Stoute builds confidence in Carlton House
It is safe to say that the next time he faces so many cameras will prove somewhat more instructive. As it was, little more could be gleaned from a brief glimpse of the Investec Derby favourite in Newmarket yesterday morning than that he has emerged from his rehearsal at York last week with a leg at each corner. A coachload of film crews and press none the less stood rapt on Warren Hill as Carlton House rippled through the sunshine, in leisured pursuit of his lead. They then turned to the man supervising his preparations for Epsom and found that he, too, seemed to be gliding through a familiar routine. In the case of Sir Michael Stoute, however, even this might be treated as a legitimate positive.
For a man who can view microphones and notebooks as instruments too depraved for Torquemada, Stoute seemed conspicuously relaxed. Partly, as he attested, this reflects an obligation beyond the racing parish, to those whose curiosity might have been awakened by the fact that he trains Carlton House for the monarch. In a man who has already saddled five Derby winners, however, his mien also suggested considerable faith in this colt's eligibility to become a sixth. One way or another, Stoute and his stable jockey, Ryan Moore, are certainly approaching the next 15 days with a seasoned nonchalance.
"I suppose there is a little bit more expectation with this fellow," Stoute acknowledged. "He's got a big following, lots of well-wishers, and one is aware of the media interest. It would be nice if the Queen could win the Derby, but a lot of people don't, and she'd be very philosophical about it. She's a great realist, who has been in this for a long, long time. But let's hope there's a great end to the story."
Moore sounds even less intimidated by his assignment. "Having started out with Richard Hannon, and then come here, I've been lucky to have been riding for the Queen since I was 18," he shrugged. "I've met her a good few times, and am very much at ease with her. She adores everything about the sport. But I just treat this horse in the same way as if it belonged to any other owner in the yard. It is a big story, but for me it's just a horse race."
He is fortified in his insouciance, of course, by the fact that he won the race last year on Workforce, 24 hours after winning his first Classic on Snow Fairy in the Investec Oaks. And it is hard to resist the sense that both trainer and jockey are emboldened by the contrast between Carlton House's fortunes in the Dante Stakes, and those of Workforce when beaten in the same race.
"Workforce was bigger, and more backward," Moore said. "Mentally he was a bit behind this lad, who had a bit more training at two. Carlton House is a smaller horse, as well, a bit more agile. He only needed half a gap at York, and just put his head down, and I still had so much still underneath. I can't see the track being a problem at Epsom."
Had it not been for a foot infection, admittedly, Stoute would have brought forward the colt's reappearance to Sandown last month. "But mentally he's fine," he said. "Though he was a bit awkward at the gate, at York, I think he's got a good mind. It was a messy race, very slowly run, and that's never going to be very conclusive. But it gave him a bit more practice, we were happy with what he did, and he has come through it well."
As it happens, Workforce himself is likely to resurface at Sandown next Thursday, connections having evidently decided that So You Think menaced him with too searching a comeback at the Curragh on Sunday. "We're going to enter him for the Brigadier Gerard Stakes and see what the ground's like," Stoute said. "We've given him plenty of time to chill. Although he didn't run in the end, he was trained for the Breeders' Cup, and had to travel out there, and back again. As a big horse, 16.2 hands, he hasn't grown but he has developed – as he needed to."
Stoute also confirmed that Havant, sixth in the 1,000 Guineas, would take her chance in the Oaks. "We'll have a crack," he said. "She was a bit slowly away at Newmarket, and the ground was a bit too quick. But I'm hopeful she'll stay, as her pedigree indicates, and hopeful she'll act on the track."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Dar Es Salaam (7.30 Musselburgh) This trip has long promised to bring out more from a seven-year-old now thriving for his new stable.
Sergeant Troy (4.00 Haydock) Meets tougher opposition than when landing heavy support at Warwick last time, but had so much in hand that he must surely go close from a 6lb higher mark.
Where the money's going
Dancing Rain, a close second to Izzi Top in the trial at Newbury last Friday, is 16-1 from 25-1 with Coral for the Investec Oaks.
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