Racing: Motivator leaves a glow for the winter

Bell's sparkling two-year-old gives Fallon a vision of Epsom in June as the campaign heads to a gloomy close

End of term in some spheres means ragging sir and miss; here it means greyness, dampness, yellowing leaves hanging dispiritedly from dripping branches, mud-splattered silks and a two-year-old colt galloping through fading daylight to the sharp end of the Derby market. Recent custom has decreed that it has been one of Aidan O'Brien's charges to earn that privilege with victory in the Racing Post Trophy; yesterday the Ballydoyle inmate, Albert Hall, had to settle for second place as Motivator lit up the gloom with a performance full of bright promise.

End of term in some spheres means ragging sir and miss; here it means greyness, dampness, yellowing leaves hanging dispiritedly from dripping branches, mud-splattered silks and a two-year-old colt galloping through fading daylight to the sharp end of the Derby market. Recent custom has decreed that it has been one of Aidan O'Brien's charges to earn that privilege with victory in the Racing Post Trophy; yesterday the Ballydoyle inmate, Albert Hall, had to settle for second place as Motivator lit up the gloom with a performance full of bright promise.

The good-looking bay, coming to the Group One mile contest from just a win in a maiden, could be called the winner some way from the line as the field of eight youngsters progressed down the long, uncompromising, Town Moor straight. Kieren Fallon sent him to the front more than a quarter of a mile out, and though Henrik hung on to his coat-tails for a while, it was only on sufferance. Inside the final furlong Motivator drew smoothly clear and, with Fallon easing down, had two and a half lengths to spare over the staying-on Albert Hall at the line.

Notwithstanding that it was a sixth top-level winner for Fallon in a season that has included Classic wins on North Light and Ouija Board, the beleaguered Irishman's year has not been one he will remember with fondness either on or off the track, having lost his jockeys' title to Frankie Dettori and endured a variety of accusations over his professional and private behaviour. But thoughts of Motivator will surely keep him focused through the months ahead. "He is the business," he said. "He travels for fun, he's easy to ride, he's balanced, he'll go on any track. A Derby horse if ever there was one."

Motivator was a first domestic Group One winner for Michael Bell, who trains the son of Montjeu for the 230 members of the Royal Ascot Racing Club. "This is a very, very serious horse," he said. "We've known at home he's got all the gears and it was a pleasure to see him get the chance to show them off today. He's a little electric at home, but I think you want a bit of that in a top-class performer."

Yesterday's sparky performance came only a week after another of the ilk, that of Shamardal in the other of the domestic season's main Classic pointers, the Dewhurst Stakes. The pair share second place in most lists for the 2005 Derby, behind Dubawi. But whereas Dubawi already runs for Godolphin, and Shamardal, owned by Sheikh Maktoum, ultimately may well do, Motivator, who cost just 75,000 guineas as a yearling, will not be able to be headhunted, at any price.

Though Albert Hall was unable to give O'Brien his fifth Racing Post Trophy, and his third in four years after High Chaparral and Brian Boru, the master of Ballydoyle was by no means disheartened by the Danehill colt's display. Patently unsuited by the testing ground, Albert Hall floundered under pressure as Motivator quickened away, but once he regained his equilibrium he finished to some effect. "He's still raw," said O'Brien. "He's been slow to learn, but he is getting there. He just hated the mud, but his class saw him through."

The Racing Post Trophy has an honourable history in star-spotting, and victory in it is not essential. In 43 previous runnings the winners, apart from the pair already mentioned, include Noblesse, Ribocco, Vaguely Noble, High Top, Reference Point, King's Theatre and Celtic Swing, but among the vanquished have been most notably Shergar (second to Beldale Flutter in 1980) but also horses of the calibre of Benny The Dip, Snow Knight, Ile De Bourbon, Holding Court and Grandera.

That the stars of the jump season are beginning to file into assembly was apparent yesterday at Kempton, where Rigmarole laid down the first hurdles marker of the new semester with his second successive victory in the two-mile feature. Brought wide into the straight as Ruby Walsh sought the best ground, he and three others rose at the penultimate flight as one, but only Trouble at Bay, one of last year's top juveniles, could go with him thereafter, before being brushed aside on the run-in.

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