Derby still in O'Brien plans for Navigator

The swifts made it back for Guineas weekend, as they tend to, and down below Nature seemed to be observing the same, immutable cycles in the horses, too. Once again, a colt arrived here from Co Tipperary as the first bloom of an approaching summer. And, once again, Godolphin's desert migrants seemed to return in a state of hopeless disorientation.

It is all driven by breeding, of course, and as such a fresh course was yesterday suggested for Henrythenavigator, the colt who ended New Approach's unbeaten record in an epic race for the Stan James 2,000 Guineas on Saturday. The theory that Henrythenavigator has the genes of a pure miler did not survive a night of reflection at Ballydoyle, and Aidan O'Brien and his patrons – notably John Magnier, the boss of Coolmore Stud – are now pondering the possibility of trying him over a mile and a half in the Vodafone Derby.

"I may have been a bit too cut and dried yesterday about Henrythenavigator being a miler," the trainer said. "The Kingmambos do stay further and he's out of a Sadler's Wells mare who stayed a mile and a half, and his sister [Queen Cleopatra] got at least 10 furlongs.

"We've had a think about it, talked with the boss, and the Derby is definitely in our thoughts now. It's the race that everyone wants to win, the most important race for three-year-olds. The fortunes of Coolmore have been built on the Derby.

"Henrythenavigator has many of the qualities you need at Epsom. You have to have a horse that has speed, can travel and can quicken. And he has that tactical pace that means he can stay balanced."

O'Brien emphasised that nothing had been decided, not least whether to persevere towards a rematch with New Approach in the Boylesports Irish 2,000 Guineas on 24 May. But there would surely be concern over the prospect of a hard race over a mile, just a fortnight before Epsom.

Like each of the four previous Guineas winners trained by O'Brien, Henrythenavigator was making his reappearance. As usual, his stable had only crept into bud during April. Time after time, however, the most brilliant horseman of his generation dependably coaxes his horses into flower just at the right time.

O'Brien might reproach himself for Henrythenavigator's failure to build on his first two juvenile races. After a defeat, in heavy ground at the Curragh last August he was turned out just 13 days later to bang heads with New Approach.

If nothing else, however, this tough grounding ensured that he needed only to dovetail fitness with maturity to beat that same colt on Saturday. Lesser trainers always tell you how they need to give horses with Classic pedigrees time to come to hand. O'Brien can do that, too, if he needs to – Footstepsinthesand, the 2005 winner, did not make his debut until the previous October. But how many rival trainers have noticed that his two most recent winners began their careers 364 days before the race? George Washington ran in a maiden on the Sunday here – he was beaten, as it happens, but at least he was up and running – while Henrythenavigator won by seven lengths at Gowran Park a year ago yesterday. The fact is that if they don't bite as puppies, they won't bite as dogs.

The process was not straightforward last year. "For some reason the two-year-olds didn't progress as normal," O'Brien reflected. "Instead of going forwards, they were standing still. We couldn't find anything, so we pulled back on them, because we didn't want to damage them for this year. After that we ran out of time with most of them, this horse included. And we were worried he might need it here, because the horses have all been coming forward for a run."

Make no mistake, this was a huge result for Ballydoyle. Last year Magnier and his partners watched in bemusement as Sheikh Mohammed, whose cavalries were being routinely outperformed in the Classics, embarked on an unprecedented binge of spending to revive his stagnant empire. If any horse ran fast enough, anywhere in the world, it seemed as though its owners could name their price.

Being determined not to support Coolmore stallions at the yearling sales, the Sheikh instead tapped into the next generation: sons of Galileo in New Approach and Teofilo, and Montjeu's Derby winner, Authorized. Perhaps he will now have to wait to buy Henrythenavigator's sons.

For Godolphin, it was another depressing Classic weekend, the well backed Ibn Khaldun trailing in 10th. The Sheikh can comfort himself that New Approach consolidated his reputation, even in defeat. Ridden aggressively, he had most of them cooked going into the Dip, and rallied ardently once headed. The pair pulled four lengths clear, and his trainer – O'Brien's mentor, Jim Bolger – consoled himself that the 200th running of the race would go down "as one of the very best".

Bolger had astonished many people by deciding not to aim New Approach at Epsom. It is a comfort to learn that his protégé is not so indifferent.

Suggested Topics
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, an ...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£65000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A long-established, tech...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Software Development Project Manager - Kingston Upon Thames

£55000 - £60000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Experienced Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders