Weekend Review: Vintage Derby
Our racing team reflect on a fantastic weekend of sport and look ahead to the start of Royal Ascot next week.
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What aspect of Australia's victory are you likely to recall when remembering the 2014 Investec Derby in years to come?
Matt Brocklebank: I went into the Derby thinking Australia was far too short in the betting given what he'd actually done on the track. I was half hoping he may have been more Rip Van Winkle than Galileo, but the jolly lived up to the family tradition in brilliant style and ultimately had something in reserve. The way he glided past Racing Post Trophy hero Kingston Hill will be the most memorable image for me but it was a very commanding performance overall and here's hoping he stays sound to take on the top older horses in races such at the Eclipse and Arc later in the campaign.
Ian Ogg: I find the 'hype' doesn't sit very comfortably and I'd be nearer the Captain Tim Forster approach to pre-race comments rather than Aidan O'Brien but trainers are in a lose/lose situation with regards to anything they say and they can only call it as they see it. It was exciting to see the horse live up to the billing in pretty effortless fashion which gives us all plenty to dream about. Two things struck me early in the race with the first being surprise that one of the other O'Brien runners didn't go on and make the running (although Kingfisher was prominent) and whether this heralded a new approach and the second was the utter confidence with which Joseph rode the winner, content to race wide and not be a hostage to fortune. Their faith was rewarded in spades and I'd love to see him in the Eclipse next but that seems unlikely.
Ben Coley: I suppose the aspect I'll recall will be how, in my mind at least, his position went from precarious to perfect in the space of a furlong. Turning for home off what wasn't a strong early gallop, there was just a moment when it appeared that Joseph's confidence was misplaced but it was fleeting at best. To see any potential star loom up on the bit two furlongs from home on a sunny day on the Downs is a fine thing and I was most impressed.
What were your thoughts on this year's Oaks?
BC: Mainly that I'm an idiot for not backing her at 11/2. Eleven-to-two about a filly who was 6/4 in places for this a few weeks ago, whose preparation had gone well, who is trained by a master...I'm sure I'm not alone in my amazement at her SP and annoyance that I came up with the baffling decision to only watch the race. Happily I did find great pleasure in seeing Paul Hanagan land a first Classic with a ride out of the textbook, and while I wouldn't be sure it was an Oaks with great depth, the visual impression created by the winner will linger long in the memory. It's just possible that by the time she next runs she will again be underestimated.
MB: The overriding impression I was left with following Taghrooda's Oak win was that it wasn't necessarily one of the better renewals in recent years but the best horse won - and she won well. She was cut to 2/1 or shorter for Epsom after showing all the right qualities when winning the Pretty Polly at Newmarket and I was amazed to see her available at 11/2 just before the off. No doubt Paul Hanagan will have watched this race back countless times since as it was the sweetest of rides. It was a fine effort from the runner-up Tarfasha, too, and she could close the gap considerably if both fillies head for a rematch at the Curragh.
IO: The winner is still unbeaten and is a very exciting filly. The ante-post market is a strange beast and she'd seemingly lost her position at the head of the betting as memories of more recent performances than her Pretty Polly success (admittedly the form hadn't worked out) took precedence in people's minds. Volume may not be in quite the same league but I was impressed by her attitude and the way that she battled on in an attempt to claim second and I also thought she was given an exceptional ride by Richard Hughes. Inchila was unlucky not to reverse the Newbury form with her and there's every hope given her breeding and profile that she can continue to improve through the season.
The Classics aside, which winner impressed you most at Epsom or elsewhere over the weekend?
IO: It was obviously fantastic to see Cirrus Des Aigles win, even if the second appeared to need the run, and he'll hopefully be up and about and back to his best in the near future. Abseil and That Is The Spirit are obviously exciting prospects but away from the spotlight I thought it was a nice performance from Rapid Advance to win at Goodwood on Friday night. Making his debut for Sir Michael Stoute after three runs for Roger Varian, he didn't appear to be particularly strong in the betting for this first run in handicap company but just did enough under a good ride from Shane Kelly and appeals as the type who could be a few steps ahead of the assessor.
