Racing: Market forces mean Motivator may have to prove himself again

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The Independent Online

Romantic consideration did not last long past the fortune cookies on Saturday night for Michael Bell, the trainer of that afternoon's Derby winner, Motivator.

Romantic consideration did not last long past the fortune cookies on Saturday night for Michael Bell, the trainer of that afternoon's Derby winner, Motivator.

It had been a commendably utilitarian response to the greatest professional moment of the 44-year-old's career. Bell took his staff to the local pub and then went with family and friends to the Chinese restaurant he can smell from his Newmarket yard, The Fountain.

The crackers, however, were confined to those of us who imagined this was a different Derby winner, one for the small man and not the financial machines of the racing industry. Bell had talked before and immediately after the Blue Riband about how the Irish Derby would be the natural next target for Motivator. That, it seems, has changed.

Someone must have had a word in Bell's ear because the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown has suddenly barged its way into consideration. That might seem odd, because Motivator thrillingly proved that 12 furlongs was within his compass at Epsom. What could matter in the future, though, is the stallion value of a colt who is only now reaching his brilliant racing potential. A Group One victory over 10 furlongs would be a paper benefit for breeders wanting to use the horse.

Quite how much Motivator will benefit his owners is as yet unknown. Some among the 230-strong membership of the Royal Ascot Racing Club may have thought they were owners of Motivator. They are not. He is the property of the Ascot Racing Authority.

With Simon Cowell and Ken Bates among the syndicate (and this was the first time a syndicate had won a British Classic) perhaps we should not be too predisposed towards sympathy for the RARC. Nevertheless, those who pay a joining fee of £6,000 and an annual subscription of £4,700 (plus VAT) might have thought they were on for an unexpected windfall with Motivator's emergence.

As it is, any financial benefit constructed by the horse will go towards offsetting future fees. It is not glamorous, but it is in the rules. With Motivator already valued at around £5m for breeding purposes, members can prepare themselves for four years free subs, even before prizemoney considerations. It is a good incentive to keep regular doctor's check-ups.

Motivator himself was not in need of urgent medical attention yesterday, though he did lose a shoe in the course of his Epsom escapade, probably post-race, and he was a bit footsore. While his next sortie is to be determined, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Newbury seems a given. The Derby winner is even money in a place to emulate his sire, Montjeu, the 2000 winner.

It was a good day for Montjeu, or his owners at least, as he was also the sire of runner-up Walk In The Park and was close to being represented by the French Derby victor when Hurricane Run was second to Shamardal yesterday. So while Gypsy King did not win for John Magnier at Epsom, the Ballydoyle/ Coolmore axis never seems to lose. The stud stands Montjeu and Shamardal's sire, Giant's Causeway.

This is racing's big bucks level, the level which Bell overcame on Saturday. "It's been 17 years waiting for this moment," he said. "It just proves you don't have to be a big battalion to produce the results when you have the right ammunition.

"The horse has looked a true champion at home and he looked a true champion in the race. I hoped he might do that. With no disrespect [to himself] if this horse had been trained by Aidan O'Brien he would have been an even-money shot.

"It was amazing. I was very relaxed because he was having a hack canter round. I was pretty convinced he was going to win from about four or five [furlongs] out.

"I'd watched the replays of previous Derbys and, when you see a horse like Shergar, you hope your own horse might be able to do something like that. When they do, it is unbelievable.

"Having done this we're in the shop window. This might open up the options but who cares if it doesn't. This is all to be enjoyed right now. The rest of the horse's career is to be enjoyed. We're very, very lucky and I'm blessed to have this horse."

The reverse could be applied. It was a posh scrum in the winners' enclosure on Saturday, a sort of Eton wall game for adults, but at no stage then or in the subsequent round of press interviews was Bell other than coolly gracious and accommodating. The trainer's sang-froid throughout the day evidenced how he had managed to get Motivator to Epsom so well primed.

Johnny Murtagh, too, did his job, even if Motivator's winning surge was so explosive that Johnny Vegas could have been the winning jockey. Most of all, Murtagh was another imperturbable part of the team.

In the post-Piggott era we are blessed with two Derby riding specialists, Murtagh and Kieren Fallon, who have both won the race three times. Irish jockeys have won the last seven Blue Ribands.

Murtagh can now look forward to an enriching season for the senses as well as the pocket, and, if the money men can be kept at bay and accord with Bell's wishes, we might even see the splendour of the unbeaten Motivator as a four-year-old.

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