When American Pharoah duly won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday night, making all the running to become the first colt to gain that most achievable yet elusive of prizes, the US Triple Crown, since 1978, the sense of longing he assuaged was as nothing compared with the craving satisfied by Frankie Dettori in taking the Derby aboard Golden Horn.
Reflecting yesterday on his second victory in the Epsom Classic, Dettori elevated the experience above even his “Magnificent Seven” when he went through the card at Ascot in 1996.
“I told my dad [former jockey Gianfranco Dettori] that in my 28 years of riding that was my most thrilling moment, even more so than Ascot,” he said. “Maybe because I’m older and realised how important it was, or the fact that I am running out of years. It was really special.” But, amid his trademark exuberance, the 44-year-old voiced an abiding truth: “The Derby is the best race in the world and everybody wants to win it.”
The sport may be a globalised one, where Godolphin gave vain pursuit with the runners-up at both Epsom and Belmont Park in Jack Hobbs and Frosted; where the Belmont Stakes fourth, Mubtaahij, arrived via victory in the UAE Derby at Meydan in March, on a journey which had begun at Newmarket, down the field behind the Epsom third, Storm The Stars. But the breeding prerogatives attached to the foremost Classic remain as strong as ever, producing the world’s most foremost stallion in Galileo, his near relative Sea The Stars (himself by the sire of Golden Horn, Cape Cross) and other bearers of the Northern Dancer line, and continue to drive operations such as the Coolmore partners.
Yet the shrinking pool constituted by “everybody” – dominated as it is by Ballydoyle and the sheikhs of Qatar and Dubai, who can buy out any rivals – is a problem. Seven of this year’s 12 runners, including the winner, were supplementary entries, and the guessing game concerning potential runners only diminished the build-up to the race.
Coolmore’s three runners may have been exposed as lacking in pace and class – Giovanni Canaletto performed best in finishing fourth and may be aimed at the St Leger, for which he is second favourite, behind Storm The Stars – but they had bought the stallion rights to American Pharoah before Saturday’s victory. Whether that will prevent him being campaigned with the same sense of adventure as California Chrome, found wanting in last year’s Belmont Stakes but bound for Royal Ascot next week, remains to be seen.
Golden Horn is likely to go for Sandown’s Eclipse Stakes next month and may be around in the longer term. “It would be wonderful if Golden Horn was kept in training next year, said his trainer, John Gosden. “The owner is very sporting and it would be my wish to do so.”
In France yesterday, David Pipe won the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil (French Champion Hurdle) with Un Temps Pour Tout.Reuse content