Lasting legacy peaks in Pentire

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The Independent Online
Owning racehorses in Britain is becoming an increasingly nasty business, thanks largely to the laughable amount of money the off-course bookmakers return to the sport. However, on Saturday at Ascot, the nation's most prestigious all-age race went to Pentire, the property of Mollers Racing, and there could be no complaints about prize-money because Eric and Budgie Moller are dead.

It must be a great frustration for those who pay bills for slow horses that in this case racing seems to be going the way of art and great success comes only after the recipients have breathed their last.

Eric Moller set up a trust in 1988 to finance the careers of a handful of horses after the time he would no longer be around to see them. Turf finances and prize-money within these shores should have seen the legacy shrivel before the wreaths had wilted, but the chocolate and gold colours of Mollers Racing have been astoundingly successful. By a blend of judgement and good fortune, the trustees and Geoff Wragg, the brothers' designated trainer, have managed to purchase the Group winners Petardia, Nicolotte, First Trump, Pentire and First Island in recent seasons.

Pentire is the best and is so good that it feels unreal to remember he was considered unfit for the Derby just over 12 months ago. It is a salutary lesson to those who pledge their last penny on the strength of gallops reports that even Wragg could not decipher the potential of the young colt that performed in front of him on the Newmarket trial grounds.

Pentire cost 54,000 guineas, and Saturday's emphatic win in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes took his earnings to almost pounds 800,000, and there is still a stud valuation to come.

It could be that Pentire will slip into the role of Lothario without another appearance in Britain. "I would imagine he will be retired at the end of the season and it is possible he won't run again in this country," Wragg said yesterday. "Races like the Arc, the Breeders' Cup and the Japan Cup are the plan, though he wouldn't run in the Arc if it was very soft."

In defeating Classic Cliche and Shaamit, the Derby winner, Pentire put another dagger into the Blue Riband form. The weight-for-age scale seems to favour three-year-olds as that generation has won eight of the last 10 King Georges. In the last 25 years, 10 of the 14 Derby winners to contest the race have triumphed. These statistics, though, could not rescue Shaamit.

This is not to say the colt had the back of his legs slapped when he returned to Willie Haggas's Somerville Lodge yard. In fact, connections thought he ran rather well. "Shaamit was having only the fourth race of his life and as they came into the paddock I thought he looked quite weak compared to the older horses," Maureen, the trainer's wife and assistant, said yesterday. "Yet he beat a Royal Ascot winner by 10 lengths and the other three-year-old by 23 lengths so he has run a hell of a good race. He was beaten by two very good, more mature and experienced horses."

Shaamit may well need another year to grow into his frame. He was a huge presence in the parade on Saturday, his rump clipped in a neat pattern that Gary Kasparov would have enjoyed. It was the Mtoto colt who looked more a four-year-old than his diminutive market rival. In the preliminaries, Pentire had the head carriage of a dog which has just locked on to a scent and his tail flashed vigorously, as if someone had hooked a beehive over it and disturbed the occupants.

Pentire certainly needed some rousing when he left the stalls, as he made a gentle sitting motion, like a pensioner lowering himself into an Eastbourne deckchair. Five smart cracks of the whip from Michael Hills shook the colt from his reverie and reminded he had been driven down to conduct some business.

After he had given his field a start, Hills knew he would have to be lucky, but then he was on a roll. The jockey had a riding ban reduced at the Jockey Club on Wednesday to allow participation in this race and Portman Square does not have a reputation for generosity.

Annus Mirabilis tore off in front as if he had escaped from the abattoir and it took Pentire fully two furlongs just to get back on an even keel. However, by the time he was back on the bit by the turn into the straight his rivals were beginning to toil. Classic Cliche was the last to succumb, but even he was swept aside with a facility rarely seen in races of this calibre. After Shaamit, it was 10 lengths back to Oscar Schindler, which suggested this was a contest of some merit.

When the dust settled there was poignancy in the fact that this was a victory for men who could have been watching only on the great SIS link- up in the sky. Perhaps racing's next task is to get Bill Gates and the Sultan of Brunei interested in the game and ask them to consider codicils.

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