Racing: Moore the minnow swims with sharks
Satulagi carries the flag for the small brigade
Sunday 29 October 2006
The focus at the Breeders' Cup meeting is understandably on the big fish, particularly the Ballydoyle operation and the Maktoum brothers and the clash between their super-stars George Washington and Bernardini. But don't forget the minnow among piranhas.
Stan Moore, sometime journeyman jump jockey and hitherto unheralded trainer, is joining Saturday's £20 million party. From his days on £2 a week as a downtrodden apprentice in Ireland it has been a long road and, he admits, an unlikely destination. "You always hope," he said, "but never in a zillion years did I think something like this would happen."
The 45-year-old Ulsterman has charge of Satulagi, a rare European challenger for the Juvenile Fillies' contest. The talented two-year-old is owned by a Dubai-based Scot, Jim Hay, who made his fortune in the construction industry and last year invested in the famous Uplands stables in Lambourn, from where multiple champion jumps trainer Fred Winter once sent out legends such as Bula, Crisp, and Pendil.
Moore moved in as the trainer in January, an opportunity embraced with relish and repaid with success. This season has proved his best, and he is adamant that this week's venture to Churchill Downs with Satulagi, fourth in the Group One Fillies' Mile at Ascot on the latest of her nine runs, is not a tilt at a windmill.
"She is a real battle-hardened filly," he said. "She'll stay the mile easily and goes on fast ground. It is a big ask, but she won't be disgraced.
"Her form is rock-solid, and at Ascot she was on ground much softer than ideal. But the great thing about her is her mind. Nothing gets to her and she's as tough in her attitude as they come. When you get a filly like that, they're diamonds."
Satulagi, a bargain $70,000 (£37,000) yearling, was the first horse Moore bought at an American sale. Coincidentally, her sire Officer and grandsire Bertrando both ran in the only two Breeders' Cup Juveniles to have been won by European challengers. Officer was fifth, as favourite, to Johannesburg in 2001, and Bertrando second to Arazi 10 years earlier.
The filly, who carries the colours of Hay's Indonesian-born wife, Fitri, will fly out to Kentucky today with the rest of the British contingent. "We'll do some work to get her used to the conditions during the week, spin her round a bend and get her used to jumping from the stalls with the bell," said Moore. "She should handle the surface OK, though; she's been placed at Lingfield and her sire was a good dirt horse."
Satulagi, whose name means "one more" in Indo-nesian, will be ridden by John Egan, also making his Breeders' Cup debut. "People have wondered perhaps why we haven't booked a local rider," said Moore, "but John knows her and he's hacked it with the best all over the world."
Moore, from Dromore in Co Down, began his racing life with Paddy Prendergast. "That was some tough station," he added. "I'm not sure many lads around today would survive it, but I suppose it's served me well. It shows you can get on in life without a silver spoon."
The Juvenile Fillies' with a purse of $2m (£1.54m) is the opening contest on the eight-race card. The European challenge for the Breeder's Cup is 16-strong, but playing away is hard and the team (Ryder Cup-style, the British, Irish and French start bonding against the Americans) have notched just 29 victories in 161 races. Most European success has, unsurprisingly, come in the three races run on grass: the Mile, the Turf and the Filly & Mare Turf. The Mile has provided nine wins for the raiders and this year sees their strongest numerical representation, with seven: Araafa, Librettist, Echo Of Light, Rob Roy, Sleeping Indian, Aussie Rules and Ad Valorem.
Twelve successes have come in the 12-furlong Turf, including six of the past seven. Hurricane Run, Scorpion and Red Rocks bid to extend the sequence, and in the female equivalent, which has gone to Europe in three of its five runnings, Ouija Board will be trying to repeat her win of two years ago.
But the race of the meeting is the finale, the $5m Classic, and the face-off between the pride of Ballydoyle, George Washington, and Sheikh Mohammed's US phenomenon, Bernardini, going for a seven-timer and backed up by two more top-notchers, Invasor and Lava Man. The 10-furlong dirt contest has been prised away from the locals only once in 22 years, by Arcangues in 1993.
EUROPE'S BEST HOPES
It is the boldest of calls to switch the supremely talented but devilishly enigmatic three-year-old from the penalty-kick of the Mile. Another from Ballydoyle, Giant's Causeway, hit the bar in the Classic; it will be a sensation if this one can put one in the net.
Britain's globetrotting darling, trained by Ed Dunlop, has raced in seven countries, won in three and is coming to the end of her distinguished career. Won the Filly & Mare Turf two years ago in Texas and finished second last year in New York.
Last year's St Leger winner, a Turf contender, suffered an injury during the winter but made a splendid comeback on his seasonal debut at the Curragh three weeks ago. Aidan O'Brien's charge ran out of puff only at the end on ground far too soft.
ECHO OF LIGHT
Patience has been the watchword with the four-year-old, Sheikh Mohammed's favourite from the sole crop of ill-fated Dubai Millennium. On an upward curve, three from four this year, including on dirt at Lingfield.
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