King's day and best is yet to come

2,000 Guineas: Temperamental colt turns in a brilliant performance and is now 3-1 favourite for the Derby
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The Independent Online

So, no change there then. Kieren Fallon, sacked by Henry Cecil after winning the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Derby last year, picked up where he left off for his new stable here at Newmarket yesterday. The champion jockey produced a superlative performance on King's Best to take the 182nd 2,000 Guineas and give the trainer Sir Michael Stoute his fourth victory in the mile contest and the owner Saeed Suhail his first. It was also the first 2,000 Guineas for Fallon and, remarkably, his fourth Classic win in as many rides.

On only one previous occasion, back in 1930, had more horses assembled for the race that sets the standard for three-year-old colts than the 27 who lined up yesterday. But though it was a mass start, there were only ever three leaders. Primo Valentino left the stalls like a bullet, blazing a trail as scorching as the sunshine that drenched the Rowley Mile and one that lasted until well inside the final quarter mile, where Giant's Causeway caught him. But no sooner had the Irish-trained favourite asserted than King's Best flashed home from nowhere, rocketing three and a half lengths clear up the hill. Barathea Guest stayed on for third place, a length a halfbehind, with Zoning fourth.

The winner had been last at half-way with a lightning pace up front and his way barred by a shifting wall of horses. Fallon, the iceman, had the nerve and experience to sit and wait but when the gaps did begin to open he found his way barred and had to jink and dive through the pack. And when the way finally came, King's Best had the will.

It was a display of the power, speed and class that Stoute had always been convinced was contained within the strong bay frame, even though his faith had been tested by a serious flop in last year's Dewhurst Stakes and a minor reverse in the Craven Stakes just 16 days previously. The colt's temperament had been suspect under pressure and in the parade ring, turned into a cauldron by the heat, he seemed the worst sufferer.

But Stoute's eyes spotted the difference between a horse in a blue funk and one awash on a hot day. "Like so many thoroughbreds he has a lot of nervous energy and I was never really happy with him on Dewhurst day, when the big crowds and the occasion got to him," he said. "It was the same, to a certain extent, on Craven day, his first run of the season. But today it was different. He was sweating, yes, but it didn't worry me. He was relaxed, not jogging and fretting."

Fallon felt the same vibes as King's Best was released for the journey to the distant start. "He was much more settled than on Craven day," said the Irishman, "he just lobbed down, and lobbed along at the back when I wanted him to settle. Even if they'd been cantering up front he would have settled."

Fallon's traffic problems in the later stages had Stoute mentally running through excuses and alternative targets as he watched the race unfold. "It was a very rough race for some," said the jockey, "they all seemed to want to be where there was only room for three horses. I did not ever get actually bumped, but for a long time I was not sure that I would get a run through and at one point there was the question of whether to go round the outside. I am sure he would have, but he is at his best when he is coming between horses and a good horse to get himself out of so much trouble. The speed he showed was incredible. I cannot yet say he is the best horse I have ridden, but I have certainly never ridden a horse who can quicken like that."

Fallon, the consummate professional, blamed himself for King's Best's defeat by Umistim - sixth yesterday, just behind Compton Bolter and in front of Primo Valentino - in the Craven Stakes, and has made a point of riding the colt every morning since, getting to know every fibre and nuance of his being.

Stoute emphasised this team effort, and the attention to detail involved in preventing a horse like King's Best from boiling over. "I have always loved this horse, he has always been exciting" he said. "He loves racing and is very honest. But he is high-couraged, and it is case of channelling his nervous energy in the right direction. Everyone plays his part; Kieren, my head lad Stuart Messenger, Gary Foster, who was at the start with him, his lad Mick Blane. Little things, like putting a sheepskin noseband on him, just might help, so we do it. You have to try every option."

King's Best, who was going away from his field at the end, was immediately promoted to 3-1 favourite for the Derby by Ladbrokes. "I don't know if he will stay a mile and a half and certainly will not commit him at this stage," said the trainer. "The course itself would be no problem, though, he is a handy, balanced type. But the occasion might be."

Last year's champion two-year-old, Distant Music, was eighth, staying on after being caught flat-footed. Zoning fared best of the three Godolphin challengers; the first choice Fath was 16th, and Broche 20th. Sadly, and unusually, there was a fatality; poor Alfini, from the David Elsworth stable, broke a hind leg in the closing stages.