Racing: Kris Kin's quiet progress sounds new era for Stoute

The Derby: Britain's master trainer defies international rivals to add a third Blue Riband success to victories of Shergar and Shahrastani
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The Independent Online

For all of us who have striven down the years to get a word of sense, or even a word at all, out of Sir Michael Stoute, it was a delicious irony. Stoute, the keeper of secrets, the news clam, the man who could deny the Spanish Inquisition, had himself been the victim of an information blackout.

Yet he did not mind at all. When Kris Kin scooted across the line first in the 224th Derby on Saturday he proved that even the greatest of trainers can still get hoodwinked by the simple animals at their disposal.

It would be fair to describe the neat little chestnut as just a piece of meat on the Newmarket gallops. The colt has quite easily managed to camouflage his combative characteristics. In Stoute's 30-plus years with a licence, he has entertained just one other athlete as similarly indolent in Shardari.

Such was Kris Kin's sloth that the payments to keep him in the Derby ceased last autumn. By the time it came to the Dee Stakes at Chester last month, it was clear that horse was nothing more than a member of the corps de ballet at Freemason Lodge.

Kris Kin was the 20-1 outsider of four in the Group Three race, a price we do not recognise for Stoute horses. Fallon had ridden him in work the week before and was so impressed that he got off to ride Big Bad Bob. The Irishman led into the straight on John Dunlop's colt at the Roodeye, but then felt a chill as Kris Kin quickened past. Suddenly it was time to part with more money, £90,000 in fact, to get back into the Blue Riband.

Indeed, Monday's final supplementary stage received great vindication on the Surrey Downs. Kris Kin apart, there was a return for the other two latecomers in fourth-placed Norse Dancer and Dutch Gold, who was sixth.

Kris Kin's rapid ascent has been testimony to how swiftly fortunes change in racing. His rider, too, can testify to that. As Saeed Suhail, a Dubaian property businessman, slapped his horse and kissed Fallon, it became difficult to remember that their relationship was terminated just over a year ago following the jockey's ride on Suhail's Gallant Boy at Goodwood. Three months passed before a rapprochement.

Then, six months ago, came the news that Kieren Fallon was languishing in a Co Tipperary clinic, a man drinking too much. Alcohol was damaging his performance on horses. It was also hurting his relationship with human beings, most hurtfully those closest to him.

After 30 days in the Aiseiri centre, though, Fallon emerged into the sunlight, a new man with a new purpose. His display on Kris Kin was referred to by Stoute as one of the greatest of Derby rides. Jockey and horse were faultless.

There was no more inexperienced runner in the Derby than Kris Kin and it showed. The colt was pushed and pulled around by Fallon for most of the journey, showing palpable immaturity along the way. At the top of the hill and the confluence of the low and high-drawn horses there was a collision. Kris Kin was in the mêlée, but he did not shrivel. He inflated and came back for more.

The Great Gatsby and Pat Eddery were at the head of the parade, and they were not for stopping. Even so it was a vulnerable partnership out there on the prairie. Following his slalom through the field, Kris Kin completed the job. His head was low and purposeful once he got to the lead and his athletic body was going clear at the line. "All horses improve from the Derby," John Oxx, the trainer of third-placed Alamshar, said. And the one that appears likely to improve most is the one which finished first.

It was, as Stoute said, about time he won another Derby. There had been 17 losers since Shahrastani's victory in 1986, five years after Shergar's initial success, and it was coming.

Stoute has seen off all the domestic opposition to become the only viable alternative to Ballydoyle and Godolphin. He is a master of his art, but do not tell him. Keep it secret.

There were, of course, the accompanying Epsom sad stories, largely involving Ballydoyle's Brian Boru and the favourite, Refuse To Bend. "Obviously he's a miler," Dermot Weld, the latter's trainer, said yesterday. "He didn't come down the hill and Pat Smullen, who had him perfectly positioned, was not hard on him.

"The horse will have a break to freshen him up for a campaign over a mile that will take in the Prix Jacques le Marois [17 August], the Prix du Moulin [7 September] and the Breeders' Cup Mile [25 October]."

It may not, though, be as simple as that. Refuse To Bend was never travelling with any purpose. There appeared to be something wrong with him. Brian Boru was 16th and badly beaten, a sprawling mess down the hill and embarrassed in the straight as many horses ran right by him. "It was too bad to be true," Aidan O'Brien, his trainer, said yesterday. "In an ideal world he could have had a better preparation. Michael [Kinane] said it was a big shock for the horse with the track and everything else on the day."

The Great Gatsby looks to be Ballydoyle's Irish Derby horse, a race which may also feature Alamshar, while O'Brien reported that Balestrini would go down to 10 furlongs and Alberto Giacometti would drop back "even further". For Kris Kin, the only way is up.

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