Racing: Kinane is again the supersub

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The Independent Online
FOR a jockey so commonly feted as Europe's best, Michael Kinane looks inexplicably content trading out of racing's reject shop. Another cast-off brought another winner here yesterday as Opera House took the Eclipse Stakes to add to Kinane's victory in the Derby on Commander In Chief. As a betting formula, it's faultless.

Ireland's champion Flat race rider has an unfailing knack of picking up prime spare jobs. The alliance with Commander In Chief was formed when Pat Eddery selected Tenby, and Kinane again received a fortuitous call when Sheikh Mohammed's retained jockey, Michael Roberts, chose to accompany Barathea rather than Opera House. After the former had finished fifth here Roberts pointed to lack of stamina up the Sandown hill but, in truth, lack of acceleration was as much to blame.

Turning down the job with the Sheikh ahead of Roberts has enhanced rather than diminished Kinane's record in major events. From Carroll House in the Arc through Belmez in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Kinane has established himself as the consummate big race rider. In this form, he could be paid Michael Jordan's salary and still not be over-rewarded.

For four seasons now the Eclipse has failed to reach its previous high standards. Kooyonga, Environment Friend and Elmaamul, the last three winners, were not in the league of Dancing Brave or Nashwan and, commendable though Opera House's victory was, it will not provide a benchmark when the gongs are being handed out at the end of this Flat season.

The fact that Karinga Bay was so close in fourth place will see to that. This hulking chestnut had been competing primarily in Germany before this and, durable though he is, he would not be allowed into the same finishing straight as a horse like Dancing Brave. Misil, in second, is also some way below top class, while Tenby, a length and a half back in third, looks to be an uncomfortably big distance below his pre- Derby billing.

This was a better run from Tenby - a poor 10th when odds- on at Epsom - but it is hard to imagine him scaling the heights once mapped out for him. Pat Eddery, his jockey, blamed the firmness of the ground, but then he had also singled out lack of stamina for Tenby's failure in the Derby. Yesterday Tenby ran as if needed more - not less - than a mile and half as Eddery niggled and cajoled his mount approaching the far turn.

Barathea was another disappointment. As the only Classic winner (the Irish 2,000 Guineas) in the field, this muscular colt was entitled to be 5-2 favourite for his first outing since Epsom. Though he scanned the leaders from a perfect strike-position wide of potential trouble, Barathea's clammy figure looked increasingly distressed as older, tougher horses set about each other up front. It will be no surprise to see him returning to a mile.

Of the others, the fancied French contender Arcangues failed to quicken while Environment Friend, the 1991 winner, was also found short of pace as a scrum of possible winners developed inside the final two furlongs. Pity, because Environment Friend has seldom looked so ready for conflict.

Frankie Dettori, on Misil, is entitled to wonder whether he might have won with an entirely trouble- free run. Opera House, Tenby, Karinga Bay and Misil were all converging on each other as maximum pressure was applied, and as Kinane said later: 'I feared I'd gone on too soon and I also thought I was in trouble when Frankie came up along the rail.'

But then, so often Kinane has been thrust into these tunnels. How many times has been out- fought, out-thought? Belmez, too, was only a short-head in front of Old Vic at the end of that magnificent King George in 1990.

On the planning board for Opera House (whose only previous Group 1 win was the Coronation Cup) are this year's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot later this month and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October. 'This fellah had a lot thrown at him but he kept coming back for more,' Michael Stoute, his trainer, said. 'He's got a wonderful attitude.'

He also has a long way to go, improvement-wise, before he can threaten Commander In Chief and Hernando. The chief older opponent to those two gifted three-year-olds could yet be User Friendly, the 1992 Oaks and St Leger winner, who runs in today's Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in France. Perhaps they should get Kinane to ride her.

(Photograph omitted)

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