Ruler could be out of this world as he finds his feet
Such was the sense of deflation at Dawn Approach's spectacular capitulation in the Epsom Derby that Ruler Of The World's decisive victory is in danger of being unfairly devalued.
Saturday's mile-and-a-half showpiece is recognised as the ultimate test of a three-year-old, with Epsom's quirks, cambers and carnival atmosphere all part of a uniquely rigorous examination.
Temperament was something nobody expected Dawn Approach to fall down on, but so he did, wrestling ferociously for his head off a sedate pace under Kevin Manning.
The writing was on the wall far too early to know if he would have stayed the trip, and his meltdown was quickly put forward as the stick with which to beat the form of what was a messy race. Granted, he was upwards of eight pounds clear on official ratings beforehand.
Nonetheless, others had far more scope for improvement, none more so than Ruler Of The World, which, like the runner-up Libertarian, had never run before April.
No Derby winner since Commander In Chief 20 years ago had not run as a juvenile, and it was another 20 years back to Morston, the last horse to achieve such a feat prior to Henry Cecil's fleeting star.
As such, Ruler Of The World looked up against it, but he is clearly a fast learner. Not even favourite when grinding out a hard-earned win on his Curragh bow over 10 furlongs on April 7, he was pushed out to record a straightforward victory over a mile-and-a-half in the Chester Vase. He didn't look especially precocious then, and, when the six-length runner-up got beaten even further in Listed company next time, question marks lingered over the form.
However, Ruler Of The World's credentials received a timely and unlikely boost when St Jean, third in his Curragh maiden, dotted up by 16 lengths in the 2.30 at Tramore on Saturday.
An hour and a half later, the still raw, white-faced chestnut stormed up the Epsom straight to deliver Aidan O'Brien a second successive Derby triumph, and his fourth in all.
After Magician's Irish 2,000 Guineas rout a week earlier, there was a suggestion that some in Coolmore felt that their best chance of winning the Derby had been wasted.
As is so often the case, though, O'Brien was proven to have divvied up his battalions with terrific accuracy.
Wayne Lordan got a fine tune out of David Wachman's outsider Galileo Rock to hold on for a brave third, as Battle Of Marengo tired into fourth after making much of the running.
Sure, the placed horses are a slightly underwhelming bunch, but, with the Dante and Derrinstown winners second and fourth, the best traditional trials were well represented.
Besides, Ruler Of The World beat them all far more emphatically than the length-and-a-half margin suggests. Courtesy of an exquisitely composed steer by Ryan Moore – now as good around Epsom as Kieren Fallon or Johnny Murtagh were in their prime – he came from what should have been a detrimental position at the rear to accelerate clear off a pedestrian gallop.
His brilliant handler refuted any suggestion that setting slow fractions was designed to upset Dawn Approach, but such tactics are perfectly legitimate. While a similar policy yielded no reward against Sea The Stars in 2009, they worked a treat here – intentionally or otherwise.
The net result is that Coolmore ended up with a remarkable third Epsom Derby winner in a row, as the haul of Irish-trained winners of the premier Classic hit seven since 2000, a stunning turnaround on the drought before then that stretched as far back as 1984.
Dawn Approach's stillborn turn took from the race's overall merit, but, similar to the case of Magician at the Curragh a week earlier, it is quite possible that Ruler Of The World could yet prove to be an above-average winner of an otherwise ordinary Classic.
Remember, this time last year it was already glaringly evident that Camelot was the pick of an unusually sorry crop of three-year-olds. There is certainly far more depth to the elite of this year's class of three-year-old colts, and Ruler Of The World is only just finding his feet.
ABBEY'S HISTORIC CORONATION FEAT
St Nicholas Abbey readily justified long odds-on to become the first horse ever to win three Coronation Cups at Epsom on Saturday, in the process setting up a spectacular back-to-back Group One double on Derby day for Aidan O'Brien. An incredible fifth win in the race for the Ballydoyle maestro since 2008, the Montjeu five-year-old had little trouble brushing aside the 2011 Melbourne Cup victor Dunaden under champion jockey Joseph O'Brien.
He could now drop back to Group Two company for the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, before returning there for a tilt at the King George.
MURTAGH TRAINS HIS FIRST WINNER
Johnny Murtagh saddled his first winner since formally taking over the trainer's licence from Tommy Carmody at his Curragh yard when Benbecula cantered to a pillar-to-post victory under Ben Curtis at Tramore on Saturday.
The well-backed 6/4 favourite never looked in any danger in the 12-furlong conditions race, ensuring that the five-time champion jockey hadn't long to wait before getting off the mark in his new guise. Murtagh's first runners were in the Irish 2,000 Guineas the previous Saturday.
FRUSTRATING SPELL AT END FOR HAYES
Brian Hayes, who has already been sidelined twice with collarbone and arm fractures this year, rode his first winner of 2013 when conjuring a timely burst out of Akatara to steal the three-mile conditional jockeys' hurdle at Kilbeggan yesterday.
In contrast to former stars of Michael Bowe's yard such as Limestone Lad and Solerina, Akatara was something of a habitual loser until yesterday. However, on her 37th start – and second in three days after finishing fourth at Tramore on Friday – the 8/1 shot responded well under a determined drive from the talented five-pound claimer to come from a seemingly hopeless position to deny Mimi And Bow and Excellent As Usual by a neck and a head.
STARS HAS FIRST SON RUNNING IN ENGLAND
SEA THE STARS has his first runner today as Juvenile Lead makes his racecourse debut at Leicester.
A winner of eight of his nine racecourse starts, Sea The Stars is widely regarded as one of the greatest Flat horses of all time and went unbeaten through his three-year-old career in the care of John Oxx on the Curragh. His first runner on the track is a youngster trained by Michael Stoute's and Peter Reynolds, racing manager for owners Ballymacoll Stud, said: "He was a nice yearling and he's a proper individual."
€72,500 What it would cost connections of Epsom Derby runner-up Libertarian to supplement him for the Irish Derby on June 29. Karl Burke says it is a strong possibility that the star of his Middleham yard will be aimed at what could be a top-class renewal of the Curragh Classic, which is also likely to be on the agenda for the winner, as well as the third, Galileo Rock.
Tweet of the week
Todays news. Galileo rules the world. Pace was 'accidental'. Frankie didn't go out in Paris and Bolger does all his own entries from now on.
– Jump jockey-turned-trainer Jamie Osborne with a tongue-in-cheek bulletin yesterday morning, the last point a nod to Sheikh Mohammed's request that Dawn Approach be supplemented for the Epsom Derby back in April.