Racing: Yeats follows O'Brien route to Derby

The pegs were pulled out of the circus racing here yesterday and the caravans now move on to York this week and Goodwood the next as attempts to source the winner of the Derby on 5 June continue. The ringmaster is already in place.

Yeats may not have been the most authoritative winner of the Derby Trial at Leopardstown yesterday, but his breeding, connections and the path the colt has taken suggest the Blue Riband garland may already be destined for his neck. This strip of racing land in Dublin 18 has become the aisle to the Epsom throne in recent years.

Sinndar, Galileo and High Chaparral have all used yesterday's Group Two race as a stairway to heaven and Alamshar was not the most devastating of trend-breakers 12 months ago as he went on the be third in the Derby and later collected the Irish equivalent.

Yeats' victory cleared the fuzz from the Ballydoyle picture. The previous weekend had been a wretched passage for the Tipperary yard, with the unaccountable defeats of One Cool Cat, Necklace and Brian Boru.

The initial clarity was provided by Baraka, who scooped the Lingfield Oaks Trial on Saturday. Her six-length victory meant a contraction in Epsom price to around 12-1, and there was movement also for her better-regarded stablemate All Too Beautiful, Galileo's sister.

Then came Yeats. Aidan O'Brien's pride is no glory of a horse physically and he looked particularly plebeian yesterday in the paddock, a rash spotted across his neck and hindquarters. He was, nevertheless, a relaxed walker, his two, white- stockinged feet behind moving to a most sombre beat.

The race tactics were beyond convolution. Yeats led from the outset with Barati, Medicinal and Relaxed Gesture in Indian file behind. He flowed smoothly, a slight choppiness to his stride. The decisive manoeuvre arrived on the turn in, when Jamie Spencer depressed the accelerator. After that it became a fruitless game of catch-up.

Relaxed Gesture was ultimately the nearest courtier, a length and a half adrift at the line. Dermot Weld's charge formed some sort of point of reference. He was a neck second to the 2,000 Guineas third Azamour in the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last October.

So while what Yeats has achieved in pure form terms is arguable, there must also be the acceptance that he's dealing swiftly with anything brought before him. Neither is there contentious debate about O'Brien's Blue Riband capability. He is now shooting for his third Derby in four years.

Tradition dictates that there are several talking horses from Ballydoyle each season and one who is supposedly multi-lingual. This is the destiny for Yeats. The son of Sadler's Wells escaped both the persistent light drizzle which visited Leopardstown for most of yesterday and possible ignominy. He still had energy to spare at the end.

"He kicked Dermot's horse on the way back, would you believe?'' O'Brien said. "That's how much he had left. Normally a horse doesn't give a kick and a buck against another horse after a race. It's unusual. He was only playing along there.

"He's a lovely, uncomplicated horse. The horses that you let run in races and don't mind what happens are few and far between. He can jump off and do his own thing or he would love getting a lead. He's very straightforward. We wanted to come away with a happy horse, one we could get ready for Epsom. So what more could you ask for? You'd have to be delighted. He just kept going away. He just lobbed out and Jamie didn't touch him at all. He's a very free horse. He gallops, he stays, he's tough and he's genuine. You couldn't say he lacked quality. Looking at the horse, I would imagine he's going to improve the whole time.'' Let the challengers line up.

* The Horse Racing Channel intends to launch a free-to-air service "within the next couple of weeks," a spokesman said yesterday. It will compete with the revamped At The Races, which is expected to start next month.

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