By winning the Critérium International at Saint-Cloud yesterday Roderic O'Connor, named after an 11th-century king of Connaught, ensured that this year's two-year-old crown will sit squarely on the head of his Dewhurst Stakes conqueror Frankel. Not that there had been many doubts but now the head, in the form of the men who clinically compile the end-of-season ratings, can concur with the heart, represented by the public's love affair with Frankel's trainer, Henry Cecil.
Roderic O'Connor had been squarely put in his place when just over two lengths runner-up in the Dewhurst. Before that, he had a similar margin of superiority over his Aidan O'Brien stablemate Master Of Hounds as Casamento subsequently had in the Racing Post Trophy. Yesterday, he left Grand Critérium runner-up Maiguri further behind him than did the Longchamp winner Wootton Basset.
Roderic O'Connor's latest victory was a 14th Group One of the year for O'Brien and was achieved despite a heart-stopping right-hand swerve across the course going to the final furlong. The winner had had quickened smartly clear on the testing ground for Johnny Murtagh at the head of the straight, only for his wayward antics to allow Salto to threaten. But once aligned with the stands rail Roderic O'Connor surged away again. He had a length and a half to spare at the line, with a full five more back to third-placed Maiguri. "We had wanted to keep him covered up," said O'Brien, "but that was not possible because of his wide draw. And I think he just got a bit lonely and inattentive in front."
O'Brien nominated the 2,000 Guineas, for which Frankel is hot favourite, as Roderic O'Connor's first Classic target. The colt is around 10-1 for Newmarket and a similar price, along with fellow Ballydoyle inmate Seville, the Racing Post Trophy second, for the Derby.
In the small hours of tomorrow morning, seven northern hemisphere raiders will challenge for the 150th running of the Melbourne Cup. Only two from these parts, Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle, have won the two-mile handicap, both sent by Dermot Weld, who is represented by Profound Beauty this time. But both Luca Cumani, with nose runner-up Bauer two years ago, and Saeed bin Suroor, with Give The Slip in 2001, have come close. Cumani fields Bauer again, backed up by Manighar. "It's a race I've always followed," he said, "and one that gets a grip on you."
A double by Richard Hughes at Lingfield yesterday took him to within three winners of the jockeys' title leader Paul Hanagan.
Sue Montgomery's Nap
Free World (3.10 Kempton)
More talented than his win record suggests and may best be caught fresh.
Remember Now (1.00 Kempton)
One to watch
Commander Wish (L Featherstone) found traffic problems at Lingfield yesterday and remains on a workable mark.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Stanley Rigby (2.15 Wolverhampton)