Racing: Motivator the magnificent races to glory

The 226th Derby - Favourite pours on the style to leave his rivals breathless and give Murtagh his third triumph

All the pages of the storybook flipped over neatly to the fairytale ending as Motivator, the 3-1 favourite, produced an imperious performance to win the 226th Derby by five sizzling lengths. The jockey, Johnny Murtagh, almost missed the ride because of a ban, but was reprieved. The trainer, Michael Bell, was winning his first English Classic. And the latest Derby winner has more delirious owners than the rest of them put together, for he runs in the colours of the 230-strong Royal Ascot Racing Club.

All the pages of the storybook flipped over neatly to the fairytale ending as Motivator, the 3-1 favourite, produced an imperious performance to win the 226th Derby by five sizzling lengths. The jockey, Johnny Murtagh, almost missed the ride because of a ban, but was reprieved. The trainer, Michael Bell, was winning his first English Classic. And the latest Derby winner has more delirious owners than the rest of them put together, for he runs in the colours of the 230-strong Royal Ascot Racing Club.

Most of the members, who paid £6,000 apiece to join the up-market syndicate, were there to welcome their colt after his gallop into immortality. Victory, and the £725,000 first prize, was more than they could have dreamt, or dared to dream. These history-littered Surrey Downs had never seen such joyous bedlam. Yesterday was happy ever after.

Murtagh is making a hobby of collecting Blue Ribands; it was his third in six years after Sinndar in 2000 and High Chapparal three Junes ago. And it was, for those watching and for the Irishman himself, the easiest of the three. Motivator was never worse than fourth, came down the idiosyncratic descent to Tattenham Corner as if on rails, faced the long straight run to the finish with gears in hand and needed only one smack to detach himself effortlessly from his pursuers.

The French raider, Walk In The Park, swooped late from off the pace to deprive Dubawi - whose class had taken him into second place in pursuit of the winner but whose stamina ran out when the crunch came - of the runner-up spot by three lengths.

How good Motivator, now unbeaten in four runs, proves remains in the future, but Murtagh rates his Epsom performance better than those of his two previous victors. "If a Derby win can be easy, this one was," he said, "much easier than my other two. He jumped well from the stalls and as he has a lot of natural speed I was slightly concerned about the slowish pace through the first couple of furlongs. But then Seb [Sanders, on Hattan] and Pat [Smullen, on Almighty] went on and I sat in behind them.

"Coming down the hill I couldn't believe how easily I was going. Seb gave me a lovely lead into the straight and I was able to go past as soon as I wanted. At the two marker I gave him a smack. And you saw what happened.

"When he got to the front it all went quiet. I had a sneaky peek behind and I couldn't believe how far clear I was. But I was concentrating on keeping him going, making sure he didn't spook at the crowd. He is maturing, though, and ran home as straight as an arrow."

It was only on Wednesday that Murtagh knew he would be riding the colt. His place in the saddle, which he inherited when last year's rider Kieren Fallon joined the Coolmore operation, had been threatened by a rules infringement at a minor meeting, but an appeal against his careless riding ban went in his favour. "He's a very high-class horse," he added, "and there's a lot more to come." Five lengths is an impressive winning margin, one that has marked champions in the past. It was the equal of the romps by Generous and Nashwan and in fact only eight Derby winners, headed by 10-length hero Shergar, have bettered it.

Motivator, one of last year's top two-year-olds, has been handled impeccably by Newmarket-based Bell. The big bay is easily the best he has had through his hands in 17 years with a licence and was only his third Derby runner. One of his attentions to detail was to give the feisty colt a practice awayday here last month and it paid dividends; the son of the equally high-mettled Montjeu comported himself with admirable decorum.

"The build-up has been tense in places," Bell said, "and I've been smoking a bit more this past week. But I enjoyed the race. Johnny said beforehand he'd sit handy, and I wasn't too sure, but I left it to him, as he's the one who has won Derbys. Where he was, he was never going to meet traffic problems. And the acceleration the horse produced after his first-ever backhander is going to stand him in very good stead indeed. It's been a long wait, but to get the best out of a horse of this quality shows you haven't necessarily got to be one of the big batallions."

Fracas proved the best of the Irish in fourth place, a length behind Dubawi, Frankie Dettori's 13th fruitless ride in the race. Fallon's bid for three Derbys in a row failed on second favourite Gypsy King in fifth, ahead of gallant Hattan. Kong proved a donkey, not a king, last in a field reduced to 13 after outsider First Row was withdrawn lame at the start.

The race was a triumph for the young stallion Montjeu. His own sire Sadler's Wells did not get a Derby winner until his 16th crop; Montjeu has done it with his first batch of foals and, for good measure, Walk In The Park is another of his sons.

Winning the Derby while unbeaten is one thing; remaining unbeaten is quite another, a feat achieved by only nine Epsom heroes. Motivator has thrown down the gauntlet in the race that sets the standard. It will be picked up in Paris this afternoon at the first running of the French Derby over its controversial new shortened distance. The favourite is another undefeated Montjeu colt, the Andre Fabre-trained Hurricane Run.

Derby Details

1 Motivator (J Murtagh) 3-1 Fav

2 Walk In The Park (A Munro) 8-1

3 Dubawi (L Dettori) 5-1

4 Fracas (J P Spencer) 8-1

Winning trainer:

M Bell

Winning owner:

Royal Ascot Racing

Distances: 5, 3, 1

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