If first impressions really are those that count, then Casamento, though patently not a wonder horse at this stage of his career, may yet prove a champion. The first time Frankie Dettori sat on the chestnut was when he was legged up in the parade ring here before the Racing Post Trophy;hardly 10 minutes later the pair returned to the winner's circle, successful speed-dating and some.
Four years ago, Dettori had taken the Group One contest on Authorized, who went on to Derby glory. And his post-race enthusiasm yesterday indicated he feels this may yet be a match made for Epsom. "As soon as I got on him I liked what I felt," he said, "a terrific physical presence, a powerful horse with a tremendous stride. He seems a horse with a lot of class and will be an exciting three-year-old to look forward to."
After a steady early pace that produced a deal of over-keenness and scrimmaging, Dettori committed Casamento, the 2-1 favourite, nearlytwo furlongs from home. The son of Shamardal, in Sheikh Moham-med's maroon-and-white colours, edged slightly right as he led the pack down the centre of the course. But as soon as he was challenged by Seville, who came wide, he galloped home straight and true for a three-quarter-length success.
With Casamento trained by Mick Halford in Co Kildare and Seville followed in by his Aidan O'Brien stablemate Master Of Hounds, two lengths adrift, it was a clean sweep for Irish yards. Native Khan did best of the home side in fourth. But though the winner was prepared for yesterday's task by Halford, it was his last run for the newest addition to the sheikh's roster of trainers. The colt will henceforth compete in the Godolphin blue and spend the winter in Dubai, where Dettori will doubtless further their relationship.
Halford, for whom he was a first Group One success, wished him well. "He was always going to leave," he said, "and we were just delighted to have him in the first place. He's a lovely,relaxed horse. He's not slow, but he stays, and they'll have fun with him."
Yesterday's contest, over a demanding straight mile, has proved the best recent guide to Epsom among the youngest generation, with Motivator and High Chaparral having precededAuthorized. Casamento's professionalperformance was by no means flamboyant, but nonetheless propelled him up the betting for next year's Derby, the 10-1 second favourite in some lists behind the previous weekend's Dewhurst Stakes winner, Frankel.
"I liked his attitude," added Dettori. "He was idling in front without company, but when the other horse came to him he stuck his head down and got on with his job."
Whether or not Casamento can provide Dettori with his second Derby remains to be seen, and the tale of last year's Racing Post Trophy winner, St Nicholas Abbey, hailed as the second coming after his wide-margin success but with only a sixth in the 2,000 Guineas since, remains a cautionary one, though the Ballydoyle colt will be given the opportunity to retrieve his reputation next year.
As for this year's Epsom hero, Workforce, a decision has been made over his participation in next month's Breeders' Cup Turf, for which he is a warm favourite. There was astatement of intent of sorts yesterday morning as the colt, who added the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe to his laurels three weeks ago, worked round a left-handed bend on the Newmarket gallops, looking on extremely good terms with himself as he pulled well clear under Ryan Moore of two Sir Michael Stoute stablemates.
But yesterday afternoon Teddy Grimthorpe, the racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, confirmed: "He will run providing the ground is not too firm. They have had verylittle rain in Kentucky, but they are forecast substantial rain in the next week, so I doubt it will be a problem."
At Newbury yesterday, Klammer, left for dead by Frankel in the Royal Lodge Stakes, paid his Ascot conqueror a compliment by edging out Dux Scholar and Elzaam in the seven-furlong Group Three contest. And at Aintree, with the jump season edging towards centre stage on the domestic front, the ever-sprightly veteran Monet's Garden took the Old Roan Chase for the third time in four years. The 12-year-old grey made every yard under Dougie Costello, shaking off the persistent challenge of Poquelin after the last obstacle to score by half a length.