it was easy to see why connections should have wanted a jockey who could also ride Recital in the Investec Derby; less obvious, however, was how some bookmakers could be persuaded to make the colt second favourite.
In winning the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown yesterday, Recital looked a really awkward ride, and Kieren Fallon will be glad of this reconnaissance when they team up again at Epsom. On the face of it, indeed, some might hesitate before turning down Native Khan, third in the 2,000 Guineas eight days previously. But while Native Khan is dismissed at 16-1, Recital is now as short as 9-2 in places, and nowhere better than 7-1. And Fallon, regardless, will acknowledge a debt to Aidan O'Brien and his patrons at Ballydoyle, dating back to his troubled spell as their stable jockey. This was his first winner in their cause since Dylan Thomas in the 2007 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
O'Brien has dominated this trial over the years, and saddled the first three yesterday. Fallon closed down the pacemaker, Regent Street, turning for home and sent his mount into the lead two furlongs out. Once clear, however, the son of Montjeu began to hang into the rail, tilting his head either through resentment or inattention. It was only the similarly ambivalent demeanour of Memphis Tennessee, apparently unfancied at 25-1, that allowed the 1-2 favourite to preserve a lead of a length and a half.
The runner-up, perhaps still green, himself looked more inclined to go sideways than forwards. Still, the three stablemates managed to see off some plausible candidates from other yards, and it may well be that the extra distance and a bigger field will prompt Recital to finish his race in more convincing fashion at Epsom. Of his essential ability, there can be no doubt. He won a Group One race in France last autumn, after all, and carried a 3lb penalty here as a result. But the fact is that his sire's progeny do not always look disposed to run through a brick wall. "Recital is lazy once he hits the front," O'Brien explained. "I thought the pace came back on top of him in that race."
His patrons have another possible Epsom contender in Pour Moi, a stylish winner for André Fabre in Paris the previous evening. Their principal hope in Co Tipperary, meanwhile, could easily prove to be Seville, who meets Carlton House and World Domination in the Totesport Dante Stakes at York on Thursday. O'Brien suggested that Recital had greater speed than the "laid-back" Seville, last seen finishing second in the Racing Post Trophy.
A couple of lengths in third that day was his stablemate, Master Of Hounds, who ran a storming race to be fifth in the 137th Kentucky Derby on Saturday. In front of a record crowd of 164,858 at Churchill Downs, Master Of Hounds was well behind early under Garrett Gomez, but vindicated O'Brien's suspicion that he would adapt to the dirt, staying on to be beaten five and a half lengths behind Animal Kingdom – himself a horse with turf antecedents. It is likely that Master Of Hounds will be kept back for the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, where his stamina seems sure to make him competitive.
"It was a great run for his first time on dirt," Gomez said. "Down the backstretch they threw the brakes on, and it cost us. We were at the mercy of the pace, but he ran sensationally through the dirt. I'm really looking forward to the Belmont."
The winner is trained by Graham Motion, who was born in Cambridge but whose family emigrated 30 years ago, when he was 16. Previously a winner of two Breeders' Cup races, Motion is based in Maryland and had been devastated last week when a setback ruled out Toby's Corner, reckoned to be his best hope.
Animal Kingdom's jockey, John Velazquez, had originally been booked to ride Uncle Mo, the champion juvenile, who was scratched on the eve of the race. He then switched to replace Robby Alborado, who had broken his nose on Wednesday and did not ride for the next two afternoons.
In the event, however, Alborado proved fit to take his other mounts on Saturday and was devastated to miss out. Velazquez expressed due sympathy. "It had been such a disappointment to lose Uncle Mo," he said. "Then all of a sudden I get on this horse. But you definitely feel bad for Robby. This business is a rollercoaster – and I've been on the other end as well."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Little Black Book (6.10 Windsor)
Has been given a feasible mark for his maiden success at Southwell and could do better again over this longer distance.
Emilio Lago (3.10 Brighton)
Has joined a powerful stable since showing promise in a sprint maiden at two and may improve for this longer trip.
One to watch
Dissent (Gerard Butler) raced freely on his debut at Ascot on Saturday, but can build considerably on the bare form.
Where the money's going
Wonder Of Wonders is now 13-2 from 8-1 for the Oaks with Totesport.