MB: Ashpan Sam is a really progressive sprinter at the age of five and he made all in tremendous style in the last race at Epsom on Saturday. John Spearing’s gelding had been threatening in his first three starts in the campaign and any horse winning a handicap so easily off a mark of 100 must be quality. He’ll get another hike in the weights but could still be a major player in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot or perhaps the Stewards’ Cup could be more suitable a little further down the line.
BC: Having been away, I limited my viewing to three races: the Oaks, the Derby and the handicap in which Abseil lowered the colours of Farlow (who finished fifth). As such all I can say is that which has been said: Abseil looks likely to keep on improving and should make his mark in Group races, perhaps even the very top level if he's still in training next year as there's a lot more to come.
What do you make of the jockey arrangements at Godolphin and the decision for Mickael Barzalona to return to France?
MB: The Barzalona move doesn’t surprise me one bit but it certainly doesn’t spell the end for the talented young rider. He hit the headlines so early in his career that it was always going to be difficult to live up to expectations after winning the Derby in 2011 – especially given his rather cocky manner in doing so. He struggled to adapt to the day-to-day routine of riding on British tracks but he’s back with the best trainer on the planet, who is certain to get the best out of him. It wouldn’t be a shock if were singing his praises again come Arc weekend later this year.
IO: It must be a relief for the jockey himself as the situation must have been pretty soul destroying as he'd effectively been benched and wasn't even given a run out on rank outsiders Sudden Wonder and Pinzolo in the Derby. I can't say that I'd noticed that he was riding any less confidently or effectively than at other, more successful stages of his career which makes the decision slightly baffling but he'd clearly lost the confidence of his employers and there's no way back for either party from that point on. His exuberant celebration when winning the Derby will go down in folklore and I hope we see him back on our racecourses with the same confident, joyous approach of his 'youth'.
BC: I consider it neither a shock nor a bad move for any party, but a loss for us. Talents who know how good they are can be a little hard to warm to but I've always like Barzalona, who has years of Group winners ahead of him. It's been a strange few weeks at Godolphin but this is one matter that seems to have come to the right conclusion.
From Epsom, the British social and sporting calendar rolls on to Royal Ascot and Wimbledon while there’s the small matter of a World Cup to consider. Can you give us an ante-post bet at one or all of those events please?
IO: Verrazano, typically, has a raft of entries but the Queen Anne Stakes looks an obvious destination and I think he's a decent price at 7/2 following a hugely encouraging debut for the yard in the Lockinge when giving every impression that he needed the run as much as his connections said. It will be disappointing if he can't step up markedly on that form. I can't profess to know a huge amount about tennis but that won't put me off backing Serena Williams for Wimbledon. She's fresher than most after her early exit in Paris and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing and she'll be keen to set the record straight from that and after last year's semi-final defeat.
BC: You forgot the US Open, which will be won by Jason Day. Roger Federer to roll back the years at SW19 (what the Pimm's drinkers call Wimbledon) although watch out for Steve Darcis, the Belgian who beat Nadal here last year - form which has been franked since. As for the racing, I'd have thought Leading Light will go off very short in the Ascot Gold Cup and expect him to win. And Portugal each-way in the World Cup.
MB: Russian Realm not being among the acceptors for the Royal Hunt Cup was a personal kick in the teeth but I obviously wasn’t privy to the inside line on his stable companion Abseil, who shot to the head of the market after winning the Investec Mile. Russian Realm could yet turn up for something like the Buckingham Palace in Berkshire, in which case I’ll be staying loyal. Moviesta is well worth considering for the King’s Stand as that simply wasn’t his running in the Duke of York, where the ground had completely gone. As for the World Cup, I seem to be changing my policy on an almost daily basis but Bosnia is the current buzz-word, with Edin Dzeko making a degree of appeal around 66/1 in the top scorer market.