Collet dynasty writes fresh regal chapter in Immortal Verse
Saturday 18 June 2011
Well, at least the weather was authentically British.
Otherwise, the way things are going, the Queen might begin to wonder whether the most precious turf in all her kingdom has been annexed by the Fourth Republic. Less than a fortnight after the top hats of Epsom were doffed at André Fabre, at the incidental expense of one of her colts, the French yesterday became the toast of her own racecourse.
At least the monarch could be comforted that their success in a race honouring her own investiture had upheld the principle of inheritance. Immortal Verse, brilliant winner of the Coronation Stakes, is trained by Robert Collet; and the runner-up, Nova Hawk, by his son, Rod. Here was the chance for the French to see how it feels for an entire nation to be represented by one family.
A contemporary of Fabre, Collet Snr is another veteran achiever of the Parisian Turf. Twenty-five years ago, he saddled Last Tycoon to win the King's Stand Stakes here, over five furlongs. That same autumn, he pulled off a flamboyant coup by saddling the same colt to win over a mile at the third Breeders' Cup.
The cosmopolitan composition of this field was reflected by a reverse journey for More Than Ready, who had last been seen winning at the 27th Breeders' Cup. In the event, however, she completed a rather humbling week for the Americans, tailing off on the rain-soaked ground. Instead it was the French who would reward those punters prepared to look beyond the familiar, in a race that had seemed to lack genuine star quality.
All that changed when Gérald Mossé produced Immortal Verse from last place to burst a couple of lengths clear in a matter of strides. The fact that Nova Hawk followed her through, also from the rear, suggested that they had gone off pretty hard in the conditions. Best of the home team was Barefoot Lady, who showed characteristic honesty in third, just ahead of I Love Me and Together.
Immortal Verse had been withdrawn at the start in the 1,000 Guineas, before an anonymous run in the French version, but had since impressed at another racecourse with a royal history, Chantilly. "This filly is the best I have trained," Collet said. "At Newmarket she had a blind on to go into the stalls, but there was a lot of wind and it irritated her. Things didn't go to plan at Longchamp, so we forgot about that. You have to be really stubborn to come back and prove that you have a Group One filly."
She will be kept on home soil for her next start, in the Prix d'Astarte at Deauville in August. But the fact that Mossé was wearing the same Robert Strauss silks as Cash Asmussen on Last Tycoon, all those years ago, gave extra resonance to Collet's restoration on the international stage. His son was suitably moved, proud of both his family and his own filly. "I am very happy for my father," Collet Jnr said. "My filly just needs to be a bit more relaxed, so we may drop her to seven furlongs now."
Fabre, meanwhile, may well be asking himself whether he would still be awaiting that first Derby winner had the British summer begun to live down to its reputation rather sooner. John Gosden had withdrawn Nathaniel from Epsom after deciding that the ground would be too fast, and then watched Treasury Beach, who had beaten Nathaniel in a photo at Chester, caught only on the line by Pour Moi.
Nathaniel would certainly have been involved, granted suitable conditions, judging on the way he surged five lengths clear of what looked a strong field for the King Edward VII Stakes. But his Classic fulfilment may only have been delayed, as he is now 3-1 favourite for the Ladbrokes St Leger. "I ran his brother Percussionist in the Derby, but he couldn't come down the hill because the ground had dried up," Gosden said. "So we learnt from that and didn't run Nathaniel at Epsom. He gets very fizzy and warm, but that is just his nature."
Gosden stressed that the owners first had to be consulted over the colt's future, but we were reminded at Doncaster last year that he knows a Leger colt when he sees one. There is now a possibility that two Classic winners were divided by just half a length on their debut at Newmarket last summer, Nathaniel having bumped into no less a colt than Frankel.
You can set your clock by Gosden at this meeting and he promptly completed a double with Beachfire, while Mark Johnston saddled his sixth winner in 11 runnings of the Queen Vase when Namibian rallied to thwart Solar Sky. A first Royal Ascot winner for the blossoming Silvestre de Sousa, Namibian could himself be aimed at the Leger, while Samitar laid down a marker for next year's Classics with lively acceleration in the Albany Stakes. As Collet could tell you, however, at this range even entering the stalls for the 1,000 Guineas remains ambition enough.
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