'Sleepy' Workforce awakens to lay down a marker on comeback

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The Independent Online

While his juniors remain confined to talking the talk, for another eight days at least, the colt who actually holds the Investec Derby trophy last night showed them the way to walk the walk. Dropped in trip for his reappearance, and carrying a 7lb penalty, Workforce would have been readily pardoned defeat in the Piper Heidsieck Brigadier Gerard Stakes. But he combined all the diligence suggested by his name, and all the class transparent in his record, to lay down a most persuasive marker at Sandown for the months ahead.

A series of squalls had reduced the watered track to soft going at last, and there was a due air of majesty to what followed the deluge. When his rug was removed in the paddock, Workforce showed that he had won a Derby and an Arc, in the course of just five career starts, while still the shell of a horse.

Though Ryan Moore described him as "sleepy" in the early stages, Workforce opened his eyes wide when urged out of the pack in pursuit of Poet. Angled across to the stands rail, Workforce required just one slap to wear down the leader and win by a length. The most significant measure of his appetite was a margin of no fewer than 11 lengths to Jan Vermeer, in third.

Sir Michael Stoute, who trains the colt for Khalid Abdulla, declined to volunteer any targets for the time being. "He took a bit of getting fit, having done so well physically," he said. "So he needed a bit of a workout tonight." Nor could Teddy Grimthorpe, Abdulla's racing manager, offer any immediate encouragement for those craving a showdown with So You Think, the Australian champion now stabled at Ballydoyle. "It was great to see him kick like that, when it looked as though Poet was just getting away," Grimthorpe said. "For a horse that was a bit rusty, he picked up like the class act he is."

All in all, it had been an instructive day in Surrey. Certainly, the notion that Carlton House, Workforce's stablemate, has already established a parallel superiority over his peers could no longer be sensibly entertained after the reconnaissance of Epsom undertaken by Pour Moi in the morning.

It was not so much the way the French colt handled Tattenham Corner that commanded fresh respect for his chance, as the unbridled enthusiasm of his trainer afterwards. Carlton House, admittedly, is hot favourite for better reasons than that he is owned by the Queen. He would be a sixth Derby winner for Sir Michael Stoute, whereas André Fabre's record in the race, in his own words, remains "a disaster". In nine attempts, he has never managed better than Visindar's fifth in 2006. But nobody will be deceived by this aberration in one of the greatest training careers in history. "I think he is the best chance I ever had here," Fabre said. "I accept to be unpopular, beating Her Majesty's horse."

As a son of Montjeu, whose genes can lace brilliance with an edge of danger, Pour Moi alarmed some by sweating up in a cool breeze. But he completed the descent without breaking stride, before surging several lengths clear of his lead under his teenage jockey, Mickaël Barzalona.

"He's a good horse – a very good horse," Fabre stressed. "We haven't had much time to judge him, so it's more a matter of feeling, of his conformation, his pedigree. And I'm in love with him. He's relatively inexperienced, and I thought it a good idea to come here for both horse and jockey. The horse was perfectly balanced, and handled the hill and bend very well. His sweating doesn't worry me at all. He's like that every day, and when he gets to the track he's very professional."

Superficially, at least, Pour Moi has produced the most flamboyant of all the trials. Whereas Carlton House was barely more than efficient in a slowly run Dante Stakes at York, Pour Moi exploded from last to first in the Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud. Of course, that tells you nothing about the substance of the form, nor of the latent improvement in each. But it would be disingenuous to depict Carlton House as the one and only colt with pretensions to being a champion – and one is 6-4, while the other is 6-1.

"I think Pour Moi has the ability to win," Fabre said. "The question was his experience. It was a worry for me that the French type of races would not give him enough preparation. In his previous race, they had walked, and he pulled hard. But in the Greffulhe they went a good pace, he could switch off, and show his true ability."

Another distinguished visitor from overseas was likewise emboldened yesterday to return for a highlight of the Queen's sporting year. Mike Smith, the Hall of Fame jockey, made short work of just two rivals for a maiden at Folkestone on Gentlemans Code, and the pair will now proceed to Royal Ascot next month.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Primaeval (4.05 Newmarket) Still not that many miles on the clock, and promised to surpass this kind of mark when giving a couple of others a start over course and distance on his return.

Next best

Paradise Place (5.25 Brighton) Has thrived for a new trainer, winning over this trip on the all-weather and registering better again in defeat in two subsequent starts back on turf.

One to watch

Kitty Wells (Luca Cumani) Is a sister to a St Leger winner in Milan and remains ahead of her revised handicap mark, judged on the way she finished when getting clear on her reappearance at Haydock last week.

Where the money's going

Totesport cut Pour Moi to 11-2 from 13-2 for the Investec Derby after his visit to Epsom yesterday, but also laid the outsiders Ocean War and Masked Marvel, both 20-1 from 25-1.