Racing: York Ebor meeting: Piggott refines Rodrigo's status: Chapple-Hyam's champion of spring defies the odds and his jockey's disquiet to achieve International acclaim

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MAKE sense of it if you can. The winner has two Classics to his credit but still sets off an 8-1 chance. His jockey is 56. They come from last to first from the worst possible draw. The favourite is effectively pulled up. And the day's last thought? Springtime is back, and the cult of Lester Piggott staggers on.

That Rodrigo De Triano started at such a huge price for the International Stakes here yesterday demands that we all beat ourselves with curtain poles until an old lesson is finally absorbed. In top-class races look at top-class form. There were doubts about his stamina, admittedly, but just listening to his trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam, would have offset those. He said Rodrigo was spot on, and that Dr Devious was not. So it proved.

To the hardest readers of form it might have seemed that the early season dominance of Chapple- Hyam's two Classic acts was over. The Derby winner, Dr Devious - a respectable fourth here - had been trounced at The Curragh. Rodrigo De Triano had failed at Epsom and then been superseded by late developers at Royal Ascot. But Chapple-Hyam never believed the decline theories for a moment.

On the contrary, training's most precocious talent set about the gloom mongers in the most profitable way, as he explained yesterday. 'After Rodrigo had done a routine canter (on Monday) I got straight on the phone to John Smith (York's clerk of the course) to check the ground,' Chapple- Hyam said. 'Then I got on the phone again to take the 10-1.'

You can count on the fingers of a boxing glove the number of times Chapple-Hyam has misjudged a forthcoming big race, and it was significant that after another round of correct predictions he was calling this the most satisfying day of his career. 'He had to come back and prove it,' he said. 'Yeah, there were a few doubters. For me, though, he's the best horse in Europe. He's won Group One races at six furlongs, a mile and now 12 furlongs, from two to three years (old).'

This must have been a momentous and salutary race because even old Piggott was nervous as it approached. Chapple-Hyam said he had 'never seen Lester in a sweat before', but when they discussed tactics in a corner of the weighing room the crinkled face was ticking with anxiety about that wide draw. But Rodrigo De Triano is an equine predator, an exponent of the chase- then-pass method, and it was this capacity to accelerate that carried him away from All At Sea, Seattle Rhyme and the good Dr Devious.

By then Warren O'Connor was virtually trotting home on the usually infallible Kooyonga, who travelled so bumpily that Piggott decided she was beaten after only a furlong. 'There must be something she can't tell us about,' her trainer, Michael Kauntze, said with creditable cheerfulness. She must have conveyed some kind of signal to somebody, because Kooyonga drifted from 6-4 to 2-1 while All At Sea attracted some monster bets and was forced down to 5-1.

For those planning trips, or ante-post bets, Dr Devious will be prepared directly for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, while Rodrigo De Triano has a range of possible targets from the Prix du Moulin to the Champion Stakes and Breeders' Cup Mile at Gulfstream Park, though Chapple-Hyam says he is 'not keen on Florida (the track and conditions, not the state)'.

Perverse as it would have seemed only yesterday morning, the debate about this horse's ability to see out a mile and a half is now reopened, because the International Stakes lasts 10 and a half furlongs, and Piggott is insistent that Rodrigo De Triano's problem at Epsom was not stamina but an inability to 'come down the hill'. Wherever the 2,000 Guineas winner appears next, Piggott assures us he is 'up there with the best' he has ridden.

From Rodrigo De Triano's unfavourable initial position yesterday, discouraging voices must have troubled Piggott during the journey. Not so, he said. 'I always thought I'd win. I never think otherwise in this game.'

Take that as an insight. Piggott agitated beforehand, confident in flight. He defies our understanding still.

Results, page 27

(Photograph omitted)

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