O'Brien remains on Glory trail
Montjeu colt sweeps to Derby favouritism with rout of Leopardstown field
Monday 11 May 2009
Giving a racehorse a name to live up to can be an exercise fraught with peril but, happily, the innate talent of Fame And Glory has – so far anyway – avoided the possibility of hubris. After treating his rivals in yesterday's Derrinstown Stud Trial at Leopardstown with disdain, the three-year-old became the latest Derby favourite, supplanting the 2,000 Guineas winner Sea The Stars at the top of the bookmakers' lists.
Fame And Glory was undeniably impressive in the rehearsal his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, has now won six times in nine runnings, including with future Epsom heroes Galileo and High Chaparral, and with near miss Dylan Thomas. With the stable No 1 jockey Johnny Murtagh on duty on Westphalia in France, the powerful bay was ridden for the first time by Seamie Heffernan and completed his task with the minimum of fuss.
Settled off a decent pace set by his own pacemaker and that of his perceived chief rival Mourayan – Sea The Stars' John Oxx stablemate – Fame And Glory had a smooth passage throughout, bar one blip when Heffernan found himself in a momentary pocket on the rails. But once in the clear, the colt cut down Fergus McIver, who had gone for home in the straight, in a matter of strides and surged away to win by five clear lengths. And if he did swish his tail a couple of times through the final furlong, it was only a quirk befitting a son of the feisty Montjeu.
Mourayan, driven along under pressure for half of the 10 furlongs, plugged on into second place, a worse performance against the 4-7 winner than when they had met three weeks ago, and it now seems the Oxx stable's Epsom baton is firmly with Sea The Stars.
Fame And Glory, as short as 5-2 for the premier Classic, will go to the Surrey Downs next month unbeaten in four runs. Which of his fellow Ballydoyle inmates accompany him will be clearer after the sport at York this week; in Thursday's Dante Stakes, along with the 2,000 Guineas the most reliable trial on the domestic programme, O'Brien has four entries, but is likely to rely on the maiden winner Freemantle against last year's juvenile champion Crowded House. And in the wings as sturdy back-up are Age Of Aquarius – doughty winner of the Lingfield Trial on Saturday – and Golden Sword and Masterofthehorse, first and second at Chester last week.
"After the trials are all over," said O'Brien yesterday, "we'll all sit down and have a talk about the Derby and other targets. I was delighted with Fame And Glory today, he did it very well as everyone saw. He's always seemed a high-class horse from the first day and he's one who has had a clear run all the way through.
"There are others, like Age Of Aquarius, who had little setbacks. They'll all improve at different rates, some for one race, others for two, and we'll have to factor in what we know at home, and what Johnny and the others tell us from what they've felt on the track."
At this stage a year ago, O'Brien already had two top-level strikes on the board, on his way to a remarkable 23 Group One victories. This term, his start has been lower-key and, yesterday in France, Westphalia followed the examples of Rip Van Winkle and Heart Shaped by running fourth in a Guineas, beaten by just over two lengths in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Longchamp.
Westphalia finished fast and strongly under Murtagh after traffic problems in the straight, and was later promoted to third after the stewards relegated Naqoos for interfering with a rival. But although Westphalia might have taken the runner-up spot from Le Havre with a clear run, the winner, Silver Frost, brought with a scything run on the outside by Christophe Soumillon, was decisive in his triumph. The grey, owned by a Harrogate businessman, John Cotton, and trained at Deauville by Yves de Nicolay, is likely to be aimed at the French Derby.
A step up to the French Oaks is now on the radar of Fantasia, whose putative wonder-filly bubble burst with her third place in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, the Gallic 1,000 Guineas. Luca Cumani's charge galloped comfortably in second for most of the contest as Frankie Dettori followed the trail blazed by Christophe Lemaire on Elusive Wave. But the white-faced bay had no answer when the leader quickened away, and was also caught close home by Tamazirte, giving trainer Jean-Claude Rouget a one-two.
It was a second Classic reverse in a week for Fantasia's owner, George Strawbridge, whose other star, Rainbow View – now sharing favouritism for the Oaks with Saturday's wide-margin Lingfield winner Midday – was beaten on the Rowley Mile, also at odds-on.
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