Dilshaan posts Derby claim

A smile as warm as the afternoon was chill lit up a grey Town Moor here yesterday. On his last ride in Britain this season, Johnny Murtagh carried on his golden progress through an extraordinary campaign by taking the Racing Post Trophy on the once-raced 14-1 outsider Dilshaan. The success took the personable Irishman's Group One tally for the year to ten, a sequence started by Sinndar in the Derby in June.

A smile as warm as the afternoon was chill lit up a grey Town Moor here yesterday. On his last ride in Britain this season, Johnny Murtagh carried on his golden progress through an extraordinary campaign by taking the Racing Post Trophy on the once-raced 14-1 outsider Dilshaan. The success took the personable Irishman's Group One tally for the year to ten, a sequence started by Sinndar in the Derby in June.

Six of those top-level wins, including the latest, have been for Sir Michael Stoute, into whose training operation Murtagh fitted seamlessly after injury took the stable jockey Kieren Fallon out of the equation during the summer. With a certain ironic symmetry, Dilshaan is owned by Saeed Suhail, in whose blue and yellow colours Fallon stormed to 2,000 Guineas triumph on King's Best back in the spring.

Stoute has already ruled the first Classic out for Dilshaan, a staying-bred son of Darshaan who cost 190,000gns as a yearling. "He will need to go further than a mile next year right from the start," he said after the colt's clear-cut two and a half-length defeat of Tamburlaine and the Ballydoyle trio Bonnard, Darwin and the 2-1 favourite Freud. He has been introduced as third favourite, at around 20-1, in the Derby ante-post lists.

Dilshaan came to yesterday's fray with just a second place in a minor race at Sandown under his belt. But he completed his assignment against more experienced rivals in convincing style, coping with both the significant step up in grade and the testing ground. As Tamburlaine went clear a quarter of a mile out, and appeared to be about to deliver a huge compliment to Nayef, his earlier conqueror, Murtagh gave Dilshaan a couple of not-too-severe smacks and the dark bay, despite showing some babyishness, went about his business with a will, surging clear in the final half-furlong.

"Richard Hughes quickened clear of me on Tamburlaine," said Murtagh, "but once mine was running I was always confident we would get there. He did it very well and will easily stay a mile and a half, and could be the real article. He went through the ground and itwasn't really a slog for him. A tired horse will stop quickly but it took me until after the St Leger start to pull him up."

Stoute was understandably delighted. "He had a lot to find on his public form," he said, "but he had progressed since his first race and although we weren't fully confident of winning we were certain he deserved to take his chance. He is an unfurnished horse with a lot of scope and will be much more powerful next year"

For Murtagh, winning the Derby for his Irish boss John Oxx was the turning point of his year and of a career that has seen its share of downs as well as ups. But it is Stoute who has provided the springboard for his talent in this country, notably on the filly Petrushka, who leaves tomorrow for her Breeders' Cup assignment, and on Kalanisi, winner of the Champion Stakes last weekend.

It was an innocent remark from his young daughter Caroline that gave Murtagh one of the jolts he needed to get his life back on track. "She said at the start of the year that her daddy never rode the big winners," he said, "and after that it did me no harm to get my finger out and do a bit of work."

Murtagh will ride in Ireland this week ("I'd better ride a few more for Mr Oxx to make sure my job is there next year") before leaving for a world tour that includes the Breeders' Cup, the Melbourne Cup and a jockeys' challenge in Japan. "This season has been a dream," he added, "but it's the same for any sportsman, once you're on a roll it keeps going. All I've done is my best and, win lose or draw, that's all I can do."

By contrast, despite Love Divine's Oaks victory, Henry Cecil has endured a torrid year. But at Newbury yesterday the prospect of Wellbeing as a four-year-old emerged as one dream to keep him warm during the winter. The son of Sadler's Wells took his own score to four out of five for the season with a length and a quarter defeat of Marienbard in the sponsored mile and a half Newbury race best-known as the St Simon Stakes, and while the testing ground in Berkshire hardly allowed any demonstration of blinding change of pace, there was no mistaking Wellbeing's superiority once he fully engaged his stride and stamina to overhaul his rivals through the final furlong.

His success not only continued the revival of Cecil, but of the famous Plantation Stud, his birthplace. The Newmarket nursery faced an uncertain future after the death of Lord Howard de Walden last year but the sale of a yearling at auction for two million guineas last month has put it on a sound financial footing. Now there is Wellbeing, whose sole failure, fifth in the Derby after a bout of the illness that has dogged the Warren Place team, was hardly a major disgrace. "He is in all the top races next year," said Cecil. "He hated this ground today, so that was a very encouraging performance."

At Cork, Knife Edge (9-2) beat Youlneverwalkalone (11-10 favourite) by half a length in the John James McManus Memorial Hurdle, while Limestone Lad (evens favourite) won the Kevin McManus Bookmaker Novice Chase by three lengths Sackville (5-1).

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