Mike Cattermole reflects on the weekend's top-class action and hails the brilliance of recently-retired Ruby Walsh.
GUINEAS RAISES MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
Aidan O'Brien once again showed himself in a different league when notching up the Newmarket Guineas double for the fourth time.
Get this, Aidan has now won 34 British Classics - the same as Sir Henry Cecil (25) and John Gosden (nine) combined! To give some further perspective, Sir Michael Stoute has won 15 to date.
It is just a matter of time before he matches John Scott’s record of 41, gained long ago in the nineteenth century.
Time will also tell whether Magna Grecia was flattered in the 2000 because he raced on the stands’ side. Was that an advantage or was it because the pace was more pronounced on that side? Would he have won wherever he had been drawn?
He did win the race well but given that the three that raced on the stands’ side finished first, second and sixth, the debate will endure.
Third home Skardu was first home of the rest on the far side and one hopes that a rematch might go some way to answering the questions, whether in the Irish Guineas at the Curragh on May 25 or in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot next month.
Most straight tracks, with the possible exception of Doncaster, have a bias but the 1000 Guineas on Sunday gave us no further clues as the field raced in one group down the centre.
Hermosa was given a fine ride by Wayne Lordan, who judged his fractions beautifully. The big disappointment of the race was Skitter Skatter, who beat only one home. She had beaten the first and second (Lady Kaya) on more than one occasion at two and she has either failed to train on or had an excuse.
Hermosa heads for the Oaks now, a race that her full sister Hydrangea missed but then went on to win the Fillies & Mares over a mile and a half on Champions Day two years ago.
MAXIMUM SECURITY DEALT A HARSH HAND
There was a lot wrong with the decision to disqualify Maximum Security after he had battled his heart out to win the Kentucky Derby in horrible conditions at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Whatever you thought of the verdict, the three stewards did not cover themselves in glory by reading a prepared statement and not taking any questions. Then, a day later, we hear that there is no appeal system in place, never has been. It is quite an extraordinary situation and let’s hope that it is addressed over there, PDQ.
Yes, Maximum Security did wander off a correct line as he hung right - on two occasions - as he was travelling round the final bend. And yes, some horses got inconvenienced by it. But we all know that happens in racing – a lot.
Horses do not run in lanes. If the example of the Churchill Downs stewards was followed in every race, you would be getting disqualifications all of the time. There was plenty of race footage doing the rounds on social media after the race, which showed War Of Will’s front legs briefly being tangled up with Maximum Security’s hind legs.
Indeed, it was lucky that no horses were brought down but room is tight and no quarter is given when there are 19 runners heading around a bend in arguably the most competitive race in the American racing calendar. And especially one run on a sloppy dirt surface this year.
As legendary trainer Bob Baffert said later: “It is always a roughly run race and I have been wiped out numerous times. Sometimes, you have to take your ass-kicking with dignity.” Quite.
If Maximum Security had been closed down up the straight by one of the horses that had been subjected to interference, then sure, consider the result on its merit and hand out a disqualification if necessary. But there is nobody who doesn’t believe that the John Servis-trained colt wasn’t the best horse in the race. Of course he was.
Interestingly, there was an incident at Goodwood earlier that same day in the 3-y-o novice stakes race (4.20), when Dominus held on by a neck from Qutob, when the best horse may not have won.
Dominus had come out of the stalls and had immediately gone left, hampering Qutob in the process who went even more markedly out to his left and forfeited many lengths.
Given the close finish because of the late rally from Qutob, this might have been a perfect example of a justified disqualification but, oddly, all the stewards reported was that there had been no riding offence by Jason Watson on the winner.
I am surprised that connections of Qutob (ridden by Dane O’Neill) didn’t launch an objection. Have a look and see what you think...
But back to the hapless Maximum Security. Let’s hope he gets the chance to gain some Classic glory again in either the Preakness on May 18 at Pimlico or the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 8. Perhaps both?
RUBY WALSH, THE MASTER
There can’t be any racing fan out there who will not miss Ruby Walsh going about his work.
Ruby was compelling viewing because he was simply brilliant. The beauty of watching Ruby was to appreciate the multiple ways he had of getting the best out of a horse. If you had backed one of his and he was making the running, you would be happy. Just as you would if you were on one that he had dropped right out the back.
Whenever he was involved in a race, he would be the first rider you would keep an eye on, whether he was on the favourite or not - or even if you had backed another horse in the race. That was a measure of how respected he was by one and all. Great hands, brilliant tactically, strong at the finish - he could do everything.
His record of 59 Cheltenham Festival wins will surely not be equalled for a very long time. It is an incredible number, which dwarfs the 31 ridden by his great pal AP McCoy. Sure, it is buoyed up by his association with Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins, two of the greatest of all time. But, in that respect, the pressure was even greater and he seemed to relish that.
Not that I did it that often, but interviewing him could be tricky as one ill-conceived question would not be well received and he would have no hesitation in being ironic or a touch acerbic with you if he thought you were wasting his time. But for the most part, his responses were illuminating.
Racing’s team of ex-pros who have turned to punditry is a bloated one but there seems no doubt that Ruby would be an absolute natural if, as seems likely, he goes that way, and he will surely be in much demand. In that respect, his father Ted has shown that it is in the blood.
Indeed, neither man would ever get a reputation for having splinters in their backsides.
LIVERPOOL’S AMAZING COMEBACK
I joined a pal and watched this on the television in the Carpenters Arms pub in Marylebone, London.
My buddy is a Manchester United fan and so was the guy on his left. On my right, there was a Leeds fan (so I bantered with him with the big play-off coming up) and on his right, his mate was a Wolves fan.
I don’t know whether there were any Liverpool fans in there. There must have been but it didn’t matter. Everyone there was a football fan and there were cheers when Liverpool got their first goal, more when they made it 2-0 and even more when it became 3-0 and 3-3 on aggregate!
When Trent Alexander-Arnold took that audacious early corner, and Origi made it 4-3, the place erupted. And then, spontaneous applause broke out at the final whistle.
We all witnessed history on Tuesday night and none of us will forget where we were when it happened. Well done Liverpool FC and Jurgen Klopp.