Racing: Falbrav sets final seal on Cumani comeback season

York Ebor Meeting: Juddmonte winner has option of Breeder's Cup run after being crowned Middle Distance Champion
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The Independent Online

As Falbrav came sailing up the Knavesmire straight here yesterday it seemed quite appropriate that here was final confirmation that Luca Cumani had emerged from his personal doldrums.

The Newmarket trainer has been becalmed for far too long, largely from the moment five years ago when the Aga Khan removed 25 horses from Bedford House over an argument over medical procedure at the yard. Cumani would not have missed the delicacy that Falbrav's Juddmonte International Stakes was achieved at the expense, among others, of the Aga's favourite, Kalaman, who beat just the pacemaker home. His delight was unbounded.

Falbrav arrived at Bedford House only at the beginning of this, his five-year-old season. Cumani did not have to look into his mouth. He has now won three Group One races in four months, following the Prix d'Ispahan and the Eclipse, growing in stature along the way. Falbrav is now a fully paid up member of the monster club. He is no greater than in the mind of his trainer.

"He is amazing, a machine, and he must be one of the best horses I have ever trained," Cumani said. "He's a beautiful horse. His personality is so fantastic. He knows who he is. He has full consciousness about the good horse that he is, the power that he is and the professional he is. You live for these kind of horses, you live for these kind of moments. You dream all along of having a horse like this."

The International was not a race burdened by the unexpected. We knew that Izdiham would set the pace for Nayef to follow at a near impolite distance. The sole imponderable was when the big horse would make his definitive move and that answer came at around the three-furlong marker.

Darryll Holland was swiftly on to this manoeuvre and, a furlong later, he launched Falbrav on his own trademark swoop, but a quarter of a mile is a long distance for a horse to be in front, especially for those to whom he means most. "This horse gives you palpitations because when you are in front in a race like that you are always expecting something to come out of the pack," Cumani said. "But it would take a very special horse to come and catch him." The trainer, who has never lost faith in himself, was also fortified by the notion that Falbrav is not just excellent. He does not mind a fight either. "He's bull-headed in his own surroundings," Cumani added. "He's very protective of his own environment in his box. He lets you know it's his house."

Falbrav likes to guard his place on the stage as well. By the time the line arrived he was still two lengths to the good on what was almost certainly his last race in England. Hong Kong beckons at the end of the year and, before then, with money now splashing around as the winner of £250,000 as the BHB's Middle Distance champion, there may be a supplementary for the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.

The Irish St Leger is the next stopping-off point for Bollin Eric, the victor in yesterday's Lonsdale Stakes. Lady Westbrook, the colt's owner, was not there to welcome back her St Leger winner. "She's a little out of breath," said Sir Neil. It was hardly surprising.

Bollin Eric was simply too good for the opposition as Kevin Darley said: "Today, he was just different class," the jockey said. "He just had that little more speed where it mattered."

The Great Voltigeur witnessed the resumption of hegemony when Aidan O'Brien supplied the first two home in Powerscourt and Brian Boru, who now dominate the betting for next month's St Leger. Afterwards O'Brien admitted he had made something dangerously close to a cock-up when preparing the Ballydoyle horses in the early months.

"I made a few moves in the spring which we wouldn't do again," he said. "You do little things to try to improve the system. They didn't work and the horses paid the penalty. Little things can make big differences in horses. I'd say it backfired."

This was quite brave stuff with John Magnier hovering on the fringes. O'Brien, like Cumani, must have confidence about his dispensability.