Racing: Divine throws down the gauntlet to Motivator

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The Independent Online

How long will we have to wait before saluting a horse to compare with Motivator? After all, his performance at Epsom last Saturday has been measured as the best in the Derby since Generous, 14 years earlier. You could not expect to find another unbeaten Classic winner with the same exuberance, the same arrogance, overnight. It may well take as many as eight days.

How long will we have to wait before saluting a horse to compare with Motivator? After all, his performance at Epsom last Saturday has been measured as the best in the Derby since Generous, 14 years earlier. You could not expect to find another unbeaten Classic winner with the same exuberance, the same arrogance, overnight. It may well take as many as eight days.

Any suggestion of hubris in the naming of Divine Proportions has been dispelled with devastating élan. Winner of all seven starts to date, the French filly won her Classic by the same margin as Motivator - five lengths - and with no less contempt for her rivals. That was the French 1,000 Guineas, over a mile at Longchamp last month, and she would have started hot favourite if remaining at that distance for the Coronation Stakes at York next week. Instead she will attempt to extend her dominion at home, stepping up to 10 furlongs for the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly on Sunday.

Divine Proportions is the latest champion to have emerged from the precious genes in the stewardship of the Niarchos family, and perhaps the most imperious since Miesque, who twice beat the colts in the Breeders' Cup Mile. It is a measure of her momentous encounter on Sunday with Vadawina, herself unbeaten, that Miesque could not quite stretch her brilliance in this race, beaten by Indian Skimmer. Success will perhaps transcend any parochial assumption that the defining performer of their generation must necessarily be Motivator.

Alan Cooper, racing manager to the Niarchos family, yesterday expressed optimism that Divine Proportions would summon the necessary reserves of stamina at Chantilly. After all, her pedigree gives the Kingmambo filly little right to have won a Group race over five furlongs at the same track last summer, by four lengths. Her dam is by Sadler's Wells out of a sister to the Derby winner, Shirley Heights.

"There is plenty of stamina influence there, and she is sister to a winner over a mile and a half," Cooper said. "She is changing physically, too, getting stronger all the time. She gradually developed throughout the winter and spring, probably more so recently than in the depths of winter, and there is more range to her now. The other thing that should help her is that she has such a settled style. She is very placid, and reserves her energies for the race, where she shows a great will for competition.

"Pascal Bary [her trainer] picked her out as quite exceptional from an early stage. She does have this wonderful temperament, and tremendous strength. You can see in photographs of her races the great power of her movement."

The showdown with Vadawina, who is proven over the trip, will provide her owners with adequate excitement for one week and they will not be sending Bago to York either. The Arc winner will miss the Prince of Wales's Stakes, having been beaten over the same course and distance last August, and will instead seek his first overseas success in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Newbury next month - possibly via the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.

Bago ran no more than a solid race when beaten by Grey Swallow at the Curragh last month. "Things did not really go according to plan that day," Cooper said. "We didn't have our lead horse, who got injured on the plane, and so didn't quite get the pace we wanted.

"There were a couple of heavy showers that afternoon, too, and the ground was a bit sticky. He lost his place coming down the hill, but picked up nicely at the end, and he has come out of the race very happy with life."

As it happens, Grey Swallow will also be declining the York race. Dermot Weld, his trainer, is also training him for the King George, though he may yet take in the Eclipse Stakes first. Those races are also options for Motivator. One way or another, he cannot rest on those laurels yet.

HYPERION'S SELECTIONS FOR TODAY'S OTHER MEETINGS:

MARKET RASEN: 2.10 Young Tot 2.40 Relix 3.10 Bushido 3.40 Beseiged 4.10 Raise A McGregor 4.40 Three Ships

HAMILTON: 6.20 Attorney 6.50 Think Lucky 7.20 Prince Dayjur 7.50 Nevada Desert 8.20 Alphecca 8.55 Bendarshaan 9.25 Ice Planet

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