Holland's erratic tactics leave Island House punters stranded

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The Independent Online

Words have a habit of returning in phantom guise but not always as swiftly as Darryll Holland's did here yesterday. Half-an-hour after winning the Ormonde Stakes on St Expedit for the second year in succession he likewise repeated his feat of losing the following Huxley Stakes on Island House. An error of jockeyship, when he dropped his hands close home, cost him the latter contest 12 months ago. This time he sat off the pace in a slowly run four-runner race and had to stoke up his mount to come wide off the last bend into the 230-yard straight.

"If you're in front round here," he had explained after making all on St Expedit, "the others have to do what you dictate to them, otherwise they've got to lose ground by coming round you." Yes, Darryll, you said it. Geoff Wragg, trainer of both horses, was resignedly generous about the length defeat of Island House, whom punters had, heaven forfend, entrusted with 4-6 favouritism to exorcise Holland's ghost. "Perhaps the ground was a little firm for him and he couldn't quite quicken on it," Wragg said. "We'll try again next year."

The Roodee, just seven and a bit furlongs round, is notoriously difficult. Pat Eddery, though, has been spinning round here since before most of his rivals were born and while Holland was concentrating too much on keeping Kieren Fallon, who pipped him in the shadow of the post last year, in his sights, the old fox stole a march up front on Freefourinternet.

In fairness to the Abington Place stable jockey, he rode a reasonably brainy race on St Expedit. He allowed the five-year-old to use his long stride in front but gave him a breather at half-way to ensure he had enough in reserve to hold off all comers, headed by the enormous Norwegian challenger Sagittarius, on the short burst to the finish. "He goes round here like on a Scalextric track," said the jockey, "but he'd do too much himself if you let him, so you have to get a break into him."

If not backing Holland in the Huxley Stakes has now been revealed as a reasonable ploy, plunging on anything with B Hills next to its name in the Dee Stakes is a long-tried and trusted basis for selection. Yesterday the 9-2 chance Sohaib made all under Richard Hills to became the trainer's 11th success in the meeting's second Derby trial since Golden Monad started the sequence in 1971. The best subsequent performance at Epsom by one of the previous 10 was Blue Stag's runner-up spot 12 years ago, but Sohaib will not be given the chance to emulate him, for the good reason that he does not hold the Derby entry.

The two horses who followed him in – wimpish short-head runner-up Sir George Turner and length and a quarter staying-on third Playapart –- do, but after yesterday both remain Derby longshots and their performances served only to emphasise the grip Aidan O'Brien has on the Blue Riband with High Chaparral and Hawk Wing.

As part of his further education Sir George Turner, trained by Mark Johnston, may turn out again in the Dante Stakes at York next week, with the addition of blinkers to his kit. His jockey, Kevin Darley, considers the son of Nashwan, who took a notable scalp in Landseer on his final run last year, the best of the stable's three-year-olds, ahead of the pair who have already won Classic trials, Simeon and Fight Your Corner.

But not for the first time the chestnut showed a lack of resolve. When offered the chance to go through a gap and past Sohaib to victory he declined and hung into his rival to the extent that the stewards convened briefly to consider the incident.

"He seems to have made his own trouble yet again," said Johnston, always entirely realistic about his charges. "He does seem to need plenty of room and things rather his own way, which is not really what you like to see. Instead of getting on with his job he spends time thinking about the other horses.

"He was on and off the bridle during the race and seemed to have a bit left in the tank and if we consider that he did not have a hard race then he may turn out again at York. He needs to learn to put his best foot forward and I would not rule out running him in blinkers, there or at Epsom. After all, they don't think twice about running a horse in blinkers in the Kentucky Derby."