Top broadcaster Mike Cattermole tackles the latest racing issues including Tom Marquand's 11th-hour call up on a Classic weekend for the O'Briens.
Contrasting fortunes for Marquand and English King
Because he is such a popular young man, many were disappointed when Tom Marquand was jocked off English King in the Derby, even if we could see the logic in replacing him with Frankie Dettori.
The way Marquand handed what looked like a huge setback at the time was utterly exemplary and since the gates opened for the Blue Riband, it has all gone wrong for English King and all pretty well for Tom.
Indeed, the former champion apprentice went on to give Khalifa Sat a superb ride to finish second in a very strange Derby, three places ahead of his former mount.
Because he then just got his head down and let his riding do the talking – and in that sense he talked a lot – in the ensuing weeks and months, Tom was offered the ride on Galileo Chrome by Joseph O’Brien when the hapless Shane Crosse tested positive for Covid.
He got the call because he had earned it.
And he duly won the St Leger on a fast improving stayer, allowing the trainer to achieve in just seven years what Harry Wragg took 26 years to do, win the world’s oldest Classic as both a jockey and trainer.
Berkshire Rocco, the horse that had been outclassed by English King in the Lingfield Derby Trial four months earlier, was the one that pushed Galileo Chrome the hardest. Indeed, it was puzzling that Ed Walker’s colt, who had seemed to be crying out for a proper trip, was sent off for the Grand Prix de Paris on Sunday and not prepared for Doncaster.
However, the way he ran at Longchamp in another disappointing display, he would not have figured in the St Leger. Connections must be scratching their heads as to what has gone wrong as there is no denying the promise he showed at Lingfield.
Meanwhile, it’s onwards and upwards for Tom Marquand whose services are sure to be in much demand for the big races this autumn.
Pyledriver didn't stay
He looked to be moving so easily as the St Leger reached its climax but the way he wobbled and got unbalanced before finishing third suggested that Pyledriver did not quite get home on Saturday.
There will be no Arc for him as it’s way too soon but he is such a strong traveller that a drop back to ten furlongs for the Champion Stakes ought to be considered.
We talk about the Arc being a hell of a race but the Champion is already the target of both Mishriff and Ghaiyyath and Pyledriver’s presence would elevate it even further. Let’s see how he comes out of the race.
Of Sunday’s Arc trials, Mogul was impressive coming off a strong pace in the Grand Prix de Paris and must enter calculations for the first Sunday in October. Serpentine ran well in fourth given that he was at the sharp end for much of the contest so he also deserves credit and respect.
Stradivarius should not be written off either, competing well with Anthony Van Dyck in a Prix Foy that was almost a four-furlong sprint. I thought he did very well indeed.
And as for Tarnawa in the Vermeille, she was sensational. I am a big fan of Raabihah but Dermot Weld’s filly was way too good for her and, whether it’s the Arc or the Prix de l’Opera, she has to be taken very seriously indeed.
We all know about the old adage of improving fillies in the autumn.
The extraordinary O'Briens
During a fabulous weekend of multiple Group Ones across Europe at Doncaster, Longchamp, Leopardstown, and the Curragh, Aidan O’Brien and his sons Joseph and Donnacha achieved something extraordinary.
Aidan not only humbled Ghaiyyath with Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday, he then sent out a new-look Mogul to take the Grand Prix de Paris on the Sunday.
Then, within the next hour and a quarter back home at the Curragh, he watched on as the Donnacha-trained Shale took the Moyglare before Thunder Moon completed a weekend Group One double for Joseph in the National Stakes, a day after his triumph in the St Leger with Galileo Chrome.
In fact, of the ten Group Ones in Europe over the weekend – they had no runners in Sunday’s Grosser Preis Von Baden - O’Brien and sons won half of them. Two for Dad and his eldest, and one for the younger son.
It really was something to marvel at and yet it perhaps wasn’t acknowledged as it should have been.
Perhaps because, in a way, there was an inevitability about it happening - and sooner rather than later.
After all, Joseph has already made a tremendous impact in his short training career. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that it is now almost three years since Rekindling won the Melbourne Cup.
That Donnacha would achieve Group One glories so soon – Fancy Blue’s Nassau was the first at the highest level – came as no surprise, either, given that he was meticulously preparing for a training career well before he gave up riding.
And of course, he too is sharing the supply chain of superbly-bred horses from Coolmore. Shale is by Galileo out of the Guineas winner Homecoming Queen, no less. Not that any blueblood will be guaranteed anything on the racecourse.
But all of the O’Briens seem to know how to do it and do it well.
Rest assured, this sort of family dominance is here to stay. How it will pan out between father and sons should make for a fascinating story.
Dermot Weld won two Group Ones on Sunday, too, and if things had worked out the way they should have done in a kinder world, Pat Smullen would more than likely have won the Irish St Leger on Search For A Song.
When the news of Pat’s passing came through on Tuesday evening after a battle with pancreatic cancer which had lasted two and a half years (far longer than most), it was still a shock to realise that he was still just 43. With a clean bill of health, he would still be riding now and still have many years to look forward to.
The nine-times Irish champion was such a talent in the saddle that it was a curiosity to many that, even with his excellent CV and head for the big occasion, he wasn’t in more demand than he was.
The point is that Pat very rarely made a mistake, so no wonder he was held in awe by his peers.
I met Pat a few times, the first time I think just after he won the 2010 Gold Cup on Rite Of Passage. I didn’t know him well but he was also such a pleasure to interview, so helpful and so charming. I last saw him at the Goffs Sale at Kill Paddocks last November where he was taking a keen interest and had not an ounce of self-pity about him.
It is now just over a year ago since he was the driving force behind that huge fund-raising weekend when it seemed that the whole of the Irish racing community – and beyond – could not do enough to help him.
A loving husband to Frances and father to three children, it is terribly sad and thoughts go out to his family and many friends.
He will not be forgotten and it would be wonderful to see him remembered, perhaps, by a top race named after him.