Giant's stature grows despite Kinane's slip

Breeders' Cup XVII: Pilot error denies the horse of the season a historic victory but Murtagh excels on Kalanisi in the Turf
Click to follow
The Independent Online

To Kalanisi the spoils, to Giant's Causeway the honour. When the first Breeders' Cup of the new millennium is reviewed, the central thread may not be of Europe' 18th winner at the series but rather its last loser.

To Kalanisi the spoils, to Giant's Causeway the honour. When the first Breeders' Cup of the new millennium is reviewed, the central thread may not be of Europe' 18th winner at the series but rather its last loser.

Indeed, the post mortem was already blazing furiously yesterday morning and Michael Kinane, Giant's Causeway's rider, was the man getting burned.

The career terminus for the Iron Horse, in Saturday's Classic at Churchill Downs, culminated in a neck second placing to the Chris McCarron-ridden Tiznow. That was the difference between the horses, but some believe it may have been provoked by the difference between the jockeys.

Certainly Kinane got himself in a scruffy jumble coming down the stretch. In the cold, bright light of Louisville yesterday morning the Irishman admitted to an error of judgement. "The whip just got caught in the rein," he said. "That's what happens. It was a mistake I made for a stride or so, but it was very late in the day and I thought the horse had given everything he had.

"I think the winner was stronger in the closing stages. I thought my horse had given everything. He ran his heart out. It was a mistake but I don't think it had any bearing on the result."

This was no flagrant error, no repetition of Frankie Dettori's assault on Swain in the same race, on the same track, two years ago. But its consequences may have been as damaging.

Aidan O'Brien, Giant's Causeway's trainer, yesterday talked in a way which suggested he had made a forensic examination of the tape of the race. He talked in a way which suggested that Giant's Causeway was the moral winner. "The horse was very unlucky because when he [Kinane] went to pull his stick through he lost his reins at a vital time," the trainer said. "About half a furlong out when he was just ready to go by.

"He lost his momentum and he only gives you what you ask. That's the way he's always been. He never gives in, but he only gives what you ask for. You apply pressure to him, and the minute you ease up on him he just eases back. That's just natural."

Defeat, though, did not diminish the Iron Horse. Despite five Group Ones in a row this season, some had chosen to belittle the Giant. The great irony was that it was defeat in a foreign land which finally brought everyone on side. This included the mightiest of the Americans.

"I think of all the 105 horses that ran in the Cup he probably stood out as having the best day," D Wayne Lukas, the champion trainer, said. "I say that in light of what he had to do to get here and the fact that he finished second is immaterial.

"He had the best day from the standpoint that he switched from turf to dirt, he came out of quarantine just 24 hours before into an arena he is not familiar with, and he had only one chance to even canter over the racetrack. The season he had and the wear and tear of the ship makes it a phenomenal performance. It's almost tragic that he didn't get up for the win."

We know Kinane can win in America. He showed us that in the 1990 Belmont Stakes on Go And Go. But he cannot win at a Breeders' Cup. Turnberry Isle's defeat and the sad adieu from Montjeu took his record to 0 for 12 at the series. He was probably too far back on Montjeu in the Turf, but the colt is now an impostor of the horse which swatted his peers away in the high summer. Remember him for those days.

The fraternity of the Irish weighing room will probably choose to remember Breeders' Cup XVII for the efforts of Johnny Murtagh. Kalanisi, in the Turf, was his 11th Group One winner of the season, the continuation of a seamless ribbon of success. "I keep waking up in the mornings and pinching myself to see if it's a dream, but it isn't," he said yesterday. "It might never happen again, but I'll be aiming for it next season."

If the policy is consistent, Kalanisi will almost certainly now be retired to one of the Aga Khan's studs. He may even stand with Sinndar, the other great conveyance for Murtagh this season. Yesterday the jockey discussed the link between the pair.

"The two of them have got their heart in the right place and that makes a good horse," he said. "The heart and the temperament. When it gets tough they both dig deep and give you 100 per cent. All horses have got a lot of ability, but it's the ones that keep getting better and improving from race to race that make it."

Murtagh is ageing rather well himself. Only a man without a speck of self doubt could have delayed Kalanisi's effort as long as he did. "I just wanted to give him a chance down the outside," the jockey said, "I didn't want to get trapped on the rail and come back with a big, sad story."

Murtagh may not have provided it, but we did eventually get a sorry tale in the fading light of Saturday. For Breeders' Cup XVII was the fairy story with an unhappy ending, the day when the Giant was slain.