Racing: North Light leaves Dettori in the shade

The 225th Derby: Stoute and his champion jockey prove unbeatable again round Epsom's spectacular switchback
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The Independent Online

Rewind 12 months but not quite to an action replay. Kieren Fallon won his second successive Derby, and his third in six years, here yesterday on North Light. But unlike his victory last year on Kris Kin, there was no daring rails run nor a lightning swoop to conquer.

Rewind 12 months but not quite to an action replay. Kieren Fallon won his second successive Derby, and his third in six years, here yesterday on North Light. But unlike his victory last year on Kris Kin, there was no daring rails run nor a lightning swoop to conquer.

Instead, the Irishman, the punters' darling, showed the expertise and judgement of pace that has brought him six titles in a different, but equally effective, manner. On a colt bred to relish every yard of the mile and a half test, he took the race to his rivals and dared them to pass. Once he hit the front at the top of the home straight on the 7-2 joint favourite, none did.

Rule Of Law, the Godolphin second string ridden by the Australian Derby rookie Kerrin McEvoy, came closest, a fast-finishing length and a half second. He deprived Let The Lion Roar by a head, with Percussionist fourth, Salford City fifth and American Post sixth. Frankie Dettori, now without a Derby victory in a total of 12 attempts, came in seventh on the other joint favourite Snow Ridge.

Fallon apart, the winner has a thorough-going Epsom background. His was a fourth Blue Riband success for trainer Sir Michael Stoute, after Shergar, Shahrastani and Kris Kin, and a second for the pale blue colours of the Weinstock family, after Troy 25 years ago. Lord Weinstock, who bred North Light, died last year.

It was also a second Epsom Classic for Fallon in two days, having won the Oaks on Ouija Board on Friday, and he became the first jockey to achieve back-to-back Derby victories since Willie Carson on Troy (1979) and Henbit (1980). His persona may have its dubious elements - he is renowned as the bad boy of racing and has charges of bringing the sport into disrepute hanging over him - but his talent is undeniable.

Stoute and Fallon knew their protagonist's strong suit and as Meath, for Ireland, led from the stalls, North Light set sail after him with American Post, the French raider, and Hazyview in pursuit. As the 14-strong field began the descent towards Tattenham Corner, it was clear that Fallon was dictating matters from what the Americans call the catbird seat.

Once he engaged top gear and set sail in the straight it was just as clear that the rangy bay colt had the race in his mighty, raking stride. "I knew stamina was the ace I had in my pack to play," said Fallon. "I knew that if I could get them on the stretch his staying power would give him the base on which to grind them into the ground. His energy and stamina felt limitless. I'm very lucky really. There's a lot of luck involved for something like this to happen and it's fantastic."

The fate of yesterday's joint favourites was steeped in irony. Both North Light, a son of Danehill and the high-class staying mare Sought Out, and Snow Ridge, were bred by the Weinstock's Ballymacoll stud operation in Ireland. They were foaled in the same box (also, incidentally, the one where Arkle first saw the light of day). But unfortunately for him, when Sheikh Mohammed went head hunting for recruits for Godolphin last autumn, he chose the wrong one.

Stoute, while delighted to win two Derbys in a row, deflected any suggestions that he was a genius at his profession. "This is just a lovely horse to have in the yard, and a lovely horse to train, and the real credit must go to those who produced him and sent him to me," he said.

"To have bred two horses who started joint favourites for the Derby, and for one of them to have one, is remarkable. It is such a shame that Lord Weinstock could not be here. He would have been so proud of what happened. Kieren and I discussed the race beforehand but we didn't have any particular plan. We just wanted to let the horse flow and be positive. We were concerned that it might be a rather muddling race as it seemed short of obvious front-runners and we were anxious to make use of his tremendous stamina."

Whether or not North Light proves to be a great, a good or an indifferent Derby winner will be judged only in retrospect. But for now his are the colours nailed to the mast and he is likely to defend them firstly against his own generation, in the Irish Derby later this month. "This was only the fourth run of his life, " said Stoute. "And we have yet to make any definite plans but I think it is pretty likely that we will go to the Curragh."

The result of the 225th Derby was a confirmation of the 1-2-3 in the Dante Stakes at York last month, the most reliable trial. The connections of both the placed horses yesterday plan to take North Light on again in the Irish Derby. McEvoy, who came from last on Rule Of Law, said: "He was a bit reluctant going up the hill but once he hit the straight he ran on really well. When I got past Johnny [Murtagh, on Salford City] in the straight and could see North Light I thought we had a chance if the leader would come back to us. Mine showed great courage but typical Kieren, he kept running all the way to the line."

Dettori could have ridden Rule Of Law but not for the first time he was on the wrong bearer of the blue silks. "He felt brilliant going to post and I gave him time to warm up but when I asked he went for only 100 yards. As I started dropping back, I wanted to jump on Rule Of Law as he went past in the last furlong."


1 North Light (K Fallon) 7-2 jt fav

2 Rule Of Law (K McEvoy) 20-1

3 Let The Lion Roar (M Kinane) 14-1

4 Percussionist (K Darley) 7-1

Winning trainer: Michael Stoute

Wining owner: Ballymacoll Stud

Winning distances: 1 1/ 2, hd, hd

Favs: North Light, Snow Ridge