Hardly a fair fight, you would think. In one corner, Aidan O'Brien, whose team of two-year-olds numbers three figures, who has sent out 35 winners in that age group, including five at Group One level, and has the first two favourites in the ante-post lists for next year's 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Derby and Oaks. In the other, Vince Smith, whose team of two-year-olds does not number two figures. And er, that's it.
Until yesterday. Happily, horses have no hang-ups about who trains them or what they cost, and at Salisbury the Smith representative, Blitzkrieg, relegated the two Ballydoyle raiders, Dylan Thomas and Arabian Prince, to second and third places in one of the afternoon's juvenile features, the Autumn Stakes. The winner, enterprisingly ridden by Seb Sanders, started at 20-1; the runner-up, with Johnny Murtagh experiencing a slightly frustrating time in the saddle, was the well-backed 13-8 favourite.
The Group Three mile contest, with a £23,200 first prize, was the most notable success of Smith's fledgling career; it was also only his eighth success of the season. "It has not been a great year," Smith admitted, "but this is fantastic. I have always thought an awful lot of the horse, and never had any doubts about taking on the big boys."
Smith, based at Exning, near Newmarket, took out a licence at the start of last year after a journeyman jockey's career that yielded more than 200 winners at home and abroad and the rare-enough accolade of being Jersey's champion jockey seven times. His training apprenticeship included seven winters in Dubai, including two with Godolphin, during which time he regularly partnered Lammtarra behind the scenes. "I never rode a Group race winner," he said. "The nearest I came was winning the Norwegian 2,000 Guineas."
Yesterday's race has spotlighted high-class horses in the past, but there is no chance of Blitzkrieg emulating such as Nashwan or Daliapour at Epsom, even though he was entered for the Derby and has won on the unique track. Before his victory there in July, he seemed so intent on proving to all and sundry that he owned the prime physical credential for a stallion career that his reward was to be gelded the following day.
The son of Barathea cost his owner, Richie Baines, 35,000 guineas last year and is due to return to the sale ring later this month as Lot 1123 at the Newmarket used-horses auction. "If he does not get sold, we might take him out to Dubai for the Carnival in the new year," said Smith, "and maybe have a go at the UAE Guineas. Geldings can run in that."
Sanders, who switched Blitzkrieg from a wide draw into the pack, found a convenient gap to slip through and grabbed the rails berth to lead a furlong out. By contrast, Murtagh was slightly thwarted in his progress through the later stages as Atlantic Waves, Bold And Free and finally Arabian Prince launched their challenges. But once he got Dylan Thomas balanced and running, the Danehill colt stayed on strongly and was only a neck down at the line.
O'Brien has the chance to get his juvenile juggernaut back on track this afternoon at the Curragh, where the well-regarded Sadler's Wells colt Septimus, conqueror of Arabian Prince on his debut, faces five rivals in the Group Two Beresford Stakes.
At Salisbury, the five-furlong Cornwallis Stakes, the second of the two Group races transplanted temporarily from Ascot, went in a bobbing finish to Hunter Street who, with Alan Munro's help, forced his nose past Ajigolo's in the final stride. Peter Chapple-Hyam's charge, an 18,000-guinea yearling, is also due to be traded back in the Newmarket ring.
The jump season is beginning to demand attention, and at Bangor the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Gold Cup contender Iris's Gift took another step up the chasing ladder with a comfortable success in a novices' contest. The eight-year-old grey's mistake at the 10th obstacle made Tony McCoy sit tight, but his jumping was otherwise sound, much better than on his seasonal debut two weeks ago. He is around 20-1 for the Cheltenham crown.Reuse content