Horses like Falbrav have in recent years shown versatility to be one of the clearest hallmarks of quality. But it is one thing for Rakti, winner of an Italian Derby in his youth, to confirm his mastery at a mile in the Queen Anne Stakes at York on Tuesday. It is quite another for younger colts to emulate his example in the St James's Palace Stakes, barely half an hour earlier.
Three of the 13 five-day acceptors tried their luck over a mile and half in the Derby only last Saturday, while another pair contested the French version, over 10 and a half furlongs the following day. Make no mistake, it is asking an awful lot of relatively immature thoroughbreds to contest a race such as this within 10 days of discovering their stamina deficiencies at Epsom. And that applies equally whether they performed with distinction, as did Dubawi, or not, as in the case of Grand Central and Oratorio.
True, one would hesitate to offer advice to the trainer of the latter pair. Aidan O'Brien won this race consecutively between 2000 and 2002 with Giant's Causeway, Black Minnaloushe and Rock Of Gibraltar. But there seems a singular lack of conviction to his challenge this year. Even his third acceptor must prove himself, having conversely looked a sprinter when winning the Middle Park Stakes last autumn. Ad Valorem has not been on a racecourse since, but at least he will be fresh, which is more than can be said for his stablemates.
It remains to be seen which of them shows up on the day. For Godolphin, aside from their relative condition after last weekend, it seems likely that Dubawi will run in preference to Shamardal, assuming the ground is not too firm. The Epsom third has a potential pacemaker in Subpoena.
It was the freedom to dictate his pace that enabled Shamardal to win at Chantilly on Sunday, much as had been the case in the French 2,000 Guineas last month. On that occasion he was immensely assisted by the rails draw, whereas Indesatchel was marooned wide and had to weave through late to share a photo.
David Wachman would not want firm conditions for Indesatchel but is optimistic that the colt can maintain his progress. "The ground in France was the quickest he has encountered this year, but he seemed to handle it pretty well," the trainer said yesterday. "He was a bit unlucky and might have won with a better draw, but all credit to the winner.
"I have been very pleased with him since, in fact I think he may well have stepped up a bit again. We always thought him a good horse last year, but he had a few problems with his back. He seems over all that and is moving a lot better now."
Wachman has impressed with his composed handling of Classic horses so early in his career. Though he modestly deferred to the greater experience of those thinking of turning out their Derby horses so soon, he is qualified to measure their task. He saddled Fracas to finish fourth at Epsom, staying on well after proving uncomfortable on the hill.
"No matter where you finish the Derby is always a tough race," he said. Fracas will be given an easy time before any decision is made on the Irish Derby.
Wachman saddled his first winner at the royal meeting last year, when Damson won the Queen Mary, and she will return for the Coronation Stakes next Friday after a promising resumption in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. "She was last off the bridle before getting tired inside the final furlong," he said. "I think she has come on for that and would be hopeful of a big run."
While Damson faded into seventh, Luas Line was beaten only half a length on her first start since last August. "I wasn't surprised, we thought she would run very well," Wachman said. "She is the Coronation but might go for the Jersey. She has no penalties and gets the fillies' allowance. It will take a reasonable colt to beat her."
HYPERION'S SELECTIONS FOR TODAY'S OTHER MEETING:
WOLVERHAMPTON: 2.25 Bid For Fame 2.55 Lord Of The East 3.30 Rancho Cucamonga 4.05 Sand Cat 4.40 Ashes 5.10 Screen Test