Sinndar reigns again while rivals founder

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The Independent Online

Three immense reputations galloped to post for the Irish Derby here yesterday, and the thousands packed into the grandstands on the Curragh knew that at least two would return tarnished. What few them could have imagined was how thorough - and in one case, physical - the subjugation would be, or how easily Sinndar, the Derby winner, would steal all their glory, and then hoist it on to his broad bay back.

Three immense reputations galloped to post for the Irish Derby here yesterday, and the thousands packed into the grandstands on the Curragh knew that at least two would return tarnished. What few them could have imagined was how thorough - and in one case, physical - the subjugation would be, or how easily Sinndar, the Derby winner, would steal all their glory, and then hoist it on to his broad bay back.

Nine lengths is a remarkable winning distance in a Grade E maiden at Yarmouth. In one of the most cherished events of the Flat season, it is simply extraordinary, but that is what separated Sinndar from Glyndebourne and Ciro after 12 demanding furlongs on ground softened by heavy showers.

Holding Court, the French Derby winner, his principal rival in the betting and a horse who, in theory, should have enjoyed the going, finished sixth, but he at least may get a chance to redeem himself. King's Best, the 2,000 Guineas winner, did not finish at all, pulled up by Pat Eddery with half the race still to run. The indications, prior to overnight x-ray examination, are that he has fractured his off-fore cannon bone or fetlock, and that his racing career is probably over.

The punters on the terraces were calling for their hero - who at Epsom had been the first Irish-trained Derby winner for almost 20 years - with a furlong still to run. Sinndar was their 11-10 favourite yesterday, and they knew their money was safe. Yet there had been anxious moments, first when Sinndar - like all three principals - took his time to get into the stalls, and then looked to be going only moderately well as the field headed into the home turn. A couple of cracks from Johnny Murtagh's whip, though, were enough to wake him up, and once Sinndar had cruised up to the pacemakers, the race was effectively over.

An hour earlier, Montjeu, who won both the Irish Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last season, had done something similar - albeit to a weaker field - in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. A meeting between the champions of two generations may be delayed until October, since Sinndar is expected to take a break until a prep race for the Arc in September, while Montjeu heads to Ascot for the King George later this month. If and when they do enter the same set of stalls, the whole racing world will stop for 150 seconds. Coral make Montjeu the 5-2 favourite for the Longchamp race on 1 October, with Sinndar on 9-2.

But whatever else he may achieve, Sinndar will eventually retire to one of the Aga Khan's studs with one of the great Classic performances on his cv. He will also be one of the sport's biggest earners, having picked up a $1m bonus from Budweiser, the race's sponsors, for completing the Derby double, in addition to prize-money yesterday of almost IR£500,000. The sponsors are unlikely to be saved for long by their cunning ruse of making the cheque out to Sinndar himself - although every hay and sugar lump salesman in Ireland will probably be beating a path to his stable door this morning.

For John Oxx, who like his father before him trains less than two miles from the Curragh, yesterday's victory was a moment of great personal and professional satisfaction. "I've grown up here, my father was a trainer and I've always dreamed of winning the Irish Derby," he said.

"I remember in 1962, just before my 12th birthday, my father ran the 2,000 Guineas winner and he was beaten a whisker. He always hoped to win the race but he never did. Now we've come back and done it, it feels like the most significant thing we could do."

As for the race, Oxx felt that "it developed pretty much as expected. Holding Court didn't really run his race, and the plan was to follow him, so when he dropped out we were a bit further back than we'd expected. But when I saw the pacemakers were the ones in front, I knew we'd pick them up easily enough. He's a terrific horse and he's probably improved again."

Holding Court's trainer, Michael Jarvis, whose Alrassaam won the later Group Two race, said: "Holding Court likes his own way and being taken on by the pacemakers did not suit. We will look towards an autumn campaign and the St Leger."

Sinndar now goes into his midsummer break as the undisputed leader of his generation. When he returns it will be to face his elders, horses like Montjeu and, perhaps, Dubai Millennium. While National Hunt racing always works towards its climax in March, the good thing about the Flat season is that it keeps getting better.

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