Gutsy Mickdaam gives Fahey Derby prospects
An odds-on favourite already bestrides the Epsom betting, and the flat-out success of Mickdaam in the trial staged across the mire here yesterday did nothing to alter that.
The colt he thwarted, however, may yet intrude on the Triple Crown dreams of those already marking down the Investec Derby for Camelot.
After taking time to find his feet in the MBNA Chester Vase, Model Pupil would have nailed Mickdaam in another stride. Their riders had no idea who had won the day, but Michael Hills could at least later console himself that his mount had proved his eligibility for a very different type of challenge.
In truth, if he could get so close to a rival as seasoned as Mickdaam, careering round these bends in May, then Model Pupil will surely be a force to be reckoned with down the long, galloping straight at Doncaster in September. The sponsors duly introduced him at 16-1 for the Ladbrokes St Leger.
In the meantime, the jockey and trainer of Mickdaam will eagerly embrace the odds against him at Epsom, broadly assessed at 33-1 by the bookmakers. This colt was last month restored to Richard Fahey's Malton yard by Mike De Kock, the South African trainer who had custody of him in Dubai during the winter. Fourth in the UAE Derby, Mickdaam had looked ready for this longer trip when running well on his return at the Craven meeting.
Sure enough, matching the pugnacious style of Tony Hamilton in the saddle, yesterday he saw off the two Irish raiders in the straight before holding Model Pupil's late charge by a nose.
"Not bad," Fahey mused. "A little northern lad like me having a runner in the Derby." If nothing else, it is gratifying to see him finally training for the Maktoum family – the colt is owned by Sheikh Mohammed's cousin – and Hamilton in the frame for a maiden Classic ride. Having won the Lincoln on the first day of the campaign, the jockey is certainly making the most of Paul Hanagan's departure from Malton to ride for Sheikh Hamdan.
"I always knew it might be a big season for me," Hamilton said. "I've been with Richard for 10 years, and with Paul taking the big job I knew someone would have to ride the horses. I didn't know it would be me, but I hoped so. This horse does know how to fight, and that's what he did all the way."
As for Model Pupil, Charlie Hills may have a colt competent to fill the tragic void left by the loss of Gray Pearl at Newmarket last weekend. "Michael said they stacked up in the back, and it just took him a while to get going, but that he was gaining all the time," the young trainer said. "He's very gutsy and get the Leger trip."
The other Group race on the card was also won by a desert migrant. Marcret, who had joined Marco Botti from his Italian homeland for a Dubai campaign, was entered for a sale last week but bought privately by Dr Marwan Koukash when he realised that the Betfair Huxley Stakes would close first.
"I had never seen the horse before today," said the owner, whose expanding string is so focused on this meeting. "But I was desperate for a runner in this race." As it happened, his filly, Myplacelater, finished second – but he can only have liked what he saw of Marcret, both before and during the race.
For Botti, this was a timely tonic before the unbeaten Kingsdesire takes on Bonfire, the nearest rival to Camelot in the Derby market, in today's Stobart Barristers Dee Stakes.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Imperial Djay (1.35 Chester) From a stable in form, this course winner handles bad ground and is likely to exploit a fair mark, shaping well when set plenty to do last time.
Bunraku (4.15 Chester) Travelled strongly in Newmarket debut race whose form is working out well, and ran as though she will like this shorter distance.
One to watch
Escape To Glory (Mikael Magnusson) was only 19th in a Newmarket sprint on Sunday but moved powerfully until badly hampered and eased.
Where the money's going
Converted jump jockey Graham Lee is now 7-4 with William Hill to ride 50 winners during the Flat turf season.
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