Racing: Dream takes Honours for France

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THE SMILE on the face of Pascal Bary as he led Dream Well into the victory circle here said it all. The dapper Parisian had smarted a little when his French Derby hero had been deemed inferior to High-Rise, winner of the original, by Europe's handicappers. But yesterday's four and a half length romp to win the 133rd Irish Derby set the record thoroughly straight.

Dream Well, who led on the bridle a furlong out with Cash Asmussen sitting virtually motionless, had the Epsom runner-up City Honours trailing vainly in his wake. "High-Rise beat him only a head, didn't he?" said Bary, pointedly.

With the ground at the Curragh officially on the heavy side of soft, endurance was always going to be at a premium, but Dream Well showed he is a cut above being merely a slogger. As outsider Risk Material led into the straight and kept going under maximum pressure from Shay Heffernan it almost seemed that there was an upset in the offing. But only momentarily; a glance a horse-length or two back and it was clear Dream Well had to fall over to lose.

Once Asmussen, in the two-tone blue of the Niarchos family, released his hold on the bay colt's blinkered head the race was effectively over. Dream Well accelerated, the only question was by how far, and Saeed Bin Suroor, trainer of City Honours for the Godolphin team, had no complaints. "The winner is a better horse," he said. "Ours stays, but he cannot quicken like that."

The market was a telling guide. Dream Well hardened to 2-1 favourite as City Honours drifted from 7-2 to 4-1. The 40-1 shot Desert Fox, who came from nowhere to deprive Campo Catino of third place a length behind City Honours, was the best-backed of the outsiders.

The other British challenger, the Henry Cecil-trained Sadian, finished last of the 10 runners and returned feelingly on his off-foreleg. Risk Material, too, may have come back a little sore; Heffernan received the maximum on-the-spot punishment of a 10-day ban for his excessive attentions with the whip.

Dream Well was the 47th French-trained horse to contest the Irish Derby, and the sixth to win. He is also the first French-trained French Derby winner of the trio who have completed the Chantilly-Curragh double; his predecessors were based in Ireland (Assert) and England (Old Vic).

He gave Asmussen, who had a brief, unsuccessful, spell in Ireland earlier in his career, his first Irish Derby winner. "He stumbled slightly leaving the stalls," the Texan said. "I had wanted to be close to the pace in case it was a false one because of the ground, but when I gave him a kick to catch up he jumped straight into the bridle and was a little keen along the back in among horses.

"But I was very happy with the way he was going, skipping through the ground. The rain overnight had loosened it up and the fresh strip we were on was very even. And once we reached the straight and the horses fanned out I had no problems at all."

Dream Well was Bary's third French Derby winner after Celtic Arms and Ragmar. The 45-year-old Chantilly-based trainer also sent out Miss Alleged to win a Breeders Cup Turf, but rates Dream Well the best of the lot. The Sadler's Wells colt will now have a summer break until his prep-race, probably the Prix Niel, before the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a possible showdown with High-Rise. "In the Jockey-Club he showed he was tough," Bary said, "but today he showed he is brilliant. He is the best I have trained, and I am not afraid of any horse in the world."

That racing took place yesterday was only due to the above-and-beyond efforts of racecourse manager Brian Kavanagh and his team after the course had been rendered unraceable after two hours of stair rods on Saturday evening.

Sure, the Irish take their racing a touch seriously. But Derby day is not only an international showcase for the sport but also for the burgeoning economy and style of Ireland itself. To have closed the show before the star turn would have been verging on the unthinkable; come hell or - in this case - high water, it had to go on and at midnight on Saturday the local fire brigade were still out there pumping between the seven and four-furlong markers. But even so the go-ahead was given to race only after a seven o'clock inspection yesterday morning.