Racing: Irish Derby win shows Grey Swallow is a champion

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One swallow yesterday ensured it would be a most interesting summer as the movement to find Europe's best Classic horse of the season took another twist at the Curragh yesterday.

Dermot Weld's Grey Swallow defeated the Epsom Derby winner North Light on the plains of Co Kildare to stake his claim to be the luminary among the three-year-old generation. At around the same time, Bago, the crack French colt, added to his accomplishments in the Grand Prix De Paris. The ball is still spinning towards the winning slot.

Grey Swallow, a 10-1 shot, was shuffled gently into the pack by Pat Smullen at the Curragh yesterday as the jockey attempted to conserve the colt's supposed stamina frailties. It was the grey's first foray at a mile and a half after placed efforts in the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas and its Irish equivalent.

Up front, Moscow Ballet, one of five runners from Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle stronghold, set the pace. Rule Of Law, the Epsom Derby runner-up for Godolphin, sat second, while Kieren Fallon kept 8-11 favourite North Light handy in about fourth place throughout the early exchanges. The pace, or lack of it, increasingly disturbed the Irishman to the point where he moved purposefully round the outside about six furlongs from home. As the leading duo began to fade, North Light was in front probably farther out than he needed to be. Smullen was biding his time and struck with a furlong to go. North Light stayed on, but Grey Swallow was the horse with the acceleration and swooped as his name might suggest inside the final furlong.

At the line, Grey Swallow was half a length clear, with Tycoon, one of the supposed water- bearers from Ballydoyle, third at 150-1. Rule Of Law (fourth) once again beat home the Epsom third, Let The Lion Roar, who was fifth.

"I've always believed in this horse," Weld said. "There were doubts about him staying a mile and a half, but he worked superbly the other day and I knew I had him in good form. This was a very good Derby and an extra special win as he was bred by my mother, who also owns part of him."

Smullen added: "I can't believe it. We had so much faith in this horse in the English and Irish Guineas, but obviously all he wanted was a little bit further. He's a champion. Words can't describe this. I've had an up and down year so far, but winning races like this is what it's all about. For the boss as well, and all the boys at home. It's unbelievable." There were no contrived excuses for North Light. The son of Danehill is a simple, uncomplicated horse and may, in fact, be too ordinary. There was no glitter which sparkles on champion racehorses to identify him yesterday. But then this was not a race in which the travelling British hordes have a great record. Sir Michael Stoute, the trainer of the Blue Riband winner, may have sent out Shergar and Shahrastani to follow up here in the aftermath of a victorious Epsom, but they were exceptions to the rule.

"He ran a big race," the Newmarket trainer said. "He's only been beaten half a length and you can't be too disappointed. He ran right to the line. Kieren didn't say too much afterwards but I will talk to him on the plane home and we will see where we go from here. I've got no excuses today."

Bago maintained his unbeaten record with victory in the Bois de Boulogne and remains a rather tempting 8-1 shot for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the autumn. The Jonathan Pease-trained colt, who was the top-rated European juvenile last year, has yet to be defeated in six starts. He was sent off the 2-9 favourite for the 10-furlong event.

Thierry Gillet settled Bago at the back of the four-runner field with John Gosden's British raider Privy Seal making the early running, followed by Cacique and Alnitak.

Turning for home Gary Stevens made his move on Cacique and Gillet had to get to work on Bago as his rival stole a couple of lengths advantage. However, coming into the final half-furlong, Bago was flying on the outside and he caught Cacique near the line.