Sport Horse Racing

Friday 23 March 2018

Hughes shines with Talent

Chris McGrath

RALPH BECKETT was all smiles as he landed a 1-2 in the Epsom Oaks – a Classic he also won five years ago.

Still only 41, the trainer is entitled to view the names of both his Epsom Oaks winners as highly apposite.

In 2008, Look Here announced Beckett as a man on the rise; now it was the turn of Talent to prolong the upward curve of his career.

But even Beckett admitted he was still focused on Secret Gesture, which had worked her way into the lead halfway up the straight, when his 20/1 second string suddenly appeared on the outside.

The astonishment, when Talent then surged away to win by just under four lengths, seemed fairly universal. Sheikh Fahad and his team require limited sympathy, their investment in Secret Gesture plainly warranted by this confirmation of her Group One calibre.

But it was a tough break for Jim Crowley, the stable jockey, for whom winners at this level will not be so common. And the fact is that even the man who had filled the vacancy on Talent, Richard Hughes, had arrived with limited expectations.

"Richard came and rode her work last Friday," Beckett said. "And I knew by the look on his face that he didn't fancy her much."

Hughes – landing his second Classic only a month after his first in the 1,000 Guineas – did not demur. "To be honest, I'd never been so disappointed getting off a horse," he grinned. "I got no feel at all and said she was skinnier than me."


But Beckett assured him of her toughness, and the extra distance certainly entitled her to build on her reappearance success at Newmarket.

Epsom, moreover, is in her blood. Her grandmother, Bireme, won the Oaks in 1980 – and her sire is none other than New Approach, the 2008 Derby winner, which could complete an astounding double as a rookie stallion when his son, Dawn Approach, lines up as favourite for the big one today.

Fulfilment did not come so swiftly to Hughes himself, who had to wait until the 1,000 Guineas last month to gild his exquisite talents with a first British Classic. Now he has won two in a row – and done so, in part, because of the seasoned instinct that informs his every move now that he is champion jockey.

"Going behind the stalls I thought I'd make the running," he said.

"In the stalls, I changed my mind and said I'd sit."

It proved an inspired strategy. As the outsider Miss You Too led them up into Tattenham Corner, Liber Nauticus was still looking green. This may have come too soon for her, barely a fortnight after she had won her trial at York, judging from the way she flattened into fifth.

But things were meanwhile getting tight on the inside: Aidan O'Brien's Moth, which had deposed Secret Gesture as favourite, and The Lark were both anxious for a passage.

Talent, though nearly last, was still tanking along and any who noticed her gathering stride on the outside could see the writing on the wall for her stablemate.

Secret Gesture ended up holding The Lark by three-parts of a length for second, with Moth another head away. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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