If the sight of a top-class horse winning a top-class race is one that has the capacity to lift the heart, again and again, imagine what it must be like to sit on such a beast, to feel the raw power and all its glorious potential. After winning the 2000 Guineas yesterday on Sea The Stars, weighing-room veteran Mick Kinane confirmed that, even after 35 years and countless major victories across the globe, the old quickening visceral excitement was still there.
"From the first time I sat on this horse," he said, hand across his chest as if to still the pounding within, "I believed in him. He was a big gangly baby then and from that day I've been waiting for him, dreaming of him. And I can tell you moments like this never lose their lustre."
There may be more of them to come. Sea The Stars, trained by another master of his profession, John Oxx, is now favourite for next month's Derby. "He's always found going quick easy," said the 49-year-old rider of the big, handsome three-year-old. "He's got speed and balance and he should be a grand ride at Epsom."
For those watching here in perfect warm spring sunshine, the 201st edition of the season's first Classic was a grand spectacle. The 100-1 shot Ocean's Minstrel had his moments of glory as he took the field along at a brisk pace, followed by Finjaan and Evasive. Sea The Stars (8-1) travelled comfortably just behind on the stands' side of the pack and as he made his move to the front 3-1 favourite Delegator, ridden by Jamie Spencer for the Brian Meehan stable, did the same on the far side.
The pair met in the middle of the track a furlong out and, for a few strides, a battle to the line seemed in prospect. But once they hit the rising ground, Sea The Stars properly engaged his mighty stride, and drew away to win by a decisive length and a half, staying on strongly. The Jim Bolger-trained Gan Amhras (15-2) finished well in third, three-quarters of a length adrift, followed by Ballydoyle stablemates Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman to give Irish stables four of the first five places.
"He was sort of half asleep when the stalls opened," added Kinane, winning the mile contest for the fourth time, "but then he was straight into his stride, quickly and beautifully. He almost coasted through the race and even when the other horse came to him, I knew he'd win. I had plenty in reserve and he won cosy in the end."
It was a first 2000 Guineas for Oxx. But then the 58-year-old Irishman, whose yard is hard by the Curragh racecourse in Co Kildare, has had only one previous runner, third-placed Azamour five year ago.
Meticulous Oxx is not a man to squander a horse's talent in a fruitless quest and the fact that he sent the son of Cape Cross to the fray after an interrupted preparation, speaks volumes of the regard in which the horse is held. "He had a temperature in March and missed a few days so it was a bit of a rush to get him here. Then he worked indifferently last week on soft ground but once we knew he'd get the quick ground he loves here, we felt we had a real chance."
The next race for Sea The Stars, who carries the colours of the Hong Kong-based Tsui family, will be the Derby in which he will try to emulate his half-brother Galileo. "Only time will tell," said Oxx, "but I think he should stay the extra half-mile. He has the temperament, he has speed, size, strength and balance. He's such a wonderful presence in the yard, the sort of horse that makes it a pleasure getting out of bed in the morning."
Kinane took the second of his two Derbys on Galileo, for his previous boss Aidan O'Brien, and would dearly like to take a third, two weeks before his 50th birthday. "This horse has all the qualities," he said. "He's always done everything easily and he's only going to get better after today's race, quicker, wiser, more race-hardened."
Sea The Stars is the fourth Group One winner out of the amazing mare Urban Sea, who won the Arc in her days on the track. As well as Galileo, she is responsible for My Typhoon and Black Sam Bellamy, plus Classic placees All Too Beautiful and Melikah.
At Newmarket today the John Gosden-trained Rainbow View, fiery of temperament and hot stuff as an athlete as well, will start the shortest 1000 Guineas favourite since Bosra Sham scored at 10-11 in 1996. For those who prefer longer shots, Heart Shaped and Nashmiah may chase her home.
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