Europeans trail behind in Saintly's path

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The Independent Online
For many years the Breeders' Cup series has been telling European runners that they are rather like fish flapping on the river bank when they are hauled out of their own environment, and the Melbourne Cup is beginning to take on the same appeal. Vintage Crop set the float twitching when he was successful for Ireland three years ago, but in Australia yesterday the three travellers from the northern hemisphere showed what a huge achievement Vintage Crop's win was when finishing down the field behind Saintly, who had not been sent across the time zones. Grey Shot was seventh, the favourite Oscar Schindler 15th, while Court Of Honour beat just two of the 22 runners home.

It was another day when the equine skills of Michael Kinane, Oscar Schindler's jockey, were brought into question. Kinane, who partnered Vintage Crop to victory in 1993, was the recipient of the sort of abuse you would not give an errant dog when defeated on the same horse the following year, and his judgement was again under scrutiny in Victoria last night.

The jockey had persuaded Oliver Lehane, Oscar Schindler's owner, to tackle this assignment in preference to the Breeders' Cup Turf at Woodbine, in which a horse he had finished alongside in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Pilsudski, was successful.

Just after the field swung into the Flemington straight, however, Kinane knew he would be addressing a post-mortem. "You have to take a stand and make a decision," he said. "We felt, not just me but the trainer too, that he was the right horse. At his best you would have expected him to beat them.

"I asked him for an effort coming out of the home turn but it was short- lived. This was a disappointment and I have no excuses. Maybe the long year has taken its toll on him as he has been running since April.''

Oscar Schindler's gloomy display could not have been predicted in the parade ring as he strode round in front of the near 100,000 congregation with persuading imperiousness. The prospects of Peter Chapple-Hyam's Court Of Honour were less easy to trump up as he performed like a tap dancer, but Grey Shot, Ian Balding's runner, looked composed.

Pat Eddery may have been mindful that foreign-jockey error is not favourably reported in the Antipodes when he sent Grey Shot into a leading postiion from which there could be little criticism. He at least takes home the distinction of having been in front for longer than any other, a post wrested from him only in the home straight.

While Eddery enjoyed the experience as a whole, he cannot have gloried too much in the sight of those better suited to the ground sweeping past him. "I really enjoyed it, very exciting," he said. "But it's just a shame he doesn't like fast ground. The speed horses came and got him for a turn of foot.''

The speediest was Saintly, an 8-1 shot who gave Bart Cummings his 10th win in the race, a tribute to his training abilities and longevity. "I was very impressed with the way he [Saintly] quickened," Eddery said. "He came there cruising, he let him go and he took off. He's obviously a high-class horse.''

Just how talented Saintly is may be revealed when he tackles the Japan Cup this month. British horses will again get their chance to put a missile in his structure in Tokyo. Until then, 68-year-old Cummings can bask in this achievement and polish the trophy that was struck to celebrate his milestone. "This is very special and I savour it very much," he said.

Darren Beadman, the winning rider, was capturing the race for the second time and the name of his mount was rather ironic for a man who was run out of Hong Kong for alleged irregularities and who praised heavenly powers for this success. He also paid tribute to the man who is well ahead of him in terms of Cup collections. "Bart Cummings is an absolute genius with a capital G," he said. That may be so, but Europe's performances in the Melbourne Cup are becoming increasingly risible with a capital R.


1. SAINTLY (D Beadman) 8-1; 2. Count Chivas 33-1; 3. Skybeau 50-1. 22 ran. 4-1 fav Oscar Schindler (15th). 21/4, nk. (Trained by J B Cummings). Also: Grey Shot (7th), Court Of Honour (20th). Tote: pounds 6.80; pounds 2.40, pounds 10.00, pounds 19.60. SF: pounds 125.70. DF: pounds 58.20. Non Runners Crying Game & Magnet Bay.