By Tony Stafford
The 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, the 150th, but to be realistic the 54th since its elevation to top world status after the 1962 running was boosted by its association with the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake, was the perfect result for the latest sponsors. Much more than the simplicity of Jack Hobbs’ emphatic victory from Storm the Stars, the race was all about absent friends.
It’s always satisfying when the Epsom Derby, sorry the Derby sponsored by Investec, form is confirmed later in the season. We could hardly have had greater confirmation than this rewriting of the Golden Horn romp over stablemate Jack Hobbs and Storm the Stars, with Giovanni Canaletto, fourth at Epsom, now a less impressive third and Kilimanjaro, sixth last time, a closer fourth to his stable-companion.
There was much talk of fillies troubling Jack Hobbs in the immediate aftermath of Epsom and Royal Ascot, but only Qualify, 50-1 when beating Legatissimo in the Oaks, showed up. Her seventh placing represented a disappointment. Neither Pleascach, Irish 1,000 Guineas winner, nor Curvy, her narrow Ribblesdale Stakes conqueror, appeared.
I always love a stat, especially when nobody else seems to have noticed, and as I saw John Gosden doing his all things to all men interview after the victory, it occurred that he probably does not show up too often in Ireland. Well, since 2009, he has sent over 11 horses and collected eight first prizes, all but two worth £100,000 at least.
The € 725,000 won by Jack Hobbs converts to £562,000 in real money and horses like Kingman, five length winner of last year’s Irish 2,000 Guineas after his near miss at Newmarket and The Fugue’s £353,000 defeat of Al Kazeem in the previous year’s Irish Champion proves his liking for some top-level cherry picking and were his sole runners of the respective seasons.
He’s already up to £2.4 million domestically and can point to the £442,000 collected by Star of Seville in a demonstration of his mix of practicality and enterprise. The daughter of Duke of Marmalade copped a right bang at a crucial stage of the Oaks, but he was man enough to take an educated risk that she would be fresh and recovered enough to win in the Parisian outskirts nine days later in the Prix de Diane.
Now the racing world as they used to say, is at his feet, especially as there is very little chance that either Anthony Oppenheimer, Golden Horn’s owner, or Lady Bamford, in whose silks Star of Seville runs will want to accede to the advances of Qatar or Dubai. Even in the case of Jack Hobbs, now in the Royal Blue of Godolphin, there was the satisfaction of the Gosdens retaining a considerable chunk in partnership with Sheikh Mo.
With the weather seemingly set fair this week, although you have to wonder whether a thunderstorm might accompany temperatures approaching the 90’s Fahrenheit, the chance of another bloodless Group 1 seems highly likely for Golden Horn in the Eclipse.
With apparently only Gleneagles in the same league as the Epsom 1-2, and he being realistically (and commercially wisely) targeting the mile races after the 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace, there seems little point in his being subjected to an early clash with Golden Horn over what is almost certainly that unbeaten colt’s ideal trip. The Sussex Stakes, France in August, and the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot could keep him in a Frankel-like safe zone for the rest of the campaign. The Coolmore boys love a challenge, but possibly this time they might be happier waiting for other hopefuls to try to dent the Golden Horn progress.
I was hoping to get to the Curragh for this weekend, but having opted to stay home and go to Newmarket, it was handy that the Irish Derby’s 6.30 off time enabled a leisurely drive home before setting up the virtual beer and crisps – it was actually a scotch egg (very tasty) and diet coke – in time for the start.
Then there was the Greyhound Derby Final which seemed to have quite a few spectators in, but as the cameras switched to a manic Matt Chapman before each race, there was always the same few equally manic faces around him. A poor man’s Pied Piper. I fancied the youngest dog and also the best finisher on previous form, but Matt, who loves a favourite, was on – er, the favourite, who led and got caught quite easily. My fancy, trap four, trailed the field until a late flurry earned a closing third. He’ll beat them next time.
Then it was two episodes of a new BBC4 drama, Cordon, from Belgium, which has already taxed the abilities of the make-up artists depicting the kind of facial deformities that might come from an epidemic brought into the country by someone smuggled in a container from Afghanistan. Quite a few were infected from “Patient One” and they died even more quickly and just as horrifically as him. Don’t know if I’m up for the next episode, but Saturday at 9 p.m. is a bit of a convention.
We were well into today when the Canada – England women’s World Cup quarter-final started. I expected to watch for a bit in the expectation of another dour event, but blow me down, our lasses were 2-0 up in 12 minutes. I kept awake until just before half-time when Canada got one back and fully expected to find this morning that the hosts had gone on to win, but not a bit of it. By the way, I note that both the skipper Steph Houghton (Manchester City) and Katie Chapman (Chelsea) have been enticed away from Arsenal. Wonder what can possibly go wrong with Petr Cech’s signing from Chelsea by the Gunners this week?
Earlier in the week, I had a long trip to Co Durham, via Shropshire, and having often remarked when accompanied on northerly jaunts that I’d never been to Blackpool, I put that right with a flying visit off the M6. I was going to stop off for some shellfish and/or an ice cream, but as I went along the front from the South right up to the north and Trevor Hemmings’ famous tower, there were dozens of fish and chip shops but seemingly little else. As I said to Roger, now doyen of Yarmouth, later, it’s like Yarmouth but bigger, and it was.
One difference, though, was the Tower. It must have been closed to the public as the front was cordoned off by a series of plastic, red and yellow knee-high barriers. Then there was a road and after that, what must be the world’s biggest Poundland shop. No wonder the Northerners love the place.
I saw Ray Tooth’s French Fifteen colt foal for the first time on Wednesday – well worth the 204 miles to Kinsale stud – and confirmed Joe Hernon’s glowing terms of his time at Castle Hyde waiting for his mum Ms Cordelia to get in foal to Pour Moi. That Coolmore Derby winner is not the fastest off the mark with his first crop, but Brian Meehan sent out a promising newcomer to finish sixth at Newmarket yesterday and everyone who has one likes him or her. We’ll have to wait and see.