Racing: American Post likely to miss Epsom Derby

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The Independent Online

When your luck's out, it's out. American Post, the 4-11 favourite, duly won yesterday's Poule d'Essai des Poulains, the French 2,000 Guineas, at Longchamp. But Criquette Head-Maarek's charge prevailed only after the Ballydoyle representative Antonius Pius threw certain victory away in the most dramatic of circumstances.

The Irish colt burst into the lead well inside the final furlong and was clear, only to suddenly swerve right and collide with the running rail six strides from the post. With his movement temporarily reduced to that of a square-wheeled bike, those behind him swept past again in a flurry. At the line American Post, ridden by Richard Hughes, was half a length in front of his compatriot Diamond Green, with Byron, for Godolphin, a head third and another of the locals, Ershaad, half a length fourth.

Antonius Pius came in fifth, a neck behind. It was the second European Classic of the season lost controversially by an Aidan O'Brien-trained runner; 15 days previously the Co Tipperary yard's perceived number one three-year-old miler One Cool Cat had been virtually pulled up in the 2,000 Guineas after suffering a hitherto unsuspected irregular heartbeat. The pulse of Jamie Spencer, in Antonius Pius's saddle yesterday, might have made interesting monitoring yesterday. "He just jinked, I don't know why," said the young Irishman. "He hit the rail so hard that he did really well not to go down."

It was not the first time that the son of Danzig had displayed quirkiness. Last month on the same track he had chased home American Post, only to lose second place in the stewards' room after hanging across rivals. "He has a turn of foot to kill off any horse," added Spencer, "and when I got a gap he went flying through. He has got such serious ability that for him to lose the race like this is just unbelievable."

Antonius Pius's errant behaviour cost Spencer a six-day ban, from 25-30 May, which could be considered harsh as he had his whip in the correct hand throughout. Gary Stevens, on the badly-hampered Diamond Green, certainly thought so; the American (who, having ridden Rock Hard Ten in the Preakness Stakes the previous evening, was on his second Classic runner-up in 24 hours) recalled the moment last year when he was victim of similar infamous equine antics. "I would certainly have a problem in blaming Jamie for what happened," he said. "I remember I rode a horse called Storming Home in the Arlington Million."

Before yesterday, American Post, who was stretching a winning run to six, had been vying for Derby second favouritism but now there are distinct doubts about his Epsom participation. Ladbrokes removed the Khalid Abdullah colourbearer from their Blue Riband lists and shortened Antonius Pius's more straightforward stablemate Yeats to 2-1 (O'Brien yesterday scotched rumours about his having had a problem) at the head of the market.

The doubts expressed about American Post, by Bering, concern not so much the 12-furlong distance he must travel in 19 days' time but underfoot conditions. Yesterday's ground was firmer than he had previously encountered. "He never really stretched for me like he can," said Hughes. "I wouldn't want to run him on ground this fast again. He was staying on again at the finish and that's what won him the race, so I don't think the trip at Epsom would be a problem. But the ground might be."

Head-Maarek concurred. "I didn't think he was running with his normal action today," she said. "And of course I am disappointed, we would only have been second. We won't make any decisions just yet but Richard said that he needs softer ground if we were to go to the Derby and I am not about to disagree."

Earlier Torrestrella won the French 1,000 Guineas to give trainer Francis Rohaut his first Classic. The Godolphin pair Carry On Katie and Cairns cut little ice and their stablemate Vespone had to settle for second place behind Altieri in the Group 1 feature in Rome. In Cologne, Brunel made all under Darryll Holland to take the German 2,000 Guineas, his trainer William Haggas's second success in the Group 2 race in three years.

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