Racing: Cumani's answer to girl power

The Derby: Luca's day of fortune after 10-year hitch as High-Rise upstages the wonder filly
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The Independent Online
TEN years on Luca Cumani re-lived his most glorious moment as a trainer when High-Rise, a 20-1 shot, put some mighty reputations to flight and won the 219th Derby here yesterday. The three-year-old, the only horse in the race defending an unbeaten record, came with a devastating run from the back of the field to wrest the lead from City Honours close home and win by a head, with Border Arrow two and a half lengths third.

As usual with horses, you can never write the script beforehand. Girl power proved frail as a flower as the favourite Cape Verdi could finish only ninth and quantity was no substitute for quality with Second Empire the best of the three-pronged Ballydoyle attack a place ahead of her.

For Cumani, it was an almost uncanny action replay of events in 1988. His previous Derby winner, Kahyasi, came to Epsom with virtually the same credentials as High-Rise: winner of one race at two, an easy at lowly Pontefract to open his second season, followed by the Lingfield Derby Trial.

Although the race did not go according to most people's preconceived ideas, it was none the less a magnificent spectacle. Early-morning mist had given way to bright sunshine by the time the Irish- trained outsider Sunshine Street led the 15 runners from the stalls towards the top of Tattenham Hill, followed by Sadian and Gulland, with Greek Dance shadowing them. The blue jackets of the two Godolphin candidates, Cape Verdi and City Honours, were prominent close behind.

Sunshine Street still held the call from the weakening Sadian as the field swept round Tattenham Corner into the straight, at which point High- Rise, ridden by French champion Olivier Peslier, had only three behind him.

Two furlongs out, as Greek Dance cracked, the handsome City Honours struck for home. Cape Verdi, slightly awkward on the descent, started to cry enough under Frankie Dettori's urgings. And as she began to flounder in the centre of the course High-Rise came flashing past her with a wet sail.

The tough-looking bay put his nose in front of City Honours' half-a-furlong out but had to call on all his reserves to keep it there. The two horses fought all the way to the line both showing tenacity and High-Rise none of the peacocky head-carriage he had demonstrated at Lingfield.

Border Arrow finished well to snatch third place from Sunshine Street, who ran the race of his life at 150-1, followed in by Greek Dance, The Glow-Worm and Sadian. King Of Kings, the 2,000 Guineas winner, finished last and reportedly lame.

It was a first Derby in four attempts for Peslier, to add to his wins in the French (Peintre Celebre), Irish (Winged Love) and German (Borgia) versions. His delight was only slightly tempered by a two-day ban from the stewards for over-enthusiastic use of the whip. The 37-year-old stonemason's son, riding High-Rise for the first time in public, said: "I made a good start and the horse was very relaxed, so I waited a while. Then coming off the final bend he absolutely flew and galloped with real confidence to the finish. He is a fighter, but so was the other horse and I was not certain I had won until after the post."

Although Sheikh Mohammed's venture in running Cape Verdi, winner of the 1,000 Guineas last month, against the colts found no reward, and City Honours was so narrowly beaten, it was still a case of all in the family - the Maktoum one - as far as the winner was concerned. High-Rise's owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid is his cousin.

It was a triumphant return to the top level for the Milan-born Cumani, 49, not inappropriately reflected in the name of the winner. Through no fault of the trainer, the fortunes of his Bedford Lodge stable took something of a dive after Kahyasi, when that colt's owner, the Aga Khan, temporarily abandoned racing in Britain, taking his high-quality runners with him.

Yesterday's Derby was Cumani's second Classic of the season; last month he won the Oaks in his native Italy with Zomaradah, who also carries Sheikh Obaid's yellow-and-black silks. Extraordinarily, the colt and the filly are the only three-year-olds he has in training.

Cumani's pleasure in being back in the most important winners' circle in the world was apparent. "We let the other horses soak up the hype," he said, "but this one is now an unbeaten Derby winner, so we must give him credit. I think he may be a serious horse; he has that priceless ability to relax and let the others get on with it before he makes his move. That was a fantastic run he made in the straight and showed a tremendous burst of speed between three and two furlongs out.

"He showed how brave he is in the final furlong when City Honours came back at him. he fought all the way to the line." The next target for High- Rise is the Irish Derby, where he may face a re-match with City Honours. "He has won one Derby," said Cumani, "so why not go and win another. After that we will see about the King George."

That is the beauty of the Derby; Epsom is a beginning, not an end. High- Rise has set the middle-distance standard for the season. It is now up to others to pick up the gauntlet.

Woe of O'Brien, page 26

Big race result

1. HIGH-RISE O Peslier 20-1

2. City Honours J Reid 12-1

3. Border Arrow R Cochrane 25-1

15 ran. 11-4 fav Cape Verdi. Hd, 21/2. (Winner trained by L Cumani). Tote: pounds 15.20; pounds 2.70, pounds 5.10, pounds 6.20. DF: pounds 102.10 CSF: pounds 213.58 Tricast: pounds 5428.19. Winning Time 2.33.88.