Racing: Fallon's dream a nightmare for Frankie

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The Independent Online

How ever much you search for signs in this, the daddy of all the worldwide Derbys, it will always confound you. This had to be Dettori's date with destiny, didn't it, on Snow Ridge, the only runner with true Classic credentials, who started at joint favouritism? You could picture the famous leap from the saddle and the excitable words pouring from the Italian's mouth.

How ever much you search for signs in this, the daddy of all the worldwide Derbys, it will always confound you. This had to be Dettori's date with destiny, didn't it, on Snow Ridge, the only runner with true Classic credentials, who started at joint favouritism? You could picture the famous leap from the saddle and the excitable words pouring from the Italian's mouth.

Or, for that matter, what of the four sons of Sadler's Wells - Pukka, Let The Lion Roar, Meath and Percussionist - participating yesterday? The genes of that fine stallion provide stamina in abundance to his offspring, hence a record of two Derby winners, six seconds and a third before yesterday. How timely it would have been if the horse bred by the late Robert Sangster, who died in April, had sired the winner.

And yet you need look no further than the obvious. Yesterday's victor, North Light, had not only triumphed in York's Dante Stakes, probably the most reliable indicator of Derby potential, but the Sir Michael Stoute-Kieren Fallon combination understand all too well how to win this race. The trainer had achieved it three times previously, the jockey twice.

And though a succession of challenges were made in the final two furlongs there was never any doubt about how matters would be resolved virtually from the moment the field rounded Tattenham Corner. They simply could not worry this tough customer out of it. In all honesty, yesterday's result was received with no more enthusiasm in the media room than Kris Kin did last year in the same colours, the light blue of the Weinstock family. Neither Stoute nor Fallon has ever been appreciated for their production of a humorous or enlightening one-liner. God, how we wanted a Dettori win.

Yet few would not concur that the jockey, who is still under investigation by the Jockey Club following his failure to ride out a finish at Lingfield earlier this year, and the Barbadian-born trainer, who had his first runner in the Blue Riband event no fewer than 27 years ago, are masters of their profession.

Whether this renewal is comparable with some in the past - including Stoute's Shergar in 1981 - is debatable, though it would be foolish to be too derogatory, because the winner may just proceed to vindicate his exalted status against other generations. However, quality did not appear to abound, particularly with the departure of the Aidan O'Brien-trained pre-race favourite Yeats earlier in the week. Only six of the 14 starters wereGroup winners.

Before the race, undoubted class, albeit at a shorter distance, the one mile of the 2,000 Guineas, had been provided by Saeed Bin Suroor's Snow Ridge. But would his stamina hold out and provide Dettori with that elusive first Derby victory?

In the event, Snow Ridge appeared beautifully positioned to make a challenge midway in the straight, but as they approached the furlong post, it all petered out and the pair finished seventh. Ironically, the stable's second string, Rule of Law, partnered by the 23-year-old Australian Kerrin McEvoy, a Melbourne Cup-winning jockey, was a fast-finishing runner-up.

You begin to wonder if Dettori will ever secure the Flat game's big prize. Britain's best-loved Italian has suffered as many frustrations as the nation's favourite tennis player in his summer showpiece. Though the former has at least won numerous "Grand Slam" events - more than 100 Group or Grade One events around the world -the Derby has become an obsession. Never mind. He still has plenty of time. Lester Piggott, whose first of nine victories was on Never Say Die 50 years ago, contested the race no fewer than 36 times.

Even those of us who don't recall that success for Old Stoneface remember when there were crowds of a quarter of a million or more in the grandstands and across the Downs. That was when the race was held on a Wednesday and generally regarded as a Londoners' midweek bunk off work. Now it's a well-heeled lads' day out. Why does every hair-gelled male look like the clone of an England footballer; his partner a wannabe pop idol? There is even a pop concert taking place on the hill in case the poor things get bored with the racing.

Crowds will never return to the numbers of old; yet, the first and only authentic Derby - this was its 225th running - still engenders a reaction like no other. Still the bets pour on, despite some hyperbole from certain media outlets that the game is corrupt. In the current climate of suspicion that surrounds racing, it was a perturbing scene when Sid The Shark fell yards from the line in the opener with the race at his mercy.

Perhaps this was vindication for Ladbrokes' chief executive, Chris Bell, who - in a far-from-oblique assault recently on the betting exchanges, which have threatened the traditional bookmakers' profitability - had expressed the view that one race a day is "corrupted". He can rest easy. This was not the one. It was, thankfully, just the finale of the Sports Relief Mascot Derby, over one furlong and won by Sting, the London Wasps representative.

Three hours later, Stoute and Fallon inflicted a genuine sting with their joint favourite. This time, the bookmakers really did suffer.

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