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
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
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

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Humanities Teacher

£110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor