Racing: Dazzling wins by Hawk Wing and Funny Cide merit champion titles

Two horses, pretty well unalike in dignity, lit up both the weekend with their performances and the coming weeks with golden promise. In any sport, the anticipation is often sweeter than the fact, but Hawk Wing in Berkshire and Funny Cide in Maryland delivered in spades on both counts. And simply, any racing aficionado not moved by their wide-margin blitzes, separated by the width of the Atlantic and eight hours in time, should seriously consider basket-weaving classes.

Two horses, pretty well unalike in dignity, lit up both the weekend with their performances and the coming weeks with golden promise. In any sport, the anticipation is often sweeter than the fact, but Hawk Wing in Berkshire and Funny Cide in Maryland delivered in spades on both counts. And simply, any racing aficionado not moved by their wide-margin blitzes, separated by the width of the Atlantic and eight hours in time, should seriously consider basket-weaving classes.

Hawk Wing, the imperious, left three Group or Grade One winners floundering as he turned the Lockinge Stakes into a rout on Saturday afternoon. Just over a year ago the Woodman colt had been touted as the second coming; by the end of the season he was being crabbed for the fact that, apart from his Eclipse Stakes success, he mostly kept coming second. But Aidan O'Brien and those involved in the mighty Ballydoyle-Coolmore training and stud operation kept the faith and the gamble of keeping a high-class potential stallion in training at four has been more than justified.

In the mile division, the title scrap now concerns only who is second-best and such was the impression made by Hawk Wing that his name is now being mentioned alongside the eight-furlong luminaries of the previous three decades, Mark Of Esteem, El Gran Senor and Brigadier Gerard himself. Royal Ascot – the Queen Anne Stakes at a mile or the Prince of Wales's Stakes over two furlongs further – now beckons. Leave the willow wands at home.

Mick Kinane's fingers may have been raised to the doubters only metaphorically at Newbury but there was a practical purpose behind Jose Santos's uplifted arm at Pimlico as he steered Funny Cide to a near 10-length triumph in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the US Triple Crown. After the cheaply bought, humbly bred gelding had taken the Kentucky Derby, lustre was taken off his hard-fought victory by an extraordinary, ludicrous suggestion by the Miami Herald – based on an indistinct photograph – that the blanket of roses had been earned with the help of artificial stimulation, an electrical device held by the jockey.

An investigation cleared the air and, as Funny Cide streaked past the post ahead of Midway Road and Scrimshaw on Saturday night, Santos's outstretched hand, palm open, made the point well, as did his remarks afterwards. "The Kentucky Derby was one of the happiest moments of my life," he said, "and then the bomb over the photographs blew up. That was not nice. But the only machine involved was the horse, the red horse. And he showed that today."

Any funny side apart, the little chestnut's story has a romantic facet far removed from the hard-nosed business in Co Tipperary. Our hero is the first good one 65-year-old Barclay Tagg, who has a barn of just 20 horses in New York, has handled in his 30 years with a training licence. The horse cost just $22,000 (£13,750) as a yearling and, in addition to the more than £1m already earned, the three old college friends who own him (and, for tradition's sake, go to the races in a yellow school bus) now find themselves in line for a $5m (£3.1m) windfall should their pride and joy complete the Triple Crown in next month's Belmont Stakes at his home track. Perhaps it really could happen only in America.

They may have to shut the gates at Belmont Park on 7 June when the local boy attempts to make good as the first Triple Crowner since Affirmed became the 11th 25 years ago.

Coincidentally, the Belmont Stakes is run on Derby Day, when there is the real possibility that the 2,000 Guineas winner, Refuse To Bend, may take the second leg of our infinitely more historic Triple Crown, last won by Nijinsky 33 years ago. Should the Irish colt triumph at Epsom and go on to the St Leger, as he surely would, they may have to close Doncaster town, not just Town Moor.Britain's racing authorities take note: these are the sort of naturally occurring moments that stir the public pulse, not any spurious invented alternatives.

The next round of search to find home-trained Derby defenders comes in the Predominate Stakes at Goodwood tomorrow, but in France yesterday the Oaks eliminator, the Prix Saint-Alary, brought defeat for hitherto Epsom favourite Hi Dubai. The filly, ridden by Frankie Dettori for Godolphin, could find only one pace as the locally-trained Fidelite swooped through the last of the 10 furlongs to beat her by two lengths. Although, as Fantastic Light's sister, Hi Dubai will appreciate the longer distance she will tackle at Epsom next month, Ballydoyle's Yesterday is the new Oaks favourite.

The other Group One contest on the Longchamp card, the Prix d'Ispahan, came back to Newmarket when Falbrav, who joined Luca Cumani from an Italian yard after winning last year's Japan Cup, benefited from a vintage Kieren Fallon ride to defeat the top-class French filly Bright Sky. The Amanda Perrett-trained Carnival Dancer was never nearer in third.

Racing in brief: German double at San Siro denies Godolphin runner

* Godolphin's Lady Catherine finished second to Germany's Meridiana in the Group One Italian Oaks at San Siro, Milan yesterday. Jamie Spencer tried to make all the running on the filly but was outstayed by the Hans Blume-trained winner. Dermot Weld's Miss Nashwan faded to finish ninth of the 14 runners. The Mark Johnston-trained Gateman was a two-length third in the Group Two Premio Emilio Turati. The mile contest went to another German runner in Walzerkoenigin.

* Sabbeeh was the highlight of a double for Philip Robinson at Ripon yesterday and shaped like a high-class two-year-old in the making. Making his debut, the Michael Jarvis-trained colt made all the running in the six furlong test and had 13 lengths to spare at the line. "He is our first two-year-old runner and I would like to think about Royal Ascot and the Coventry Stakes," the trainer said.

* Wendyll Woods is to return to Hong Kong next season and will link up as stable jockey to his brother, Sean, formerly a trainer in Newmarket. Woods, who is currently based in Britain, has ridden 300 winners in the Chinese territory.

* Martillo turned the German 2,000 Guineas, the Group Two Mehl Mulhens Rennen, into a procession in Cologne yesterday. William Mongil's mount won unchallenged by six lengths from Royal Price. Gary Hind was third on the ex-Mark Johnston-trained Ransom O'War.

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