Whatever Frankie Dettori's trespasses at Epsom last month, they were all forgiven and forgotten at the Curragh yesterday. After the Oaks the Italian had been, with some justification, vilified for losing third place – and the each-way bets – on the favourite Blue Bunting, whom he stopped urging prematurely near the finish. But in the Irish version of the Classic punters did not lose faith in either the filly or her partner, backed them from 11-2 in the morning to 5-2 at the off, and were rewarded, this time, by an inch-perfect display of commitment by horse and rider.
At Epsom, even before Dettori's indecretion, the run of the race had not gone Blue Bunting's way. And again yesterday, she was not an obvious winner halfway down the home straight, trapped among rivals as Banimpire and Kevin Manning struck for home.
But this time, Dettori was in no mood for getting it wrong and, once he switched his mount for a clear run at the leaders, his rhythm and determination matched Blue Bunting's own co-operation and reserves of stamina, and the pair caught gallant Banimpire in the final stride to take the Group One prize by a short-head.
Relief was Dettori's first reaction. "Epsom had been a bit of a mess-up," he said, "and though I knew she had a great chance today, when I got myself stuck behind the other horses I was struggling. As a last resort I switched to the outside and once she saw daylight she picked up and really came home.
"But I didn't know I'd won until after we'd pulled up. I don't ride here that often and I had to ask Kevin [Manning] and he told me I had."
The Godolphin colourbearer's pretty head was in front for only one stride, the one that mattered. But as much credit must go to the Jim Bolger-trained Banimpire, who went past Oaks winner Dancing Rain a quarter of a mile out and then repelled both Wonder Of Wonders, the Oaks runner-up and 5-4 favourite, and Laughing Lashes before being mugged by the winner.
The Darley-sponsored prize was a second Classic for Blue Bunting, who had also pounced late to take the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, and a first Irish Oaks for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation. The dark grey daughter of Dynaformer is 10-1 from 25-1, to add another Classic to her trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni's second-season tally in the St Leger.
"You can never be confident before a race like this," said Al Zarooni. "We knew we had a good filly, but she was taking on top-class ones. It was a brilliant ride by Frankie."
Less than a length covered the first four home; Wonder Of Wonders, with Ryan Moore in the saddle, was half a length behind Banimpire and a short-head in front of Laughing Lashes, whose rider, Fran Berry, dropped his whip in the closing stages. Dancing Rain, attempting to become the 14th to complete the Epsom-Curragh double, came in fifth.
There was some compensation for the Coolmore operation for Wonder Of Wonders' defeat in the form of emerging talent in the two influential juvenile contests. The newcomer Apollo, a Galileo colt trained by Aidan O'Brien, took the seven-furlong maiden with some aplomb, seeing off the more experienced Newbury Hall by three lengths.
And then the Dansili filly Fire Lily led home a clean sweep for various Co Tipperary partnerships in the Group Three Anglesey Stakes. She, though, is from the David Wachman stable, and on this occasion put the Ballydoyle trio of After, Boris Grigoriev and Ishvana in their places.
* Chris McGrath's Nap
Glass Mountain (2.45 Yarmouth)
Was not unfancied on his handicap debut and, although only fifth, the loss of a shoe cannot have helped his cause.
* Next best
Lovage (7.10 Windsor)
Blew her chance on her debut with a tardy start but finished to some purpose once she got her act together.
* One to watch
Our Jonathan (Kevin Ryan)
Has let favourite backers down the last twice, but was caught in traffic on both occasions and is worth another chance.
* Where the money's going
Workforce has been cut by most bookmakers for Saturday's King George after work yesterday and is now a general 3-1.Reuse content