Spencer redeemed after glory in Million
Cape Blanco and Treasure Beach, the last two winners of the Irish Derby, combined to supply Aidan O'Brien with a brilliant Grade One double at Arlington late on Saturday night.
It was a fine evening's work for all involved, and provided further evidence of Ballydoyle's remarkable strength in depth this year.
In the greater scheme of things, the Secretariat Stakes and Arlington Million tend not to be up there with the more revered top-level events, and this year's renewals probably haven't bucked that trend.
When O'Brien won the Secretariat 11 years ago he did so with Ciro, hardly one of the stable's shining lights over the past 15 years. A similar comment applies to Dermot Weld's 2008 winner Winchester, though it was interesting to see that one, now based in America, win its fourth Grade One at Saratoga on Saturday.
O'Brien's only previous triumph in the Million came courtesy of the enigmatic Powerscourt -- subsequently demoted to fourth -- six years ago, while John Gosden took the 10-furlong showpiece with Debussy in 2010. Suffice to say, that did little for the race's reputation.
Still, none of that takes from O'Brien's achievement, which saw him emulate the American legend Bobby Frankel by winning both of the feature events in the same year. Identifying the right horses for the most suitable races was always going to be the crucial task for O'Brien this year given the wealth of talent at his disposal.
On that score, Saturday night's coup was another unqualified success, just as it was for Buttevant native Colm O'Donoghue, who once again confirmed his prowess as a big-race rider by edging Treasure Beach home in the Secretariat.
Still, given the context, Jamie Spencer's authoritative steer on Cape Blanco was the real show stealer.
Fair enough, on all known form Cape Blanco was the most likely winner, but Spencer's decisive move to the front two furlongs out was a world removed from the lack of belief that stymied his riding during his stint as O'Brien's number one in 2004.
Indeed, no race defined that turbulent period in his professional life more than the 2004 Million, when he displayed an unfortunate lack of composure on Powerscourt to let the horse lean in on his rivals as he forged clear.
It was a lapse that subsequently cost him the race in the stewards' room, and probably a lot more in terms of his already shaky self-belief.
However, when he prevented a similar eventuality on Fame And Glory in the Gold Cup at Ascot in June, it looked as though the former boy wonder, always the most naturally talented of riders, now also had the temperament to deliver when it was most expected.
Saturday's aggressive and uncomplicated steer was another spectacular statement of Spencer's newfound equanimity and maturity. Good for him.
"I try not to dwell on the past," Spencer replied when asked to comment on the significance of his experience in the Million in 2004 after Saturday's wonderful victory.
"Mine is pretty colourful, so I try not to dwell on it and look to the future."
Incidentally, it was Spencer and Cape Blanco's second US triumph in succession following the Man O'War triumph in New York last month. At this stage, it is impossible not to wonder if the return to Ballydoyle that many observers have long felt inevitable is getting ever closer to being part of that future. Only time will tell.
on duty in Deauville
Goldikova goes in search of an incredible 15th Group One triumph in Deauville today, but the Irish interest on the French card is Dunboyne Express in the preceding Group Two.
A runner-up to Famous Name and Banimpire on his last two starts, Kevin Prendergast's colt appears to face a stiff task.
Among the high-quality line-up are the unbeaten Golden Lilac and Galikova, a half-sister to Goldikova which looked a shade unlucky when second to Golden Lilac in the Prix de Diane in June.
Training feat of the
weekend -- Pat Flynn
The Waterford handler has struggled to match last season's prolific returns so far this term, but his team has hit form of late.
On Saturday evening, he saddled Final Flashback to hose up on the Flat at Tramore, before the same horse went on to grind out another result over hurdles at the seaside venue less than 24 hours later.
Yesterday's victory was Flynn's fourth success in the past 10 days.
"The Flash Of Lightening struck twice at Tramore :-)))) Who said Lightening never strikes twice! :-)))" -- An understandably pleased Pat Flynn after Final Flashback's second win in two days at Tramore yesterday.
11 Aidan O'Brien's 2011 Group One tally after his American brace on Saturday night in the windy city of Chicago.
READERS following Richard Forristal's Dundalk selections yesterday were rewarded with Extra Steps (5/1) and Jolie Jioconde (10/3) combining for a 25/1 double.
Other winners that our man selected over the weekend were Cape Blanco at odds of 21/10, Jamsie Hall (9/2) and Final Flashback (7/4).