#OffTheBridle with J.T McCoy Part 3 - The Derby
Horse Racing - Did the Derby disappoint?
Reflecting on the two days of Classic Epsom action, I can’t actually be sure that a race of the Derby’s standing actually took place. That’s not to suggest the participants weren’t high class horses (we’ll come onto the Diore Lia saga shortly) but without a standout performer, or a potential star in the making by reputation, it felt very open, almost too open for the world’s most famous Classic.
Cracksman was seemingly trading off the Golden Horn connection and hadn’t looked a Derby winner previously; and Cliffs of Moher looked the pick of a typically strong Aidan O’Brien contingent, but again, not a real stand-out fancy. A few Godolphin representatives threatened to improve into the frame but it wasn’t to be. A sub-standard renewal perhaps, although any Derby after Workforce’s course record in 2010 has a lot to live up to.
The race had been covered in controversy in the build-up following the on-off-on-off participation of Diore Lia, the 1,000/1 outsider, due to be ridden by a female apprentice, Gina Mangan initially. The motivation of the owners to run the horse, to raise money for Great Ormond Street, is solid and genuine, but I must say that it strengthens the case for introducing a minimum rating for the race as really, that horse had no place in the race.
If the presence of such an inexperienced jockey would be dangerous, I’d defer to experienced jockeys to make that call – Ryan Moore felt it would be a mistake to allow Gina Mangan, or indeed any other inexperienced apprentice to ride in the race. In the end, I think common sense prevailed, regardless of who was due to take the ride, although the owner would tell you that he only withdrew the horse because it was ‘nobbled’. The saga continues…..
It would be rude not to mention the eventual Derby winner, Wings of Eagles, ridden by Padraig Beggy who, when interviewed by Oli Bell on ITV, came across as a genuinely lovely, polite and humble chap. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – he rides for Aidan O’Brien who epitomises the qualities that the majority of those involved in the sport exude. Wings of Eagles absolutely flew home in the final furlong and provided the excitement that was, in my opinion, absent in the build-up. I do wonder how Aidan O’Brien manages the expectations and emotions of so many different groups of owners in big races where he is four or five-handed. Perhaps the Sporting Blog bigwigs could send me over to Ballydoyle to find out….hint hint!
Boys in blue can still Laugh
For me, the real stars on the track shone through elsewhere over the two days. It’s all a bit chaotic in the blue world of Godolphin at the moment following the public criticism of the leadership hierarchy by Saeed bin Suroor and the ensuing, not so coincidental resignation of John Ferguson as Chief Executive. At least they (and John Gosden) have Laugh Aloud – what a breathtaking performance to win the Prince Elizabeth Stakes Group 3, just hours before the Derby. He’ll certainly be one to watch, but sadly not one that will cheer Saeed bin Suroor up much.
Christmas at Epsom in June?
Despite it being early June, at 3.10 on Saturday, just 90 mins before the Derby, it appeared to be Christmas already. Highland Reel readily justified favouritism in the Investec Coronation Cup to storm home at 9/4. Yes, that’s right, 9/4 - it’s not a typo. Should it have been 4/9? Maybe. Matt Chapman was astounded and even mug punters like little old me thought that it was too good to be true. I must remember to return the van I hired to transport my winnings home from the local Laddies. (Other bookmakers are available)
Angel takes flight
While Ballydoyle continues to farm the Classics and other big races this side of the Irish Sea, there was some brighter news for Godolphin with the purchase of sprinter Harry Angel, who absolutely hosed up in the Sandy Lane at Haydock a couple of weeks back. A mate of mine, who I caught up with for the first time in several months when at a wedding in Scotland last weekend, greeted me with “What about Harry Angel eh?” We’ll know exactly how good he is if he clashes with Blue Point and Caravaggio at Royal Ascot in a couple of weeks. Clive Cox certainly is a genius with these sprinters, as was the late Dandy Nicholls - a sad and far too premature loss for the racing world this week.
Next week we’ll be looking ahead to the glitz and glamour of Royal Ascot, both on and off the track.