Fame And Glory makes no mistake in Irish Derby
Epsom runner-up leaves rivals toiling as Ballydoyle tactics deliver one-two
Monday 29 June 2009
History can repeat itself through mere coincidence; but it is made, in the first place, by the intentions of great men. Once again, an Irish winner of the Epsom original had been withdrawn from his home Derby at the 11th hour. Last year, it was a training setback that prompted the withdrawal of New Approach; this time, in contrast, the going was ostensibly too exacting for Sea The Stars. In the end, however, the most inexorable symmetry yesterday concerned the man who trained the runaway winner.
Fame And Glory was the third consecutive Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner saddled by Aidan O'Brien, and the seventh in all – so giving him outright ownership of a record previously shared with his namesake, Vincent ("MV") O'Brien.
It was only four weeks ago that MV died, at the age of 92. Presiding over this latest reiteration of their shared hegemony was his son-in-law, John Magnier, who hired O'Brien to train for Coolmore Stud when MV retired. And he was quick to emphasise that it was not just a surname that united the two men, nor even the bricks and mortar of Ballydoyle.
MV, he said, had his own part in the emergence of Fame And Glory. "All the bloodlines originated with him," Magnier said. "As Aidan has pointed out several times, he set up Ballydoyle. And Aidan has continued that, and he'd be very proud of that."
This performance confirmed Fame And Glory's future eligibility to follow his own sire and grandsire, Montjeu and Sadler's Wells, in sustaining the Coolmore project. But its execution owed much to the ability of these men to plan as effectively in the short term.
As such, Fame And Glory redressed an uncharacteristic omission on their part at Epsom. Just six days after MV's death, an air of destiny had seemed to summon the colt, brilliant winner of his two rehearsals in the spring, and likewise his backers, who sent him off a very well backed favourite. Between them, however, the six Ballydoyle runners that day neglected to examine the unproven stamina of the 2,000 Guineas winner, Sea The Stars, who was even permitted first run on the stoutly bred Fame And Glory.
Four of the stable's runners passed the post together, within a couple of lengths of the stylish winner, and this blurred picture of their relative merit palpably gnawed at their trainer. Next time, there would be no messing. If Sea The Stars was to beat Fame And Glory again, he would jolly well have to get past him first.
As things turned out, he declined the challenge. All last week his trainer, John Oxx, had been going to conspicuous lengths to emphasise that Sea The Stars would only take his chance on fast ground. In the event, conditions here yesterday were probably little different to those that prevailed at Epsom. But there was always a sense his connections would be perfectly happy to drop the colt back to 10 furlongs for the rest of his career. Certainly, the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on Saturday will play to his strengths rather more obviously than what turned into a fairly brutal examination under the brooding Co Kildare skies.
Even in his absence, Sea The Stars seemed to have a ghostly role in this race. In sticking to the game plan, of course, the Ballydoyle confederates were demonstrably concerned principally with what would suit their horses, rather than what would not suit anyone else's. But it was impossible not to wonder how Sea The Stars might have coped with a pace so unsparing that Fame And Glory, who finished just a neck in front of Masterofthehorse at Epsom, left him 16 lengths in his wake here.
In between were just two other colts. Golden Sword bravely sustained the gallop after taking over from the exhausted Rockhampton on the home turn, but was beaten five lengths into second. He looks an obvious Ladbrokes St Leger winner. Then came Mourayan, who reprised the supporting role he played behind the winner in their trials at Leopardstown, again keeping on after faltering as the screw was turned. In the meantime Johnny Murtagh had asked Fame And Glory to close steadily from midfield, passing Golden Sword a furlong out before surging clear under hands and heels.
O'Brien stressed that there were more dimensions to the winner than stamina. "Johnny didn't care what happened, if they went fast or if they went slow," he said. "It doesn't matter to this horse. You could see that from the way he won his two trials [over 10 furlongs] – it's obvious he has loads of class. Going back in trip won't be any problem. Johnny didn't even give him a slap down the shoulder."
O'Brien declined to speculate how Fame And Glory might have fared in the putative rematch with Sea The Stars. "But you saw what happened today with the horses that ran at Epsom," he said. "If it happens, it would be great for racing."
For now, he was careful to avoid any premature suggestions as to where their paths might cross. But O'Brien and Magnier must now decide how to approach the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot next month – a race they have tended to reserve for older horses in recent years. As such, Yeats may yet end up dropping back in trip there, allowing Fame And Glory a midsummer break with an international autumn in mind.
Murtagh, meanwhile, was not prevaricating. "I don't care what turned up today, he would have been hard to beat," he said. "I knew coming here that this horse was going to be a different proposition altogether. He has improved mentally, is much sharper and on the ball."
As the axiom beneath the grandstand clock puts it: "Time discloses all." And so it will. In breaking new ground, the 144th Irish Derby showed that exactly the same is true of the cycles that repeat on the track itself.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Nap: Solas Alainn (8.25 Musselburgh)
Needs to be forgiven a below-par run last time, but his stable remains in rampant form and he could get an easy lead here.
Next best: Sadaska (4.15 Pontefract)
This stoutly bred filly was predictably taken off her feet in two starts over seven furlongs before returning from a break earlier in the month – in the process earning a rating she could easily exceed given this much stiffer test.
One to watch: Act Of Kalanisi (M Johnston) is quickly finding his feet and was much improved on his handicap debut at Chester on Saturday. After struggling for rhythm round the bends, he finished very strongly and only just failed. Looks guaranteed to win a decent staying handicap.
Where the money's going: Sea The Stars is evens from 5-4 with the sponsors for the Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Sandown, Saturday).
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