Fencing Master gives Ballydoyle the perfect foil

After a midweek vacillation, Aidan O'Brien yesterday declared Steinbeck for the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh tomorrow – taking his team for the Classic to six out of 13. But he admits the colt to be "only just ready to run" following his setback last month and, given the overall profile of the Ballydoyle three-year-olds this spring, Steinbeck should certainly profit both mentally and physically for only the third race of his career.

After all, O'Brien is promising significant progress for their own comeback races from both St Nicholas Abbey, when he lines up as favourite for the Investec Derby a fortnight tomorrow, and Fencing Master, generally perceived as second string to Steinbeck at the Curragh. In the circumstances, backers of St Nicholas Abbey will be keeping an anxious eye on Fencing Master's performance tomorrow. The stablemates finished sixth and seventh respectively in the Newmarket Guineas, divided by just half a length, and if anything it was Fencing Master who had looked the more obvious candidate to improve as they strolled around the parade ring beforehand.

The word from Co Tipperary had permitted no doubt that St Nicholas Abbey was rated superior and Steinbeck, likewise, has long had a more glamorous reputation. But Fencing Master achieved as much as Steinbeck, in a similarly brief campaign at two, and any neutral at Newmarket would have identified him as more imposing physically than St Nicholas Abbey.

He looked sure to tighten up during the months ahead, and remained very short on experience. In the race itself, he briefly seemed flat-footed before keeping on under a sensibly conservative ride. "He's a grand, laid-back horse," O'Brien said yesterday. "Maybe in an ideal world, we'd have preferred it if they had gone a little bit faster for his first race back. Maybe that would have helped him get into a rhythm, as he is a little bit lazy. Since then, our horses have been improving a good deal for their first run."

It is not inconceivable that a big run from Fencing Master might yet enable him to join another very deep Ballydoyle squad for Epsom, albeit his pedigree would make him a doubtful stayer. There would be no such reservations about Jan Vermeer, already a runaway winner at Group One level in France last autumn. O'Brien had this colt in reserve for Steinbeck tomorrow, but told At The Races that he would instead step him up to 10 furlongs for the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes on Sunday's card. "He is still in the Derby picture," O'Brien said. "But we need to see him first and see how forward he is. We feel he's just ready to start, but obviously he'll come on a lot."

His traditional adversaries at Godolphin are developing a fascinating new strategy, and the stakes are correspondingly raised for the showdown between one of their recent transfers from André Fabre, Cutlass Bay, and one of the key older horses at Ballydoyle, Fame And Glory, in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on Sunday. Rewilding certainly made an impressive start for Godolphin's Newmarket wing at Goodwood on Wednesday, and is now no better than 14-1 for Epsom.

These, of course, are the superpowers of the Turf, whose spending requires consistent dividends in its top races. It is always heartening, then, to see them shown the way by such implausible adventurers as Chip Woolley, who last year brought an unknown gelding named Mine That Bird up from New Mexico to stun everyone in the Kentucky Derby. With his handlebar moustache, cowboy hat and crutches, Woolley showed that David really could slay Goliath on the 21st-century Turf. Now, however, he must come to terms with a less romantic side of the American sport, where horses are routinely and unsentimentally moved to other trainers.

Woolley is "devastated" that Mine That Bird has been removed from his barn. The only comfort, for romantics, is that his owners have chosen to send him to no less a genius than Wayne Lukas – once the dominant trainer in North America, but now in the evening of his career. If Mine That Bird could restore him to centre stage in the Breeders' Cup Classic, public gratification would only be briefly tempered by due sympathy for Woolley.

Turf account

Nap

Mabuya (4.10 Chepstow) Gelded during his absence, and looked an improved horse on his reappearance at Ffos Las, unlucky not to get up after meeting traffic problems.

Next best

Destinys Dream (4.20 Catterick) From a small yard in top form, this mare being a case in point. Unlucky at Newcastle and then always going smoothly at Thirsk last time.

One to watch

Hypnotized (M L W Bell) Suffered a typical Goodwood hard-luck story on Wednesday, repeatedly short of room while the leader stole a decisive advantage.

Where the money's going

Anna Salai is 4-1 from 5-1 with Totesport to win Mahmood Al Zarooni his first Classic in the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Sunday.

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: Operations Manager

£28500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers unique corp...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Product Support Specialists

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in the design...

Recruitment Genius: Field Engineer

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has 30 years of ex...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Account Manager

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing cloud based I...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat