Barzalona's next big step will be guided by Fabre
It is obvious that the Turf's superpowers will be duelling over his future
Sunday 05 June 2011
Kieren who? What we saw here was the coming of age in the most natural riding talent to emerge on the European Turf since Frankie Dettori. Perhaps the owners of Native Khan were right in persuading the Court of Appeal to prevent Kieren Fallon riding against their colt here yesterday. When the margins are as narrow as this, the man on top really can make all the difference.
At 19, Mickaël Barzalona is the same age as Walter Swinburn when he won the Derby on Shergar 30 years ago. But where Swinburn was barely a passenger, Pour Moi put his nose in front in the last stride under one of the most audacious Classic rides of modern times.
And that, you would like to think, is the kind of thing that might engage the curiosity of the world beyond. It always seemed fanciful to imagine that success for the Queen's Carlton House might cause people to look with new eyes upon a sport they have previously supposed to be the preserve of the wealthy and privileged.
Those whose expectations had been distorted by fealty to the monarch were doubtless affronted to see Barzalona holding the French tricolour aloft as Pour Moi was led back to winner's enclosure. But more objective witnesses will acknowledge the significance of two contrasting tableaux, minutes apart, on precisely the same spot.
In the first, Carlton House was being led past the stands at the head of the parade. As he approached the strip of trimmed turf marking the winning line the colt planted himself, as though hesitating before an uncomfortable destiny.
Compare the way Barzalona approached the split-second, frozen frame that will define his reputation for years to come. Sensing that Pour Moi had the momentum to reel in Treasure Beach, he stood up in the irons like one of Napoleon's cavalry officers on the charge and flourished his whip with a braggadocio that earned a reprimand from the stewards.
Given that he had yanked the colt's head back in a photo finish he could also expect the congratulations of André Fabre to be diluted by icy admonition. When they brought Pour Moi here on reconnaissance nine days ago Fabre had been asked what is was that set the kid apart. He said: "Somehow he seems to know exactly where the post is." Little did we realise how elaborate an understatement that would turn out to be.
But the advice Barzalona most needs from his mentor now concerns the crossroads ahead. He has contractual commitments in France, and as Fallon knows to his cost these will have to be respected. It is already obvious, however, that the superpowers of the Turf will be duelling over his future more ardently than they ever have some yearling at the sales.
Having drawn attention to himself with several winners for Godolphin at the Dubai Carnival, Barzalona has already been promoted – when available – as Dettori's de facto deputy at the Maktoums' elite stable. At 40, Dettori is approaching the evening of his career and Barzalona has been blatantly groomed for the succession.
There is a more immediate vacancy, however, at Ballydoyle. The Co Tipperary stable is where the owners of Pour Moi keep most of their horses, and they have been without a retained rider since Johnny Murtagh quit at the end of last season. That was how they came to approach Fallon to ride Recital, inadvertently opening yet another can of worms. Fallon's prior obligations to Native Khan were not finally determined until yesterday morning, leaving John Magnier and his partners in Coolmore looking for a late replacement. It would be easy to understand if they felt disposed to make a fresh start with this new talent rather than wait to discover what new troubles their old stand-by might come up with next.
Too little is known of Barzalona to be certain how he might cope with a job that would also require him to ride in nurseries at Tipperary. He is fortunate, then, to have the counsel of a trainer whose mastery is such that both the Maktoums and Coolmore feel they cannot afford to leave him off their roster. Fabre will know which camp will suit the boy best. And if his instincts in this regard prove as unerring as they were yesterday then he will do just as he is told.
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