Racing: George Washington quickens Classic march

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The Independent Online

Big John said, a few months ago as the menus were circulating, that big George, his talented young colt, would be a player in the 2,000 Guineas of next spring and events have proved since that his rarely dubious judgement has been most correct.

George Washington, the faster of the notable celebrities, justified long odds-on favouritism with an authoritative performance in the National Stakes at the Curragh yesterday.

The favourite for next year's 2,000 Guineas, trained by Aidan O'Brien, was sent off at 2-11 for the Group One contest and was settled towards the rear by Kieren Fallon in the early stages.

When asked to pick up just over a furlong out, the response was immediate and the son of Danehill swept through for a cosy two-length success from Golden Arrow.

George Washington's stablemate Amigoni set a blistering pace for the first half of the race, followed by Duff and Mick Channon's British raider, Hazeymm. For a moment at around the three-furlong marker it looked like Amigoni might cause an upset as he still seemed to be full of running, while Fallon started to ask George Washington a couple of questions. But the market leader picked up nicely, winning with a bit to spare and is now 3-1 (from 7-2) with Hills for the Guineas.

What was most meritorious about this success was the Oliver Goldsmith nature of victory. There was a pronounced stoop before the conquering. "This horse has got so much class, but he stumbled shortly after the start," Kieren Fallon, the winning jockey, said. "A horse came across us and he nearly pecked. He possibly has some of the kinks of his half-brother Grand-era, but they don't affect his performance. When he got there today he was just idling in front."

O'Brien added: "When he stumbled he had a lot of ground to make up. He got the seven furlongs no problem and it was very easy for him. It's just possible he might run again this season."

There is considerable fallout also from another contest at the Curragh, Saturday's Irish St Leger winner, from which Collier Hill will have a couple of days off before trainer Alan Swinbank starts to set the wheels in motion from his blue-collar Richmond stable for an assault on the Melbourne Cup in November.

The seven-year-old appears to have taken his victory in the Group One contest in his stride as he travelled back to his North Yorkshire base. "He's had a safe crossing back and he seems to have come out of the race well," Swinbank said.

"Hopefully the next stop will be Australia, as long as he's healthy. We will have a couple of quiet days and then look at getting quarantine and things sorted out."

A decision on whether Vinnie Roe bids to end his career by running in the same Antipodean contest is likely to be made at the end of the week. The seven-year-old was denied a fifth successive victory in the Irish Leger when third to Collier Hill after suffering a slight setback during his preparation for the Curragh Classic.

"He's come out of his race very well," Dermot Weld, the trainer, said. "He's perfectly sound in every way and we'll a decision about Melbourne at the end of the week. I feel the little hold-up I had two weeks previous with the haematoma, which meant he missed a few bits of work at the time, may just have told in the last 100 yards. That's my belief."

O'Brien is to wait at least a week before deciding plans for Yeats following his run in the Irish Leger. The four-year-old, winner of the Coronation Cup at Epsom in June, put behind him a poor display in France on his previous start when a staying-on fourth to Collier Hill.

"He's got a lot of options," O'Brien added yesterday. "Obviously there's the Melbourne Cup and the Canadian International. We'll see how he is in a week to 10 days' time before seeing where we go with him."

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Cape Royal (Leicester 3.05)

NB: King's Fantasy

(Folkestone 2.20)