Courage runs as deep as silence

RACING COMMENTARY

When Lammtarra flashed past the Ascot post on Saturday, the 14th horse to complete the Derby and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes double, it seemed he was the day's big winner. An announcement several minutes later, however, meant that honour went to a racing participant in human form.

In the winners' enclosure, Sheikh Mohammed revealed that Jeremy Noseda, an assistant trainer for Godolphin, Lammtarra's owners, was to be given a reward. This was a brand new yard from which to train at Chantilly next year and the promise of a minimum of 35 of the Sheikh's finest thoroughbreds. In terms of a perk, this made share options for boardroom fat cats look rather piddling, and perhaps explained why all the men employed by Dubai's crown prince are careful to mind their p's and q's.

Of course it is easier to give when you have a lot, but not all rich men are beneficent. The Maktoums are generous both with their money (the proceeds from Winged Love's Irish Derby victory earlier this month were immediately signed away to local charities) and loyalty, which makes the removal of Walter Swinburn from Lammtarra on Saturday in favour of Lanfranco Dettori all the more puzzling.

Once the family appoint a trainer it takes much to remove him from the roster (a factor that has kept several men with unimpressive records in business) and to a great extent results do not seem to matter. Thus, judging by previous Maktoum policy and Swinburn's feats for Godolphin this season it cannot be that the jockey has been jettisoned on sporting principles. The word on the street is that Sheikh Mohammed removed the rider at the behest of Maktoum Al Maktoum, his elder brother, but the precise reason remains unclear.

Sheikh Mohammed did little to clarify the situation when asked about Swinburn, issuing a thought that appeared to have been borrowed from the Eric Cantona book of maritime philosophy. "I don't think that we should fish in shallow waters," he said. "We should go deeper."

The man employed to tell Swinburn of his fate was Simon Crisford, the racing manager of Godolphin, who insisted he did not know the thinking behind the jocking-off. This means that when told of the removal by Sheikh Mohammed, Crisford must have forgotten the obvious question: why?

The friendship between Swinburn and Dettori has survived this tremor. Indeed, the Italian was tutored in key points about Lammtarra the day before the race. "If it wasn't for Wally I might have got beaten," Dettori said. "He taught me everything he could about the horse."

Few can be taught how to ride the way Dettori did on Saturday, however. The rider did not panic when overtaken by Pentire and nudged his way back in front of the favourite in the closing stages. On this form line Pentire would have been second in the Derby and he might have been better than that on Saturday if held up longer by Michael Hills.

For Lammtarra is an animal who, like an eagle spotting a jack rabbit emerging from the brush, thrives on a target. The chestnut colt reminds of the Flying Scotsman. It takes a while for him to get going, but at full steam he is irresistibly impressive. His jockey on Saturday is no less compelling.

As he passed the post Dettori unleashed a roar that normally introduces Metro Goldwyn Meyer features and, on his return, came the trademark dismount which suggests a wire has just become live in his saddle. "Heart," was the first word the jockey uttered when he met the ground. "It was his heart." Dettori then opened his arms from the horse's withers to his rump to outline the size of Lammtarra's major organ.

Lammtarra, who was reported fit and well yesterday morning, has classic looks but conformation gurus would hold one feature against him. The chestnut, like Dancing Brave, has a parrot mouth, but unlike a lot of other figures in racing, he does not perform principally with his mouth.

Dettori can provide soundbites to match his riding skills. As he stripped down to body protector and swapped silks for the following race, he said: "Passing the winning post sent shivers up my spine. It was one of the best moments of my life."

The Italian left behind him some interesting tableaux in the winners' enclosure. The huge Maktoum entourage formed two lines to congratulate each other, rather like the wedding party meeting guests; while Saeed Bin Suroor, Godolphin's trainer, kissed the leading connections on both cheeks in a scene more reminiscent of Montmartre than Ascot.

The head of the group, Sheikh Mohammed, fell into conversation with the Queen, who wore something dangerously close, in pattern and colouring, to the tablecloths found in Italian restaurants. They may have got round to the merits of Gordonstoun, the Alma Mater of both Prince Charles and 19-year-old Saeed Maktoum Al Maktoum, nephew to the Sheikh and Lammtarra's sheepish owner.

He will next be able to see his horse on the racecourse when he prepares for an assault on the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, probably in the Prix Niel at Longchamp (on the same card Godolphin's Balanchine is expected to contest the Prix Foy). Jeremy Noseda will be able to show him round. He will know Paris quite well by then.

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