Racing: Darasim shows the pluck of Persian Punch
Friday 30 July 2004
There was a whiff of melancholia at the foot of Trundle Hill yesterday, reminiscences of Persian Punch in the race programme, as well as a sand sculpture of the big horse who won two Goodwood Cups before dying on the racecourse at Ascot in April.
It needed a type of performance that the old giant would have provided to wipe away the pensiveness, and thanks to Darasim, there was an uplifting delivery in yesterday's running of the two-mile Group Two race. It was a fifth success in the Goodwood Cup for Mark Johnston, who was once responsible for another who tugged at hearts as much as he ever did a bridle, the three-time winner Double Trigger.
The Middleham trainer sent a trio of runners yesterday in Darasim, the 11-8 favourite, Royal Rebel and Double Obsession. Quite appropriately on the meeting's ladies' day, Johnston had paid particular detail to his horses' headwear. All three sported a visor, but the one that earned the right to be sent heavenwards belonged to Darasim. The six-year-old led at both ends of the race, staying on strongly to beat Royal Rebel and Mick Channon's Misternando, who just prevented Johnston completely filling the frame.
Darasim's only problem occurred after the post. "In the hot weather he gets a bit dehydrated and wobbly at the end of a race, so we try to get plenty of water on him quickly and just cool him down, but he's fine," the trainer said. "He recovers within a few minutes. I was a wee bit worried it was going to turn into a sprint. I thought he had almost too easy a lead and if I had been able to speak to Joe Fanning [the jockey] three or furlongs out I would have told him to wind it up a bit because they were queuing up behind. But thankfully he has as much a turn of foot as anything and he had plenty up his sleeve. This horse has one third in the Gold Cup and could be a Gold Cup again horse next year."
The sole challenge to Darasim's authority came around two furlongs out, when Misternando appeared on the outside of the field. But that manoeuvre simply served to spur the favourite on. It was like positive magnets being brought close to each other.
Following his two-and-a-half length victory, Fanning said: "I got a good breather into him with half a mile to go and when he accelerated again nobody could get to him. He's a very straightforward horse to ride - you keep him handy and he's happy." Double Trigger's three Cups came in 1995, 1997 and 1998, while Royal Rebel registered for Kingsley House in 2000. It appeared the key might have almost stopped turning in the latter, but, at the age of eight, Royal Rebel proved he still has something to offer.
"Royal Rebel ran a fantastic race off a slow pace and, had they gone another half a mile, I don't think I'd have wanted Darasim to take on Royal Rebel," Johnston added. "Royal Rebel is an out-and-out stayer and he may go for the Prix du Cadran. We were talking about downgrading him for next year and maybe finishing with something like the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot."
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