Bushranger and Murtagh ambush rivals
Monday 25 August 2008
Another day, another Group One winner for Johnny Murtagh and the Coolmore behemoth, though for once without the wondrously able assistance of Aidan O'Brien. Less than 24 hours after helping the Ballydoyle team to its 18th top-level prize of the year, courtesy of Duke Of Marmalade in the International at Newmarket, Murtagh brought his own seasonal tally to 17 on two-year-old Bushranger, trained by David Wachman, in the Prix Morny at Deauville.
The 38-year-old Irishman was becomingly modest after Saturday's success, deflecting praise to the Duke and those who prepare him. But just as success spawns more of the same, so does confidence and when Bushranger hit something of a flat spot midway through yesterday's six-furlong contest his rider combined tact and insistence, allowing his mount to gather himself but brooking no slacking.
And once the 9-2 favourite clicked into top gear, he was delivered with perfect timing by Murtagh through the closing strides to beat Gallagher a scant half-length, going away. In taking the second juvenile elite contest of the campaign, the son of Danetime paid no uncertain compliment to O'Brien's charge Mastercraftsman, who had left him in his wake in the first, the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last month. Both colts carry the purple-and-white colours of Coolmore partner Derrick Smith.
"That was great," said Wachman. "It all went pretty much to plan, he got a lead and came and took it up late, just right. We've always thought a lot of the horse but where he goes next will have to fit in with the owners' plans for the rest of theirs."
It was a second Group One success for Wachman, son-in-law of Coolmore boss John Magnier, after Damson's Phoenix Stakes four years ago. His yard, around 10 miles from Ballydoyle, currently houses an above-average juvenile filly in Again, bound for Sunday's Moyglare Stud Stakes.
Gallagher, trained by Brian Meehan, was followed in by another from Britain, Karl Burke's charge Lord Shanakill, with fourth-placed outsider Milanais the best of the home side. The runner-up has the Middle Park Stakes as his next target.
Bushranger, the fifth Morny winner in 10 years to carry Coolmore colours (the others have been Orpen, Fasliyev, Johannesburg and last year Myboycharlie), entered the 2,000 Guineas lists at a token 25-1. At the top of the betting is Mastercraftsman, who was joined towards the sharp end on Saturday by Arazan after a runaway victory in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh.
The John Oxx-trained colt, an Anabaa half-brother to top-class middle-distance performer Azamour, powered away with the Group Two contest by four lengths, despite testing conditions. "He's got plenty of speed and is bred for quick conditions but the ground didn't stop him," said Oxx. Arazan, in the Aga Khan colours, will next put the most favourable impression he made to the test in next month's National Stakes back at the Co Kildare track.
The Morny, the Futurity and Saturday's two juvenile filly feature races in Britain, the Lowther Stakes and the Prestige Stakes have all had their moments as guides to the future. But for every Divine Proportions, New Approach, Russian Rhythm or Gossamer there is a Hoh Magic, an Equal Rights, a Soar or a Geminiani.
Only time will reveal into which category the two latest domestic winners will fall. Infamous Angel, who beat her Richard Hannon stablemate Penny's Gift a nose in the Lowther at Newmarket, will remain at six furlongs, with the Cheveley Park Stakes her next assignment. Fantasia will try to emulate Gossamer – also trained by Luca Cumani – by winning the Fillies Mile at Ascot after her smooth length success at Goodwood, a performance which pushed her up the lists for next year's 1,000 Guineas.
On Deauville's Group Two undercard yesterday, the consistent Godolphin colourbearer Folk Opera took the 10-furlong Prix Jean Romanet under a vintage Frankie Dettori ride from the front, and may step up in distance to the Prix Vermeille. But Cumani-trained Mad Rush had to settle for second behind unconsidered Ponte Tresa in the Prix Kergolay, though he did have the Gold Cup third Coastal Path, the hot favourite, a place behind.
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