Cape's charge fails to kick Murtagh's Abbey habit

The second Epsom trial at the York meeting proved a mirror image of the first, each in turn suggesting reflected glories. In both cases, connections of the winner remained adamant that they had a better one at home. On Wednesday, after saddling Aviate to win the Musidora Stakes, Henry Cecil had insisted that Timepiece looked a superior candidate for the Investec Oaks on the gallops. And yesterday Johnny Murtagh dismounted Cape Blanco after the Totesport Dante Stakes to confirm unequivocally that St Nicholas Abbey, beaten on his reappearance in the 2,000 Guineas, is still the outstanding Derby colt at Ballydoyle.

Whether these reflected glories prove flattering remains to be seen. Cape Blanco, like Aviate, had maintained an unbeaten record with authority. But while Totesport duly cut his Epsom odds to 7-2 from 14-1, they also trimmed St Nicholas Abbey to 5-2 from 3-1.

Funnily enough, while St Nicholas Abbey's failure over a mile has necessarily seen him depicted as more of a staying type, this success over 10 furlongs could not stifle reservations over Cape Blanco's stamina for the extra distance in the Derby. Though his sire, Galileo, will clearly help in that respect, his dam is a half-sister to that streak of lightning Paris House, and herself never won beyond five furlongs. It is a pedigree reminiscent of Rip Van Winkle, who ultimately proved most effective over a mile for the stable last year.

Either way, Cape Blanco looks an authentic Group One colt. Always highly regarded last year, when he won all three starts over seven furlongs, he was allowed to start at 9-2 for his reappearance despite facing just four rivals – reflecting disquiet over lack of momentum in the Ballydoyle three-year-olds this spring. But he was always going with gusto before responding purposefully to pressure, drawing over three lengths clear of Workforce.

Workforce had come here as the bookmakers' leading home candidate for Epsom, but inexperience and discomfort on the quick ground together caused him to hang unhappily from the home turn. The impression was exacerbated by the bit slipping through his mouth, but he eventually organised himself sufficiently to wear down Co-ordinated Cut for second close home. Chabal ran deplorably, however, first off the bridle and never threatening to rally. "It's very disappointing as we thought we had a Derby horse," Frankie Dettori said. "It was too bad to be true."

Conditions have palpably inhibited quite a few horses at this meeting. Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of Workforce, felt his colt would prefer easier going and reserved judgement on Epsom. Teddy Grimthorpe, the owner's racing manager, rightly observed that "second in a Group Two on his second start is not a catastrophe by any means".

The winner himself, according to Murtagh, relished the ground – having struggled in softer going on his final start at two. It was alarming, then, to hear rumours that he had returned sore to the racecourse stables. Those supervising the horse played down such suggestions, but the colt was thought to be under official observation before travelling back to Ireland.

Aidan O'Brien himself was not present, but his stable jockey was confident Cape Blanco had run a solid trial. "He'd handle everything Epsom would throw at him," Murtagh said. "He has good temperament and balance, and plenty of speed. I'm not sure about the stamina, but you often need that question mark in your head going to Epsom."

The uncertainty would not extend, however, to his likely mount. Was St Nicholas Abbey still his number one? "Yes," he said firmly. "I haven't been getting them right too often but please God, if the horse who won the Racing Post Trophy shows up, I will this time."

Epsom is meanwhile also on the agenda for Sariska, who made all the running in the Totesport Middleton Stakes, Midday's pursuit proving very awkward on the ground. Even in victory Sariska's jockey, Jamie Spencer, was scathing about the conditions. "There are trials on at this meeting and the ground shouldn't be as firm as that for any racehorse in this day and age," he complained.

Sariska, at any rate, has clearly flourished very much as her physique promised from three to four. Michael Bell, her trainer, will now send her back to the scene of her Oaks success for the Investec Coronation Cup. There is a last chance, incidentally, for the next Oaks winner to announce herself in the Swettenham Stud Fillies' Trial at Newbury today. Highlight of the last day at York, meanwhile, is the Emirates Airline Yorkshire Cup, where Manifest (2.40) can prove himself a rising star.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Murura (6.50 Hamilton) Suggested he can improve past his initial rating when managing second after missing the break last time, and back over another furlong here.

Next best

Fortuni (2.10 York) Had just begun to flourish when disappearing last summer and trainer's perseverance commands respect. Could be type to return for the Ebor.

One to watch

Mabuya (P J Makin) Was gelded over the winter and looked much improved at Ffos Las last week, flying close home after being delayed in traffic.

Where the money's going

Akdarena, impressive at Naas on Wednesday evening, is 12-1 from 14-1 with William Hill for the Investec Oaks.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there