Rivet triumph enhances Atzeni's Trophy record
Lester Piggott won nine Investec Derbys as a jockey but, even aged 81, his association with the world's greatest Flat race may not be over as Rivet, a colt he part-owns and bred, earned a quote of 16-1 for next year's Classic at Doncaster yesterday.
The colt beat off the Aidan O'Brien- trained favourite Yucatan to win the last domestic Group One of the season, the Racing Post Trophy, at the same time providing jockey Andrea Atzeni with his fourth straight win in the race.
Having disappointed in the Dewhurst at Newmarket, a race in which trainer William Haggas felt he did not like the undulations, Atzeni set out to make the most of the Fastnet Rock colt's stamina over Doncaster's more level mile and made nearly all the running. Yucatan, the favourite, and Ryan Moore picked their way through to emerge as the colt's only serious challenger in the last furlong but Rivet ran on well to win by a convincing length and three quarters, with Salouen a neck back in third.
Atzeni's three previous winners were Kingston Hill, Elm Park and Marcel but only the first of them, Kingston Hill, was any good at three, indeed his second in the Derby and St Leger victory did much to propel the jockey into the big time. Rivet, however, looks a better prospect than his last two winners.
"We changed tactics and let him stride on and enjoy himself," said Atzeni. "It would have taken a good one to get past him today. He's genuine and stays. He's a big scopey horse - he'll definitely go on." Piggott's daughter and Haggas's wife, Maureen, said: "It didn't go right last time as he was a bit keen and in behind. We were beholden to someone else's pace so William said if there was no pace we'd do our own thing.
"The main thing is getting him relaxed and he did that perfectly. All the horses we've had out of the mare have had good minds and he's the same. He didn't enjoy Newmarket so I expect we'll avoid that in the spring. My father bred him along with John Magnier so it is very special."
If the Derby is eight months away the Cheltenham Festival is positively just around the corner and thoughts inevitably turned to March when the course, where the new Grand National sponsor, Randox Health, announced it will also sponsor the County Hurdle, completed its first two-day fixture of the season yesterday.
Last season Sceau Royal never quite fulfilled his early promise, disappointing at Cheltenham and Liverpool but, like a lot of Alan King's horses at the time, he was under a cloud. Yesterday he beat Leoncavallo 11 lengths in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle looking like he had just joined in on the home bend. It earned him early quotes for the Champion Hurdle.
"He was always very good but disappointed last spring when our horses weren't right," said King. "We were thrilled with his homework. Last year he tended to pull up in front in his races but he galloped all the way to the line today. I'm not going to make any great predictions for him but we'll creep away and he'll find his level."
Only Paul Nicholls has trained more winners than Neil Mulholland this season and the Bath-based trainer took his tally to 42 for the season when Fox Norton turned the Randox Health Handicap Chase into a rout, beating Sizing Platinum 11 lengths, and Shantou Village survived a blunder to win the novice chase .
"We felt Fox Norton had improved over the summer," explained Mulholland. "He likes the track and we'll look at Shloer Chase back here in three weeks."
In Australia, meanwhile, the five-year-old mare Winx entered Black Caviar territory in terms of becoming a mainstream sporting icon when she beat Hartnell, probably the next best middle-distance horse in the country, by an astounding eight lengths in yesterday's Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.
She is now unbeaten in her last 13 starts and was winning her second Cox Plate, Australia's second biggest race after the Melbourne Cup. Connections are now eying up a third Cox Plate, with the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot also high on the agenda for 2017.
Sunday Indo Sport