Racing: Peslier strikes blow for French pride

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The Independent Online
THE GYPSY encampment at Epsom racecourse is not made up of gaily patterned wagons, there are no raven-haired young women shaking tambourines and no great sides of meat revolve on a spit at feeding times. Derby lore has it though that if a spike was turning over the flames it would have on it a French jockey.

The itinerants, it is said, have had no time for the Gauls ever since Freddie Head's erratic passage on Lyphard sent them scurrying back into the caravans.

The Parisian boys have heard these stories of disparagement and they don't like it. The noisiest chamber on France's racecourses on Saturday was therefore the jockeys' room at Maisons-Laffitte, where the inhabitants were cheering on their man at Epsom, Olivier Peslier, aboard High-Rise.

Peslier may have ridden a finish of some intensity on the Downs on Saturday but it was nothing to compare with Olivier Doleuze's in Paris. His flourish culminated in his whip snapping on the changing-room table.

Epsom, it must be said, takes some getting to know. This was the first time that Peslier had won over the course and his first ride for Luca Cumani. The 27-year-old accepts the intricacies of the switchback, but does not concede he overcame a nationalistic weakness to win on Saturday.

"Yes, the Frenchmen do not win the Derby," he said yesterday. "That is because not many of them like to go to England for the race."

Yves Saint-Martin on Relko in 1963 was the last, but even the old maestro cannot have bettered Peslier's offering on Saturday. High-Rise's rider showed us first patience, then dexterity and finally power, all of it achieved with high-wire balance. "Epsom is a special track, even more special than all the other special tracks in England," the jockey said. "It is difficult. At Tattenham Corner and five furlongs from the goal you get big problems because all the horses go at once.

"If you go too slow your horse gets left behind, but if you go too quick he loses his action. I decided to wait a little bit and then, after the turn, he went very fast."

Once he got to the front, High-Rise was affected by Epsom's cambers and leant first one way and then the other. His driver corrected the path immediately, switching his whip twice in seamless movements. If Peslier ever fancies another job at the racecourse he has the fast hands to join the find-the-lady crew.

The climax featured a machine-gun finish with the whip. When Lester Piggott did this on Roberto and The Minstrel it was considered an equestrian masterclass. Peslier's reprise earned him a two-day suspension. "He was banned for not allowing the horse to respond between hits," Patrick Hibbert-Foy, the senior stewards' secretary, said. "It was the pace that he was using his whip in the closing stages that led to the ban being imposed."

If High-Rise was not responding every time he was stroked then he was doing a very passable impression. Peslier said the colt ran for him and would not have won had he not used the whip, but then what does he know compared to the riding alumni of the stewards' room.

High-Rise's victory was pleasing evidence that the sport at the top level has not concentrated entirely to Ballydoyle versus Godolphin. Luca Cumani is too good a trainer to keep down permanently and he will now attempt to add to High-Rise's stock in the Irish Derby.

At the same time he may help the stud career of an 11-year-old horse currently residing at Milton Bradley's yard near Chepstow. Sooty Tern is a familiar name to betting-shop habitues, a veteran of 124 races, none of them at a particularly distinguished level. However, his eight year younger half-brother did win the Derby on Saturday, which is a fact the old boy may now be bragging about to his mates in the breeding shed during the next covering season.

The greatest disappointment of Saturday was the performance of Cape Verdi. It was possible to feel sorry for the filly in the preliminaries as her small and timid figure was surrounded by gleaming, chunky colts. There were no little courtesies on the racetrack either. Cape Verdi crashed around like a drunk down a corridor as her fellow travellers gave her the roughest of rides. Frankie Dettori knew the game was up from some way out.

"From five furlongs out I knew I wouldn't win," the Italian said. "I had to ride to keep my position because things were getting a little bit tight. When you are tight and getting bumped around like I was it's usually because you're not going so well. When you've got plenty of horse you can get yourself a bit of room.

"A combination of not handling the track and the distance meant I was never going to win. She wouldn't have won the Oaks on what she did today, but I still think she's better than Bahr [the Oaks runner-up]."

Godolphin still believe Cape Verdi so talented that she is worth another chance against the beastly males who treated her so badly on Saturday. She emerged from her box sound yesterday morning and the next assignment could be the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on 4 July.

Cape Verdi will not be running in the Irish Derby, and Frankie probably hopes that Godolphin don't run Saturday's runner-up, City Honours, either, as that would give him the opportunity to get on High-Rise.

Olivier Peslier is still likely to keep the ride however and another good afternoon, at the Curragh, is promised. Before then he has a spare day, the last day of Royal Ascot, as part of his suspension. The jockey's plan is to go to the beach with his wife, Marie, and daughter Megane for a barbecue. This time a French rider will be roasting rather than being roasted.

The finishing order and jockeys' verdicts

1. HIGH RISE 20-1

Olivier Peslier: "It's possible I wouldn't have won if I hadn't use the whip. The horse was stopping and I wanted to make sure. Imagine if I hadn't used the whip and the horse had finished second. What would they have had to say then?"

2. City Honours 12-1

John Reid: "Olivier came down the outside and it was a big fight. I thought I would get him and then I thought I wouldn't. In the end he just got the better of me."

3. Border Arrow 25-1

Ray Cochrane: "We decided to give him time to get balanced so I sat at the back and then moved round the outside. It couldn't have worked out better."

4. Sunshine Street 150-1

John Murtagh: "Noel Meade told me to attack. At the two-furlong marker I was starting to get a few butterflies as they were not getting to me. It was really great."

5. Greek Dance 5-1

Walter Swinburn: "He had a good position but I was never happy. He never got out of his short, clipping stride and maybe he was telling us he does not like Epsom."

6. The Glow-Worm 20-1

Darryll Holland: "He had a clear passage and ran a brave race."

7. Sadian 25-1

Kieren Fallon: "He was staying on but needed more cut."

8. Second Empire 9-2

Michael Kinane: "I knew we weren't going to win by the time we got to the top of the hill."

9. Cape Verdi 11-4 fav

Frankie Dettori: "I don't think she handled the track. We were knocked about a little - it got a bit tight and we got a couple of nudges. In saying that, everything was going sweet and we were in a good position but I felt we never stood a chance five out when we started going down the hill."

10. Saratoga Springs 20-1

Willie Ryan: "He travelled very well until the three-furlong pole when he started to run out of petrol. I think he was just tired - he has had some exertions lately."

11. Gulland 12-1

Michael Hills: "Everything went to plan until he stopped as soon as he entered the straight. I am very disappointed."

12. Courteous 14-1

Richard Quinn: "It was an ordinary gallop and he didn't handle the track."

13. Mutamam 50-1

Michael Roberts: "It was disappointing - he was never happy coming down the hill."

14. Haami 20-1

Richard Hills: "Very disappointing and no excuses."

15. King Of Kings 11-2

Pat Eddery: "He didn't come down the hill. I don't know why."