Jim Bolger has been so taken aback by the progress made by Galatee this spring that her owners forked out £20,000 to supplement her to the Vodafone Oaks at Epsom tomorrow. Yesterday the unbeaten filly gave him a rather less pleasant surprise.
At 10 am, Galatee was one of 11 final declarations for the Classic and Coral made her 100-30 joint favourite with the other Irish filly, Alexandrova. By teatime, she was out of the race.
In the hours between, while the filly stood innocently in her stable, a precautionary blood test suggested some kind of infection. "Unfortunately Galatee will not be travelling to England, as she has an elevated white cell blood count," Bolger said. "She won't be doing anything for a week and then we'll have a look at the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot."
Some trainers would not use the data sheets returned on a blood test to blow their own noses, but others are more fastidious. Bolger must have consumed his luck too hastily in the Oaks: from just three runners, he saddled Jet Ski Lady to win in 1991 at 50-1 and Pictavia to finish third last year.
Nor was Galatee the only Oaks gamble to bite the dust, as Scottish Stage was not among those declared. Sir Michael Stoute, suspecting that she would benefit from the extra time before the French version on Sunday week, will still be represented by Riyalma and Short Skirt.
Bolger was not necessarily the author of the most intemperate language used by a trainer yesterday. Barry Hills has been cherishing the possibility that Olympian Odyssey might finally end the long torment he has suffered in the Vodafone Derby itself, but it now seems that the colt's owner, Bill Gredley, will insist that he be switched to the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday.
Hills has saddled four Derby seconds and rates Olympian Odyssey far better than two of them. But Gredley fears that the colt, third in the 2,000 Guineas over a mile, would not stay the extra four furlongs at Epsom and favours the intermediate distance in France. Unless he relents before declarations are made this morning, Gredley will also have pulled the carpet from under the feet of Jamie Spencer. The champion jockey now finds himself without a Derby mount, all other vacancies having apparently been filled. Formal confirmation that Kieren Fallon will ride Horatio Nelson was scarcely necessary yesterday, following the avalanche of bets after he worked the colt the previous morning. Michael Kinane takes over on Septimus, winner of the Dante Stakes, while Johnny Murtagh seeks his fourth Derby on Dylan Thomas. The fourth Ballydoyle runner, Mountain, will probably be entrusted to Seamus Heffernan. Fallon's retainer for the Coolmore partners would also have permitted him to ride their fifth candidate, Papal Bull, who is trained by Stoute. The Chester Vase winner instead becomes a first Derby ride for Robert Winston.
Two hoary Derby commandments are meanwhile going to be breached by one of the most esteemed trainers in the land. It is said that you cannot win after an interrupted preparation, and also that experience tends to be vital, yet Michael Jarvis was last night obtaining permission to run Hala Bek. The Halling colt showed such exuberant talent winning a Newbury maiden in April that he was made favourite for the Dante Stakes at York, only to miss that race after mucus was found in his lungs. Jarvis does not run horses out of their depth and his judgement commands great respect.
Though he won an Arc in 1989, it took another decade before Newmarket properly grasped the merits of its longest serving trainer. Jarvis won a first Classic in 2001, the 1,000 Guineas with Ameerat, and last year added the Oaks with Eswarah; in the interim, he coaxed the best from the volatile Rakti.
"I should think you could count my Derby runners on one hand," he said. "But Hala Bek worked nicely this morning, and we'll be asking the owner for the all-clear. Inexperience is not insurmountable.
"Some horses are slow learners, but Shaamit and Lammtarra showed what can be done by an adaptable, professional horse in the Derby. "As it turned out, I wouldn't have wanted to run him on the ground they had for the Dante. But I would have liked to run him somewhere."
NB: Blue Bajan
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