Racing: Fabre and O'Brien misfire in Longchamp trials

Anyone who has backed the favourite for either the Stan James 2,000 Guineas or the Vodafone Derby will have squirmed uncomfortably during the big race at Longchamp yesterday. Two of the most powerful thoroughbred arsenals in Europe had wheeled some heavy artillery on to the battlefield, but instead ended up spraying each other with water pistols. There may be alarming consequences for the value of ante-post vouchers about George Washington or Visindar.

So far as Visindar is concerned, the idea had been that Carlotamix would extend his unbeaten record on his reappearance in the Prix de Fontainebleau, so leaving his stablemate free to run at Epsom. Carlotamix, who is also owned by the Aga Khan, would then keep the home fires burning in the Prix du Jockey Club, run at Chantilly the day after the Derby.

Unfortunately he departed from that script with a stammering, choking display, soon off the bridle and never offering the remotest challenge. That he was far below his best can be measured by the fact that the race was won with authority by Stormy River, who had finished behind him in a Group One race at Saint-Cloud last autumn.

André Fabre has had some bitter experiences in the Derby - the race was the end of the road for Pennekamp, among others - and only the contrasting enthusiasm of his patron, who has such a good record in the race, was ever going to persuade him to risk Visindar there. But if Carlotamix is not going to fill the breach at Chantilly, Fabre is likely to turn some powerful arguments against the project.

For one thing, Visindar is by no means guaranteed to stay a mile and a half, and nowadays they only go 10 and a half furlongs at Chantilly. He is also a big colt, with a lavish stride, and may lack the peculiar agility required round Tattenham Corner. The intention is for Visindar to run in the Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud on 15 May, partly to test him on a left-handed course, but it may be that the most significant battles are to be fought off the track.

Stormy River is in the Guineas but may stay at home for the local version, and the most pertinent Newmarket clues may have come down the field. Aidan O'Brien ran two colts, both accomplished performers last season, and both looked extremely rusty. Aussie Rules did find some belated momentum to finish fourth, but the fact is that he is just about the only Ballydoyle colt to have seen out his race this spring.

Half an hour later, for instance, Septimus ran a subdued race in the Prix la Force while, over at Leopardstown, Mountain could never land a blow in the PW McGrath Ballysax Stakes. The overwhelming impression is that the Ballydoyle horses are fumbling for the gearstick, and there are now just a dozen days before George Washington lines up for the Guineas. Two fillies have won this spring but the stable has drawn a blank from 14 other runners in Britain and Ireland so far.

George Washington, the champion juvenile, remains no better than 9-4 favourite, yet it demands a giddy leap of faith to expect a career-best performance from a colt who used his only public outing since last year to exhibit the kinks in his temperament. He breezed after racing at the Curragh a fortnight ago, but only after proving reluctant to exit the parade ring and then darting through a gap in the rails when going down.

Kieren Fallon's duties at Longchamp prevented him taking the mount on Ouija Board in Hong Kong yesterday, but he will have been an interested observer of his deputy's performance in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

As Frankie Dettori angled the mare wide with two furlongs to run, the Sha Tin commentator exclaimed that she would "have to be Wonder Woman to win from there". Marooned towards the rear at halfway, Ouija Board still had several lengths to find with the leader, Irridescence. In somehow managing to share a photo-finish, she certainly made it hard for anyone to mistake her rider for Superman.

Ouija Board finished so well that she was beaten only two heads, but Dettori deflected any criticism towards the mare herself. "She broke slowly and didn't have the pace to go with them early on," he said. "The winner had a four-length start on me and she has made up three-and-three-quarters of that. At a mile and a half she would have been the winner, I just ran out of track and things didn't go her way."

Ed Dunlop, her trainer, had not disguised his irritation with Fallon's tactics when Ouija Board finished fourth in Dubai last month, but there was no way she could have shaken up the winner that day. Here, however - albeit against rather lesser horses - she showed that her acceleration remains as potent as ever.

Dunlop indicated that she would be stepped back up in distance next time, and happily she is likely to do so on home turf, either in the Vodafone Coronation Cup at Epsom or the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot.

Irridescence was confirming the international calibre of her rider and trainer, the South Africans Weichong Marwing and Mike de Kock, and may yet follow Ouija Board to Europe this summer. Norse Dancer, meanwhile, ran deplorably under Darryll Holland and trailed in last. "He did not attack the gate and that was that," the jockey said. "He was in a hopeless position from then on."

Chris McGrath

Nap: Colmcille (Taunton 7.15)

NB: Strategic Mount

(Windsor 8.00)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This design and print company a...

Recruitment Genius: Lift and Elevator Contract Manager - London

£38000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Engineer - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Engineer is required to...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Hull - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum + £4200 car allowance: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Suppo...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence