There was a hall of mirrors application about Alamshar's victory in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial here yesterday.
There were those who thought he fitted the perfect profile of a Derby winner, a dogged victor who exhibited the courage which will be a primary requirement in four weeks' time. Others thought he was quite slow.
The unflattering, bent view of Alamshar's performance was one observed by the bookmakers. John Oxx's colt may have achieved where Sinndar, Galileo and High Chaparral had gone before in collecting this one-mile-and-two-furlongs Group Two contest, but his prospects of continuing their run into the Blue Riband has been marked down.
It is a bizzare notion that Alamshar was cut violently in Derby odds after losing here four weeks ago in the Ballysax Stakes. Now that he has actually won his price is out from a general 3-1 to 9-2 in places. Sense has been binned.
It was a confusing old addition to the Derby parts. Alamshar, and this was perhaps his greatest quality, will almost certainly stay the Epsom journey of a mile and a half. He was tucked in by Johnny Murtagh behind a searing early rhythm set by The Great Gatsby and the odds-on favourite's nominated pacemaker of Masandam.
Only in the straight did the former begin to show signs of weakness as Alamshar ranged alongside. There was, however, no burst of decisiveness, no eye-catching acceleration. The winner went just about a head clear of The Great Gatsby, who is not Ballydoyle's Derby horse. The one imagined to be so over the winter, Brian Boru, was another two and a half lengths back in third, giving 5lb in weight.
It seemed to suggest that these were potentially either the first three in the Derby or just a group of ordinary horses. Either way we do not have a beacon horse yet, certainly not a British-trained one as the top five in the betting all originate in Ireland.
Oxx was not crushed by Alamshar's display. Indeed, he thought the colt rather resolute to have overcome a hoof abscess which had afflicted him earlier in the week. "That wasn't a very spectacular performance and you certainly wouldn't say it was a Derby-winning performance," Oxx said later.
"But I did come here just half expecting he would get beaten because he's been through a bit during the week. I felt coming to the races that he'd do well to scramble in. He did scramble in and I'm happy enough with that. He has to improve a good deal on this but please God he'll have a better run for the next race than he had for the week leading up to this one."
The trainer went on: "He got pretty switched off and quickened up quite well, but then he idled a bit towards the end. He'd want to improve on that to win the Derby, but that's what they've all got to do if they're going to win at that level.
"Sinndar won this by a head or a short-head as well, and we'll have to see how this one is now. He was lucky to run in it even though he was able to do all his work. He was never lame, he just wasn't reaching. During the week he was down on himself and he wasn't well in himself. He was quiet.''
Aidan O'Brien refused to be downheartened by the performance of Brian Boru who, having headed the ante-post Derby betting through the winter, is now starting to plummet down the lists.
"I don't think he ran a bad race at all," he said. "He was fresh and keen and the pace was a bit slow for him. Obviously I am pleased with The Great Gatsby, and they will both be considered for Epsom," O'Brien said.
Oxx and Murtagh narrowly failed to add to Alamshar's win when Flamelet was touched off by Cat Belling in the Derrinstown Stud 1,000 Guineas Trial.
Hymn Of Love, trained by Dermot Weld, led on sufferance for the first two furlongs until Satine went on. Hymn Of Love regained the advantage one and a half furlongs out but faded timidly when challenged as Cat Belling, ridden by Pat Shanahan, went on.
The Kevin Prendergast-trained filly held Flamelet's late bid by a head with the 15-8 favourite, Rainbows For All, also trained by Prendergast, third.
The 11-2 winner would now probably head for the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh in two weeks' time, the trainer said. "She's a big filly and needs ease in the ground. The rain came just in time for her."