Lammtarra heads new world order; The Derby: Record-breaking winner sets seal on Dubai experiment, but Saturday trial for Blue Riband fails to live up to hopes
Richard Edmondson reflects on the unqualified success of a training revolution and a qualified disaster on the Downs
Monday 12 June 1995
The chestnut colt was the latest of the Godolphin horses to win a major race after having been hothoused in Dubai over the winter. The Maktoum family have now won the last seven Classics between them and Godolphin's contribution has been the last two Oaks plus a Derby. If anyone believes the Emirates sun is not shining imperiously over the racing globe this morning there is probably a bed waiting for them somewhere.
Lammtarra's appearance in the Derby would have been the stuff of smirks for traditionalists. He had run just once as a juvenile, when trained by the late Alex Scott, and was making his seasonal debut on Saturday. This is not the purest of backgrounds for those whose lessons have been passed down as items of Victoriana.
Lammtarra, who overcame the loss of a shoe in the race was, in fact, close to death from a lung abscess just over three months ago, but was nursed back to health, inevitably for the Godolphin operation, by a "team".
The boys from the Middle East have been rather disturbed by recent reports that Saeed bin Suroor, the nominated trainer for the company, is little more than a bonnet buffer for Sheikh Mohammed. Suroor, a slim and timid man, has been painted as a figure as tangible as the spouses of Messrs Columbo and Arthur Daley, but Simon Chrisford, the Godolphin racing manager, described the former policeman as an integral cog.
The line of command seems to be this: the framework for training programmes comes from Sheikh Mohammed himself and the conditioning is conducted by bin Suroor and Jeremy Noseda, a one-time assistant to another of the Sheikh's trainers, John Gosden.
If Sheikh Mohammed was miffed that his colours, carried here into second place by Tamure, had been thwarted, he hid it well. "To bring a horse from Dubai to win here is worth winning four Derbys myself," he said.
The Sheikh was even able to forget the miserable performance of the hot favourite, Pennekamp, who returned lame. Even so, his connections seem to have been convinced that his future lies over a mile and, after recovery, Andre Fabre's colt will drop back to the eight furlongs of his 2,000 Guineas victory. Saturday's other great disappointment, Spectrum, is now to be considered for the leading 10-furlong races.
Sheikh Mohammed meanwhile is waiting to pat the winning owner, his 19- year-old nephew Saeed, on the head. Saeed, who watched the race on television in the Gulf, was formerly a student at Gordonstoun, where cold baths and a military lifestyle have made a man of many, including the heir to our throne. Despite this apparent vindication of the Godolphin modus operandi, there will be no cranking up of the policy. Once again, a maximum of 40 horses will travel to Dubai this winter, a number that the Sheikh can happily enjoy as he drives up from government business to the Al Quoz stables in his Range Rover.
Nevertheless, the Sheikh's British trainers will still be suffering from violent tremors. They face the prospect of having some of the best horses transferred from their care this autumn and then returning to give what remains in their string a good hiding. It may be that they have to forsake their annual Caribbean holidays this winter and send one of their charges instead.
If this is a sad statistic of the modern times, it will be no more surprising than attendance numbers that were produced yesterday. Saturday's figure was said to be 54,266, which was three per cent up on the previous year, despite the fact that the attendance announced then was well over 100,000.
Epsom officials decided this week that the method of counting crowds for the previous year, and the years before that, were erroneous. While people have been happy to believe that most of London has turned up in the past, it seems there has been a travesty.
"The old figure fell into a credibility trap," Edward Gillespie, the managing director of Epsom's owners, United Racecourses, said yesterday. "Had there been only 10,000 people there you could have said we had made a horlicks of it, but it has not been an unqualified disaster. We could not have picked a more competitive weekend for the Derby. Today, for example, England are playing against Australia, the West Indies and Brazil in various international sports.
"I refute the idea that the Derby is not still a big event. We have an accountable figure of over 50,000 now and, in three years' time, I would expect that figure to start with a seven."
This was good robust stuff from the organisers, but it was buttressed by little support from others involved on the day. On-course Tote turnover was down 11 per cent, the leading bookmaker Stephen Little reported slow business and, off course, Ladbrokes said trade was down 20 per cent on the Derby.
The infield market, where one chap sells a bin-liner full of bric-a-brac for pounds 20 was so quiet that he decamped for a tea, and even Gypsy Rose Lee had a low-key day. But then she had probably foreseen that.
To the naked eye, there appeared to be more space everywhere, which was no bad thing for those that bothered to turn up. But at the Derby, when the claustrophobia goes it tends to take the atmosphere with it. "I've been coming here for seven years and it's the worst I've ever seen it," one regular said. "There were no queues: into the course, up to the bookies or in the bars. Nobody was there. I was quite embarrassed because I'd brought some friends and told them what a rip-roaring day out it was."
The Derby was switched to a Saturday this year because organisers know it is the day when the largest pool of potential spectators is available. But it is also the day of greatest competition and had the Classic been run last Wednesday there would have been no dogfight with Test cricket or the Rugby World Cup, both of which were televised.
In addition, it transpires that people rather liked the abnormality of a Wednesday sporting fixture. It used to be a focal point for a day off work (legitimate or otherwise) and a day to ring in the calendar. Saturdays, the general theme seemed to be from the Derby throng, was now a family day. Epsom will have to learn how to adjust to a new audience; Britain's trainers will have to compete with a revolutionary method of preparing racehorses.
1. LAMMTARRA chestnut colt Nijinsky - Snow Bride W Swinburn 14-1
2. Tamure L Dettori 9-1
3. Presenting 12-1
Also ran. 11-8 fav Pennekamp (11th), 5-1 Spectrum (13th), 8-1 Munwar (9th), 16-1 Riyadian (7th), 20-1 Vettori (6th), 25-1 Humbel (8th), 50- 1 Fahal (4th), Salmon Ladder (10th), 66-1 Court Of Honour (5th), 150-1 Korambi (12th), 200-1 Maralinga (15th), 500-1 Daffaq (14th).
Distances: 1, 3/4, 11/4, sht-hd, 3.
Trained: Saeed bin Suroor for Saeed bin Maktoum al Maktoum.
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