Footsteps creates an indelible imprint

2,000 Guineas: Godolphin's lofty dreams for Dubawi turn to sand as O'Brien and Fallon unite in a Classic raid

The footsteps that led to glory here yesterday came not from the desert sand in Dubai but from the soft green turf of Co Tipperary. As Dubawi, the pride of Godolphin and, at 11-8, the hottest 2,000 Guineas favourite for seven years, struggled home in fifth place under Frankie Dettori, Footstepsinthesand burst clear to take the first Classic of the year and give Kieren Fallon a dream start to his career at Ballydoyle.

The footsteps that led to glory here yesterday came not from the desert sand in Dubai but from the soft green turf of Co Tipperary. As Dubawi, the pride of Godolphin and, at 11-8, the hottest 2,000 Guineas favourite for seven years, struggled home in fifth place under Frankie Dettori, Footstepsinthesand burst clear to take the first Classic of the year and give Kieren Fallon a dream start to his career at Ballydoyle.

Footstepsinthesand, carrying the familiar orange-and-blue colours of Michael Tabor, started third market choice at 13-2 and beat one 100-1 shot, Rebel Rebel, a length and a quarter, with another, Kandidate, three-quarters of a length third. Oratorio (8-1), the winner's stablemate, came in fourth.

The 197th running of the mile Group One contest gave each half of the new firm his third victory in it. Trainer Aidan O'Brien won with King Of Kings in 1998 and Rock Of Gibraltar three years ago, and Fallon on King's Best in 2000 and Golan the following season. The sunniest smile on a sunny afternoon belonged to the jockey, for the success imperative at the Irish fastness is intense. "All Classic victories are special," he said, "but the more so when you're in a new job. There are some fabulous horses at Ballydoyle and it is up to me to get the best out of the ammunition. It was important to me to get a good start and that will make the rest of the year a bit easier. A magical day."

On the sunbathed and increasingly sunbaked Rowley Mile, the Clive Brittain-trained trio of Party Boss, Kandidate and Tony James took the initiative as the field of 19 charged down the centre of the wide, straight course, with Diktatorial chasing them. Going to the final furlong, Fallon asked Footstepsinthesand, who was racing keenly on the far side of the bunch, to go about his business, and the response was more or less immediate as the elegant dark bay lengthened his stride and floated up the hill. "He really picked up," added Fallon. "I just hoped I hadn't gone too soon; it is not an easy track to ride and you need to time your challenge just right. He is a horse I have always loved, he is always so enthusiastic in his work, and if he can improve on what he has achieved today we have a serious horse."

By contrast, Dubawi, racing close to the stands side, was clearly uncomfortable on the fast underfoot conditions, changing his leading leg several times once the contest got serious. "He travelled great," said his rider, Frankie Dettori, "but when I asked him to stretch to go downhill he absolutely hated it, and started to hang across the track. It was much too firm for him."

Fallon has always conceded that leaving Sir Michael Stoute, who supplied his two previous 2,000 Guineas winners, was a difficult decision. But fate need not have slapped the Newmarket handler quite so briskly across the cheek. His candidate yesterday, the 6-1 second favourite Rob Roy, finished stone last under Mick Kinane. "Mick said he lost his action as soon as he gave him a squeeze," said Stoute. The other fancied runner, the 7-1 chance Iceman, finished 13th, never sighted.

How much Footstepsinthesand achieved in beating two perceived no-hopers will be revealed only with the passage of time, but he certainly looks the part of a high-class horse. An outstanding individual, full of quality and vitality, he is from the first crop of Giant's Causeway, who was beaten in his Guineas by King's Best. "Even at this early stage," said O'Brien, "I've noticed that the Giant's Causeways seem to have inherited his toughness and determination."

Footstepsinthesand, who cost a rather modest, by Ballydoyle standards, 170,000 guineas as a yearling, came to the fray unhyped and relatively unseasoned. His sole previous public experience came with two wins in the space of eight days last October, including a Group Three contest at Leopardstown.

But as far as Fallon was concerned, he was always the one and, whatever the Irishman's faults and foibles, he is without peer as a judge and an educator of a horse, and O'Brien is aware of just what an asset he has taken on board.

"Kieren has always had the utmost faith in the horse," he said. "When he started riding work with us, this was the one he soon knew he wanted to be on. The horse is big, strong and powerful, with unbelievable natural speed, which he wouldn't mind showing you all the time at home, if you'd let him. Kieren has taken great care of him; it was his idea to take him to post early." No firm plans for Footstepsinthesand were forthcoming in the immediate aftermath, but he has been introduced into the Derby betting as 6-1 joint-favourite with Motivator. Not since Nashwan in 1989 has a Guineas winner succeeded at Epsom.

A year ago yesterday, O'Brien was coming to terms with the eclipse of hotshot One Cool Cat. Yesterday, it was the turn of the Godolphin team to put a brave face on Dubawi's defeat. "Disappointing, of course," said their racing manager, Simon Crisford. "We'll see how he is, and then decide the direction to go." Never before have two 100-1 shots filled the places in a Guineas. Rebel Rebel, trained by Neville Callaghan, is not entered in the Derby, but Epsom will be the next stop for Kandidate, who was cut from 66-1 to 16-1. The colt's effort yesterday was all the more meritorious in view of the fact that he ran loose on the gallops for a mile during the morning after dropping his lad during a routine leg-stretch.

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