The team at Jim Bolger's Glebe House training establishment could give lessons in how to handle a woman to Richard Burton himself. Not that Alexander Goldrun, easy winner of the Nassau Stakes here yesterday, is either a shrew or needs taming, of course, but, sticking with the lyrical analogies for the moment, she is strictly a female female. At home, at least; but she is also a proper nine-to-fiver, a lady who works for her living.
The little filly has now galloped more than 18 miles in anger in 20 outings in six different countries. Her latest victory, by a length and a quarter from Cassydora, with Red Bloom third, was her ninth, and her fourth at the top level. Kevin Manning has ridden her on all her public appearances and directed her with the confidence of familiarity, coming into the home straight with only one rival behind him.
A bump from Red Bloom as he began to engage top gear made not a jot of difference to Alexander Goldrun's serene progress on the outside of the field; she was in front two furlongs out, pricking her ears casually as Manning reminded her to keep going, and was not really hard pressed to stay in front. "It wasn't that strong a gallop, with the ground on the slow side," said the jockey, "but I was always happy. I knew I could go whenever I wanted."
The result might never have been doubt for the man who could feel the engine under him, but it was all a bit less comfortable for the watchers. "When he sits out the back like that it can wreck your nerves," said Lee Smith, who looks after the four-year-old at Bolger's Co Carlow base. "It's just as well we know he knows her well and they get on good."
Alexander Goldrun, who stands just 15.2 hands, can be a bit of a minx. "She's a real girly girl," said Smith. "But because she's so good, we let her have her way. When they've won three Group Ones, you do. Now she's won four, she'll get spoilt even more."
Due credit was given to the Glebe House apprentice David Moran, who rides Alexander Goldrun at home and keeps her level-headed. "She can cop a spider at 50 metres," said Bolger, "and you wouldn't want to be riding her out at home with your knees under your chin; she can drop her shoulder with the best of them.
"She has a good temperament, but as with all fillies there is a fine borderline. On big days like this, and hot weather and a big crowd, it can be a real test for them, but so far we've managed to stay on the right side of the line."
The previous Group One successes for Miriam O'Callaghan's doughty globetrotter came in the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp, the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin, and the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh all, like yesterday's race, over 10 furlongs.
Next on her agenda is a step up two furlongs in distance in the Prix Vermeille back in Paris in September. "It will be a scouting mission for the Arc for next year," said Bolger. "After that it will be the Opera again, and then we'll wait for the invitations from Hong Kong.
"It's not definite yet that she'll stay in training next year, but it is definite that I'll be looking for her in the yard."
Admirable though Alexander Goldrun is, though, it may be that the older distaffers will be running in the shadow of three-year-old queen Divine Proportions, who will be trying to take her unbeaten run to nine at Deauville this afternoon. The Pascal Bary-trained filly, already winner of the French Guineas and Oaks, will face nine rivals, including her pacemaker in the Niarchos colours, Yellow Purple, in the Prix d'Astarte, the first of the Group One contests of the French seaside season.
The inherent dangers of this sport have been well signposted in recent weeks, notably with the death of young Tom Halliday in a fall at Market Rasen. But less in the public eye were the terrible injuries suffered by the assistant trainer Chris Kinane when he was kicked in the head by an unruly horse in a parade ring. Yesterday Kieren Fallon narrowly escaped a similar fate, as his Stewards' Cup mount, Gift Horse, lashed out exuberantly, but nonetheless violently, his steel-shod back feet missing his rider by a hair's breadth as he waited for the leg-up.
The Dandy Nicholls-trained gelding may have felt he owed Fallon one, for a few minutes later he responded to the jockey's every call to come from an impossible position to land the £58,000 first prize, and a tremendous gamble, in the last strides. Backed from 14-1 ante-post to 9-2 second favourite, Gift Horse flew past Fonthill Road (10-1) to win by a neck, with Fantasy Believer (16-1) two lengths back in third. The long-time leader Merlin's Dancer came in fourth, followed by Out After Dark and the first home on the unfavoured stands side, One Putra. Lafi, the 4-1 favourite and stablemate of the winner, finished eighth.
Fallon, top jockey at the meeting, blessed his luck, twice. "That was the worst ride I have ever given a horse," he admitted. "I was back much too far, stuck behind horses. When I got out he absolutely flew, but a furlong out I still had no chance and it was only because he has so many gears that he got me out of jail.
"Before the race, it was lucky that Dandy had seen how fresh he was and had hold of his head, otherwise he would have given me both barrels."Reuse content