Sue Montgomery: Expect more of the same from Again on Wachman's tour of duty
Saturday 30 August 2008
Aidan O'Brien is taking a break from his quest for a 19th Group One winner of the season this weekend but the Coolmore juggernaut will try to roll over its rivals regardless. David Wachman is the man charged with the task, having already picked up the baton with a style and security many a British Olympian might envy. Six days ago he sent Bushranger to France, and though one of the perceived lesser lights among the two-year-old colts under John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's triumvirate banner, the youngster still proved good enough to score at the top level when he came home with the Prix Morny.
Tomorrow at the Curragh the spotlight is on his stablemate Again, who need bow to none at Ballydoyle in the distaff ranks. The superbly bred daughter of Danehill Dancer – she is out of a half-sister to Montjeu – will face 11 rivals in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, Ireland's top two-year-old filly contest.
Wachman, a dozen years with a licence, is based near Cashel, around 10 miles from Ballydoyle. His background is all you would expect from an upwardly mobile young Irish horseman; he served his time with some of the top names in the business, including Brian Mayfield Smith in Australia, Jenny Pitman in England and Jessica Harrington, Michael Hourigan and Jim Bolger at home.
His first Flat winner came when Clewbay Pearl turned over an O'Brien hotshot at Cork and six years ago he made another impression on those in Co Tipperary when he married Magnier's daughter Kate.
Again, already towards the top of the ante-post lists for next year's 1,000 Guineas, impressed when she made short work of two well-regarded types over tomorrow's seven furlongs 13 days ago.
With Johnny Murtagh suspended, Seamie Heffernan takes over in the saddle. "I've spoken to Johnny, who said she's an easy ride," he said. "If she puts up the same sort of performance as the last day she's the one they have to beat. I'd be quietly confident."
Again probably has most to fear from another early Guineas fancy, the unbeaten Shimah. "We're looking forward to it," said Kevin Prendergast, who trains the daughter of Storm Cat for Sheikh Hamdan, "but Again was very impressive at Leopardstown, wasn't she? There are no pushovers in these races."
Tomorrow's undercard in Ireland features the return to action of one of last year's top-notch fillies. The dual Guineas heroine Finsceal Beo has found life tougher this season and though entirely undisgraced in her defeats against colts this term – notably Duke Of Marmalade in May – she has been found a much easier task here, dropping to Listed class against her own sex.
The sprint showpiece, the Flying Five, usually goes back to Britain, and usually to Mark Wallace's Newmarket yard, courtesy of Benbaun, winner of the last three editions. Wallace's supersub this time is Chief Editor and, with only Snaefell representing the home side among the six runners, the Group Three prize looks booked for export again.
At Deauville tomorrow, Frankie Dettori will test-drive his Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe mount, Getaway, in the Grand Prix, the finale of the Normandy seaside season before the French circus pitches up in Paris again. The André Fabre-trained five-year-old looked the real deal when winning at Newmarket in the spring but has lost caste twice since.
Another on the comeback trail, but with less ground to recover, is US champion Curlin, who returns to a dirt surface tonight at Saratoga. The four-year-old went down on turf to Red Rocks on his abortive try-out for a tilt at the Arc last month, but should regain the thread of victory in the Woodward Stakes.
For those with a liking for C-list celebrities and crowded jolliness, Sandown, which hosts the annual Variety Club charity day, is the place to be this afternoon. The high spot for the purists is the Solario Stakes, the juvenile seven-furlong contest won by high-class miler Raven's Pass 12 months ago. Now that Jeremy Noseda's horses are back in form, Parisian Art (2.35) can take the step up in grade in his stride.
If there is any justice in the hearts of those who dole out racing luck, then Eva's Request will win the opener and would be guaranteed the ovation of the day. The filly is trained by Mick Channon, who will remain in hospital for several days following the car crash on Wednesday that killed his friend and owner Tim Corby.
Channon, who suffered serious, though not life-threatening, injuries, came through an operation to wire his broken jaw yesterday and remains in intensive care.
Pacemaking has always been part of the game
The subject of pacemakers has reared its contentious head since Red Rock Canyon peeled off the rail to allow his Ballydoyle stablemate Duke Of Marmalade smooth passage to victory in the Juddmonte International at Newmarket a week ago.
Foul has been called in some quarters; others of us enjoy the tactical nous and jockeyship. Aidan O'Brien's view is that a strong, even gallop invariably benefits all, though he may be sailing close enough to the wind under today's rules with some of his team's manoeuvring.
But really, there is nothing new under the sun. Consider the case of one of the greatest of them all, Hyperion, in the Derby of 1933. Tommy Weston rode him to victory, but was greatly assisted by Steve Donoghue on the George Lambton second string, Thrapston, who played hare for more than a mile. Weston outlined the strategy in detail in his eternally fascinating autobiography My Racing Life. Let him take up the tale from Tattenham Corner.
"As I came round the turn on the rails I caught up with Steve and shouted to the grand little man: 'This is it, Steve. Get out of the way and let a bloody racehorse come by'. Steve glanced over to me, grinned and said: 'Get on, Tommy, and make a job of it' and duly pulled Thrapston out to make room for me."
Hyperion was the 6-1 favourite, Thrapston a 25-1 shot who had run second in the Lingfield trial and stayed on to claim fifth. Ridden more conservatively, he might have landed each-way bets, but there was no post-race whingeing, just satisfaction and pleasure in the fine spectacle of the best horse winning a true-run race.
3 questions for Andrew Balding
The trainer, brother of the BBC presenter Clare Balding, has eight runners at three meetings
1. Which of today's runners are you looking forward to most?
"Prince Siegfried, who runs in the Solario Stakes at Sandown if the ground is not too firm. He's a colt we think a lot of. He's tall and gangly and will make a lovely three-year-old but today's step up in class will tell us more. I hope Vanderlin runs well at Chester, where he has a very good record. He's coming to the end of his career but has been a fantastic servant."
2. Can Top Lock upset the big guns in the St Leger today fortnight?
"In a word, yes. He had a break after he was third in the German Derby and will come on a bundle for his second in the Great Voltigeur a week ago. The Doncaster course and distance will suit. He's a classy stayer and will be right there at the end."
3. You are from a family of sportspersons. What bit of the Olympics did you most enjoy?
"Usain Bolt. Anyone with even a passing interest in sport must have been impressed. He made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end."
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