods. “We didn’t expect her to do half of the things she’s done. She stepped up on her three-year-old career to become truly Group class.

“The lowest point was the Nunthorpe – I still don’t know how she didn’t win – but the high was following that up with the Group One win in France, and I’m sure she’ll be a tremendous brood mare. I thought her last run at Ascot was really good over six (furlongs), in conditions that probably didn’t suit. Maybe we should have run her over six a bit more, but everything’s easy in hindsight.”

Callum Rodriguez’s return from a drugs suspension was another major positive, and the jockey will continue to share riding responsibilities with Paul Mulrennan, Connor Beasley and Andrew Mullen as Dods prepares for the 2020 Flat campaign.

He has been busy at the sales, buying a new crop of youngsters, and will run a handful of horses on the all-weather over the winter months. The future looks bright, although it will not be without its challenges.

“Prize money remains an issue, especially at some of the tracks up here in the North,” he said. “The levels remain extremely low, and as trainers, I think we get frustrated at the lack of transparency. The owners of the tracks will say they’re paying the market value, but we don’t get to see what their media income is so we have to take them at their word. I think we’d all like them to be much clearer about the amount of money they make from the sport and where that money goes.

“You want to attract owners into the sport, but that’s hard when they’re not getting a return. You want them to see that the big days are possible.”

Big days and big memories. Mabs Cross and Dakota Gold have delivered both.