Abdullah seems to be enjoying racing's Groundhog Day this year. Every time he rises, the owner appears locked into 24 hours of undiluted success.
A week after Zafonic's princely performance in the 2,000 Guineas, the merit of Abdullah's colt was further emphasised when Kingmambo won the French equivalent, the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, from Bin Ajwaad at Longchamp yesterday.
Kingmambo is the only horse to have beaten Zafonic, in a Prix Djebel when Pat Eddery handled the runner-up as if he was wrapped in swaddling clothes; Bin Ajwaad was almost seven lengths behind when third to the Andre Fabre-trained colt over the Rowley Mile.
Sheikh Mohammed's strongly-fancied Zieten surrendered his unbeaten record when finishing eighth to Kingmambo yesterday, while another of his elite, Fabre's Fort Wood, also failed for the first time in the same card's Prix Hocquart. The winner (and no prizes for guessing here) was once again a Khalid Abdullah horse, Criquette Head's Regency.
This victory for a son of Dancing Brave, who, like many before him has proved a promising sire just after his plane has taken off for Japanese breeding sheds, has put further threads in Abdullah's intricate Derby web.
Regency will now take in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) next month, when he could stand in for Armiger, the colt who looked the archetypal Chantilly horse while winning the Chester Vase last Tuesday. The argument over which is the best horse in Henry Cecil's yard, Armiger or Tenby, may yet be decided in the ultimate forum of Epsom Downs.
There may be a formidable cast for the 214th Derby, including the 2,000 Guineas runner- up, Barathea, and Ben Hanbury's Bin Ajwaad, who was cut to 10-1 (from 12-1) by Ladbrokes after his French effort. 'He's run a terrific race, though you can't take anything away from Kingmambo,' the Newmarket trainer said yesterday. 'He now heads straight for the Derby.'
Kingmambo had to surmount early difficulties to become Francois Boutin's fourth successive winner of the Classic. 'The horse stumbled leaving the stalls and I lost my right stirrup,' Cash Asmussen, the colt's jockey, reported. 'It took at least 100 yards to recover.'
Tinners Way and Firm Pledge, the other British challengers, will now have to recover their reputations. The representatives of John Gosden and Paul Cole finished ninth and last respectively.
Barathea appears increasingly likely to be Sheikh Mohammed's Derby horse, following Fort Wood's failure and the Lingfield Derby trial performance on Saturday of Yeltsin, who could not have been clumsier coming down the hill had he been on stilts.
Luca Cumani's colt has the small matter of a Classic to contest first, the Irish 2,000 Guineas on Saturday, but Ladbrokes for one expect him to raise his profile at the Curragh. They cut him to 8-1 (from 12-1) for Epsom yesterday.
POULE D'ESSAI DES POULAINS (Longchamp): 1. KINGMAMBO (C Asmussen); 2. Bin Ajwaad; 3. Hudo. 10 ran. 1/2 , 4. (F Boutin, Chantilly). Pari-Mutuel (inc 1F stake): FF4.50; FF2.60, FF3.60, FF10.30. Also: Tinners Way (9th), Firm Pledge (10th).
THE DERBY (Epsom, 2 June): Ladbrokes: 2-1 Tenby, 6-1 Commander In Chief, 8-1 Barathea, 10-1 Armiger, Bin Ajwaad & Taos, 16-1 others.
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