Workforce strikes for Derby delight

Champion jockey Moore powers colt home in record time to land a second Classic in two days
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The Independent Online

You won't get a flying dismount from him, but there is no doubt that Moore is now the merrier.

The dual champion jockey Ryan Moore is not a sportsman who shows his emotions freely, and on Friday had seemed underwhelmed after the first Classic success of his career on Snow Fairy in the Oaks. But he promised to smile if he won the Derby and after scorching home yesterday on the 6-1 shot Workforce in the 231st running of the world's most famous race his broad grin showed both his pleasure and professional satisfaction.

And little wonder. Workforce did not merely beat his 11 rivals, he annihilated them, by seven lengths in a track-record time. It was a first Derby for Moore, a third for the colt's owner-breeder, the Saudi Arabian prince Khaled Abdullah, and a fifth, and a third in seven years, for his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute.

In the Oaks, Moore had shown one facet of his skills, getting Snow Fairy home narrowly from an unpromising position with a dextrous weave through the pack; in the Derby, a different judgement of pace was required. At the head of the straight, trailblazing At First Sight, the 100-1 outsider, was a long way clear and not stopping. Moore timed his pursuit effort perfectly on the powerful white-blazed bay, catching the hare inside the two-furlong mark, towing Rewilding and the 9-4 favourite, Jan Vermeer, with him. But even he was not prepared for Workforce's surge to the line. Only two horses have won a Derby by further, Shergar – Stoute's first winner – by 10 lengths in 1981, and Manna by eight in 1925.

Moore's customary poker face in victory is in stark contrast to the exuberance of, say, Frankie Dettori. And yesterday, fairly typically, his analysis was self-critical. He said: "I may have been a little harder on the horse than I need have been. I may have sent him past the leader sooner than I needed to and I didn't let up on him much after that. But the way he quickened was remarkable and he just didn't stop quickening."

To his credit, At First Sight, perceived as the pacemaker for his Aidan O'Brien stablemates Jan Vermeer and Midas Touch, stayed on stoutly under Seamie Heffernan to fend off Dettori's mount Rewilding, the second market choice at 9-2, by half a length. Jan Vermeer came in two lengths behind, just in front of Midas Touch.

What may have seemed beforehand an ordinary renewal of the Investec-sponsored race may have to be considered in a new light. Given that Workforce was one of the least experienced in yesterday's field, he is the one full of promise and potential, the Irish Derby the logical next target.

The son of King's Best had raced only twice previously, a successful outing as a juvenile and the runner-up spot in one of the key Derby trials, the last month's Dante Stakes at York.

His six-length victory last year was an eyecatcher and Stoute and his team in Newmarket were not entertaining an angel unawares. But the colt's path to yesterday's dazzling success had not been straightforward; an infection early in the year halted his work programme and then at York his brakes and steering partially failed when the metal bit in his mouth became displaced – yesterday he wore a cross noseband to secure it.

Workforce overturned a tome of statistics by becoming the first horse to win a Derby after failing in the York trial. "That thing about the Dante Stakes didn't bother me," said Stoute. "That race didn't go as we wanted, but we knew we had a good horse and he was seriously good today. I was under abso-lutely no pressure at all to run him here and I wouldn't have unless Ryan and I had thought he had a real chance."

Moore is now in his second full season at Stoute's powerful yard, having stepped into the shoes of Kieren Fallon, and Stoute paid tribute to the contribution made by an expert in the saddle both on the track and behind the scenes – which in Workforce's case included an away day to Lingfield to practise down the Surrey track's Tattenham Corner lookalike – to the education and development of a top-class horse.

"He's always looked brimful of promise," Stoute said of the colt, "but things were frustrating earlier in the year. He's very straightforward mentally, though, and we knew the Dante Stakes had pulled him together a lot. And after we took him to Lingfield Ryan was very confident.

"A lot depended on that bit of work as it was important that a big horse like him went downhill and tight left beforehand. We've paid a lot of attention to this horse; there has been a lot of teamwork."

For O'Brien, it may be a case of what might have been. Cape Blanco, the horse a comfortable three lengths in front of Workforce at York, was diverted during the week from the Derby to today's Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly.

For Moore, it was what was, victory in the contest every jockey wants on his cv. "For the last two furlongs," he said, "I couldn't hear another horse. But I didn't dare let myself believe, or begin to enjoy it, until the last two strides."