With the Derby now run on a Saturday, there is barely time to gasp at the winner before a deep breath is required for the next attraction on the summer circus billboard, Royal Ascot. Motivator has set the middle-distance standard for his generation, but next week at York there are three top-level races involving more seasoned superstars, notably the Queen Anne Stakes on the meeting's opening card a week today.
Before Saturday's eye-popping display at Epsom, the horse who had stamped his personality and talent most imperiously this year had been Rakti, with his five-length blitz in the Lockinge Stakes. The versatile six-year-old won the 10-furlong Prince of Wales's Stakes at the meeting's traditional home last year, but it was confirmed yesterday that miling is to be his game, for his next two runs, anyway.
"He's going for the Queen Anne," said trainer Michael Jarvis, "and we'll keep him over a mile for the time being, although what happens later in the year may be different. But after Ascot there's the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood."
Rakti, the first of whose six Group 1 wins came over 12 furlongs, in the Italian Derby before he joined Jarvis, is fighting fit after his Newbury endeavours. "He's in very good form," added the Newmarket handler, "in fact, he came out of the Lockinge in better shape than he's been after any race since he's been with me. He's usually a bit stiff and sore after his races but he's been absolutely fine this time."
The élite sprints at next week's £3,255,000 extravaganza, the King's Stand Stakes today week and the Golden Jubilee Stakes four days later, this year are the two European legs of the inaugural three-continent Global Sprint Challenge. But one bold international venture has sadly foundered, with the news yesterday that top Australian sprinter Fastnet Rock will not fulfil his dates on the Knavesmire. The four-year-old made it to England - he is currently lodging at Geoff Wragg's overflow yard in Newmarket - but has failed to acclimatise.
His trainer Paul Perry was responsible for the flying phenomenon from Down Under of two seasons ago, the bull-like Choisir, who became the first to pull off the Royal Ascot double since Diadem in 1920, and the New South Wales conditioner's latest globegalloper had been vying for favouritism for both of next week's races. But Fastnet Rock is a horse of less rugged constitution, has been poorly since his arrival in this country and his connections have finally accepted the inevitable.
"He won't be going to the Royal meeting," said Perry's son and assistant Shannon yesterday. "It is disappointing, but he's still suffering from travel sickness and I can't train him properly." The son of Danehill also holds the entry in next month's July Cup at Newmarket, but may not even be well enough to display his talents there. "We will monitor him in the next seven to 10 days and hope that he improves to get him to the July Cup," added Perry junior. "But if he doesn't then we will have to call it all off. The horse's health comes first."
Two days after the Derby, plans are still fluid for the protagonists, both principals and also-rans. But there have been hints that Motivator may go for the first middle-distance clash of the generations, the Eclipse Stakes early next month, rather than sticking to his own generation in the Irish Derby a week earlier until taking on all-comers in the King George.
The Sandown race sponsors, Coral, make the Derby hero 2-5 in a match-bet to beat Shamardal, who took the Prix du Jockey-Club, the French equivalent, on Sunday. Motivator had his Derby won at 10 furlongs as well as 12, and victory in the Eclipse would put him in the company of only Nashwan (1989), Mill Reef (1971), Tulyar (1952), Blue Peter (1939), Coronach (1926), Lemberg (1910), Diamond Jubilee (1900) and Flying Fox (1899). The last Epsom winner to try his luck was Benny The Dip, who finished second in 1997.
Should the two star three-year-olds turn up at Sandown, the Irish Derby, these days normally a powerful counter-attraction, will be reduced to something of a consolation prize, with both the French-trained Epsom and Chantilly runners-up, Walk In The Park and Hurricane Run, heading that way.
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