Shortly before the Derby, when he brought his subsequent Blue Riband runner-up Walk In The Park to Epsom for a test-drive, Chantilly-based trainer John Hammond opined that not only was Hurricane Run the best three-year-old he had seen in France, but the best he had seen in Europe. Since then, the perceived crack has been beaten in the French Derby but despite that, and his willingness to take him on in tomorrow's 140th Irish Derby, it seems that the word on Les Aigles is still run, don't walk.
"Obviously, Hurricane Run is a very good horse," said Hammond. "The Prix du Jockey-Club [French Derby] wasn't run to suit him at all. He is probably better over further, or at least in a race with plenty of pace. Under the circumstances he did very well to make up the ground he did."
The substance of the Chantilly Classic, run for the first time over its controversially truncated distance of 10 and a half furlongs, was that Hurricane Run lost his unbeaten record by a neck to Shamardal. The style was that the winner, a top-class miler, benefited from a superb ride in a slowly run contest with a typical French sprint finish and the runner-up, asked to gallop in anger for the first time in his life, ran in gusts before living up to his name in the final charge to the line.
His trainer, André Fabre, has had two previous runners in the immensely valuable Curragh showpiece. His first, Winged Love 10 years ago, won and his second, Loup Sauvage in 1997, finished third. Hurricane Run is already rated more highly than either and while, with proper Gallic gallantry, Fabre returned his neighbour's compliments, he expects his latest venturer, on whom Kieren Fallon replaces Christophe Soumillon, to return to 14, Avenue de Bourbon triumphant.
"He's in very good shape," he said yesterday. "He is a horse I like very much, and he will improve for his last run. And what is more important, the distance and the course in Ireland will suit him better. I do not think of dangers, I am concerned only about my horses. But I know my friend John Hammond has a good horse in the race."
Seven French-trained horses have won Ireland's greatest prize. The latest, six years ago, was Hammond-trained Montjeu, sire of both Hurricane Run and Walk In The Park. And the two bay colts, the first and second favourites, have a further factor in common. Both compete under the Coolmore banner; Walk In The Park, a 270,000-guinea auction purchase last year by Michael Tabor, always has done, but Hurricane Run was only recently acquired by the Co Tipperary set, privately and presumably for a great deal more, though he will still carry the colours of his German breeders. It seems inconceivable that John Magnier could get it so wrong as to buy a son of his empire's young sire sensation if he thought he already had a better one at his disposal.
Since Montjeu, local hegemony on the Curragh plain has been complete, courtesy of the big three Irish yards. But for once, Messrs O'Brien, Oxx and Weld are reduced to bit players, although, with a purse of 1.3m euro on offer, the place money they are scrapping for is considerable.
Derby fifth Gypsy King is the Ballydoyle No 1; however, with a strong, even gallop essential for the new Coolmore investment, it would be no surprise to see him and stablemate Scorpion, second-last in the French Derby, deployed up front for the greater good.
The last British raider to score was the filly Balanchine, for Godolphin, 11 years ago. This time Sheikh Mohammed's interests lie in Clive Brittain-trained Bahar Shumaal, a twice-raced son of his beloved, ill-fated Dubai Millennium who will have to finish no worse than third to cover the cost of his 100,000 euro supplementary entry fee.
After the Irish Derby, open competition looms for the Classic generation. And some of the best older horses will be testing their mettle an hour earlier in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. The 10 runners in Paris include last year's Arc winner, Bago, Coronation Cup winner Yeats and the sole British raider, his immediate Epsom victim Alkaased.
Today's Group One feature is in Ireland. The Pretty Polly Stakes is the first clash of the generations for élite fillies and it must be considered significant that All Too Beautiful (3.40), hugely valuable as a winning sister to Galileo, has been risked as a four-year-old.
In Britain, the most mind-focussing event is the Northumberland Plate, in which the all-weather winner Odiham (3.15) can continue his progress.
In the Group Three sprint Soldier's Tale (2.10) can justify the decision to pull him out of York last week, as can another who swerved the Knavesmire, Arakan (3.30) at Newmarket. On the same July course card MUSICANNA (4.35, nap) can start her season in style.
Nap: Patavellian (Newcastle 2.10)
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