Sunday 25 February 2018

Calm before storm as Fallon gears up for Derby challenge

Chris McGrath

ACCORDING to Bart Cummings, racing in this part of the northern hemisphere "isn't worth two bob."

As trainer of 11 Melbourne Cup winners, his views warrant respect. As the owner of a pair of eyebrows purloined from the upper lip of a retired Edwardian brigadier, however, he is talking through his hat.

If Cummings fancies putting his horses where his mouth is, he is very welcome to help himself to any of our prizes that may take his fancy -- though he would be within his rights to observe that he will hardly do that when the most he could take home to Australia is, well, about two bob.

It is understandable if the old boy feels aggrieved about the loss to Ballydoyle of So You Think. He must feel as though he woke up one morning to find that his prize bull had been rustled. And, in fairness, So You Think has not really met any opposition worth the name in two leisurely starts for his new stable.

All that is sure to change, however, in what looks a vintage year on the European Turf.

The excellence of Workforce's comeback at Sandown on Thursday confirmed the present crop of older horses as stronger than in many seasons. Certainly, if Cummings has one which is able to whip Goldikova and Canford Cliffs over a mile, then we'd all love to get acquainted.

As for the three-year-olds, we have already seen a freak of the ages in Frankel and this time next week we will discover who succeeds Workforce on the Derby roll of honour.

Many people seem to think the engravers might as well crack on with Carlton House. Arguably, this perception owes rather too much to the simple alignment of his trainer Michael Stoute's superb Derby record and a saccharine sense of destiny on behalf of his owner.


A more objective assessment is available from Timeform, who rank Carlton House 1lb behind Roderic O'Connor, 2lb ahead of Native Khan, and 3lb in front of Seville and Recital.

The docile way Seville was ridden in the Dante gives him every right to give Carlton House a tougher time over the longer trip. And Andre Fabre's paean for Pour Moi on Thursday has, ignited overdue market interest in the French raider, whose trial in the Prix Greffulhe at Saint Cloud definitely repays a YouTube search.

First, however, we must endure a calm before the storm so soporific that Cummings would be asking for change from two bob. In fact, much the best race of the weekend is a mere Listed prize over 14 furlongs at Leopardstown tomorrow, which brings together Rite Of Passage and Fame And Glory.

At Newmarket, matters have been complicated by the sudden arrival of rain on watered ground, which had been desperately fast all spring. It proved an insuperable disadvantage to race near the stands rail yesterday.

Luca Cumani and Kieren Fallon combine in the first two races today with well-bred, progressive three-year-olds. Dubai Queen certainly looks on a good mark, while Naqshabban steps up to 10 furlongs after getting up late to beat the subsequent Musidora winner, Joviality, over a mile at Sandown on his reappearance. The style of that win and his pedigree guarantee better again over this trip.

As for all the key players next Saturday, Fallon can only see these as useful skirmishes, ways to hone the confidence for Epsom. Despite his association with Recital, who may yet go to France instead, Fallon seems committed to ride Native Khan in the Derby. And a first Derby for the monarch could hardly be saluted any more warmly, in betting shops at any rate than a fourth for 'King Kieren'. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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