The next running of the Derby may be eight months away, with the more rugged encounters of the winter season starting to demand notice. But the focus here nonetheless belonged to the Epsom summer showpiece. The last Group 1 hurrah of the domestic Flat season, the Racing Post Trophy, has produced four of its last 12 winners, including the latest, Camelot. And yesterday's young hero, Kingsbarns, made enough of an impression to be judged as short as a 3-1 chance to follow in his hoofprints in June.
The son of Galileo has already trodden one well-worn path from Co Tipperary, as his trainer Aidan O'Brien's seventh winner of yesterday's mile juvenile contest. And like Camelot, he came to the top-level test off the back of just a debut maiden victory. He came in rather under the radar, having had that first run only 17 days previously. But once he was identified as the prime Ballydoyle candidate by being put in the race at the supplementary entry stage on Monday, the hint was taken and he started a well-backed 15-8 favourite.
Neither Kingsbarns' fans nor his rider, O'Brien's son Joseph, had a moment's concern. The colt travelled smoothly as Trading Leather and then Steeler towed the field along, moved to the front more than a furlong out and it was only because he showed his inexperience by idling in the lead that Van Der Neer was able to get within a length and three-quarters as he inched out Steeler for the runner-up spot. "I probably went past the others sooner than ideal," said O'Brien jr, "but my momentum just took me there. It was only his second race and he still felt green, but he felt like he's going to be a very good horse."
Camelot, of course, took the 2,000 Guineas before the Derby, and his young stablemate has also taken high rank in the winter market for the Newmarket contest. "All options are open," he said. "We'll see how he goes during the winter and the boys will make some decisions next year. It was they who made the decision to run him today, and for him to be the only one of all our entries. If it was up to me I'd just have run them all and hoped I had one good enough."
"The boys" are, of course, the Coolmore partners – headed by John Magnier – in whose colours the majority of the Ballydoyle horses run. And their methods are based on more than just admiration for and gut feeling about a lovely, well-bred young horse. "His half-speeds were impressive in the spring, but then we left him alone because we had plenty of others to get on with early on," said O'Brien. "And even after he won at Navan the last day we thought we might leave him.
"But he came out of that race very fresh and well. And his data – his home speed figures, his heart rate, his recovery rate, the visuals and the way he compared with the others – all stacked up. It was decided to let him sit the big exam, but it was quite a question we asked. He'd never had the experience of being away to the auction sales, or been on a flight, or any of those things. But he's by Galileo, and they tend to have the sort of minds that can cope with all that.
"He seems to have taken it all in his stride. He's still a baby, you could see that in the way that he started to pull up and prick his ears in front. But you love to see them travel through a race the way he did. He's a very exciting young horse."
If yesterday was a bit of an action replay of 12 months previously, there were a couple of differences. Kingsbarns, unlike any of his predecessors, is not only trained by O'Brien, but was bred by him and his wife Anne Marie. And, most unusually, he is Ballydoyle's only juvenile winner in Britain this year. Nothing like saving the best till first.
Leaving aside next weekend's $25 million Breeders Cup extravaganza in the Californian sunshine at Santa Anita, as days get shorter races get longer. At Aintree yesterday, the Nick Williams-trained For Non Stop routed his rivals, headed by Wishfull Thinking, in the Old Roan Chase. Victory was particularly sweet for rider Noel Fehily, only just back in action after breaking a leg in the Grand National.
"I've been back riding two weeks today," he said. "The last time I was here I left in an ambulance so maybe the place owes me one."
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