Racing: Dylan turns 'electric' after Fallon stays cool
Monday 03 July 2006
As a rule John Magnier leaves the mockery to his horses, but yesterday he could not resist his cue. After watching Kieren Fallon assist Dylan Thomas in the brutal destruction of their rivals for the Budweiser Irish Derby, the colt's owner gave a sly smile. "Say Ireland were in the World Cup, and I had to choose who would take the penalties," he said. "The man I would pick to take the fifth one would be Kieren."
But his tribute was not merely mischievous. Today, after 22 months protesting his innocence, Fallon expects to learn whether or not he is to be charged in connection with a police investigation into allegations of corruption in racing. Throughout this purgatory, Fallon has appeared to preserve some kind of immunity from mental strain - in his riding, at any rate - and will answer bail in a London police station, with over 20 others, as a champion in his pomp.
Aidan O'Brien took up the theme. "The bigger the day, the colder he is," the winning trainer said. "Nothing ever seems to phase him. When everyone around is panicking, it's Kieren who stays cool and collected."
Sure enough, when Dylan Thomas was trapped early in the straight, Fallon held his nerve. When the gap came, it was as though a dam had been breached across this sultry plain. The colt gushed three-and-a-half lengths clear of Gentlewave, who looked a St Leger colt in emerging from an impossible position, and Best Alibi, best of a British challenge that has now failed every year since 1994.
This was an extraordinary margin, given that a diffident early gallop had allowed many in the field to conserve energy for a sprint finish. True, on a stifling afternoon, some had squandered fuel racing too keenly. And the cautious pace may well have suited Dylan Thomas, whose stamina seemed to ebb away when third of the four colts who shared a photo at Epsom last month.
Equally, he has never previously given anyone grounds to believe that he has quite so much speed. This was a breathtaking performance, one that might make Sir Percy relieved he did not come out of Epsom in adequate shape for a rematch. The suspicion had been that Dylan Thomas was only able to last so long that day because he and Dragon Dancer - who faded into fourth here - had stolen a march on the rest. But O'Brien disagreed. "It turned into such a messy race, and a horse with that much class, and another horse breathing down his neck, was always going to go a stride too quick," he said. "So the idea today was just to get him to relax."
Johnny Murtagh, his rider at Epsom, also reported that the colt had been uncomfortable on the left-handed descent round Tattenham Corner. "Johnny had to go for home three and a half furlongs out on a doubtful stayer," Magnier noted. "And was only beaten inches. Your man today has put the horse to sleep."
Dylan Thomas had been all out to win the Derrinstown Derby Trial on his reappearance, but after their sluggish spring appears to have made the same progress since as many of his stablemates. He will certainly drop back in trip now, with the the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September an obvious port of call. Magnier expressed confidence that O'Brien would "straighten out" the colt's predilection for racing right-handed before the Breeders' Cup, where the easy mile and a half could leave the Turf at his mercy.
Fallon was so elated that he flung his goggles into the crowd. "I had a decent position early, but then got shuffled back and I needed a gap," he said. "When it opened, he was electric. He didn't act around Epsom - Johnny said he was always on the wrong leg - but the Curragh is flatter and probably a fairer track and he has shown how good he is."
Magnier was also generous in his praise of O'Brien, whose dextrous touch has vindicated his colossal investment in the Ballydoyle revival. And the next turn of their carousel has already introduced an exciting juvenile in Holy Roman Emperor. The colt belongs to the final crop of Danehill, one of Coolmore's bedrock stallions, whose precious legacy also includes Dylan Thomas himself.
So disappointing in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, Holy Roman Emperor showed his true colours by winning the Anheuser-Busch Railway Stakes in a fractionally faster time than George Washington last year and may well return for the Phoenix Stakes next month.
True, he was probably wearing down a pure sprinter in Drayton, but he would have won with still greater authority had he not been forced to wait for a run. Needless to say, his rider never panicked.
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