Youthful exuberance gives new life to old race
Wonder at the exuberance of youth. That was the message to take away from yesterday's Derby as the two youngest jockeys in the race were responsible for making this Classic one of the most exciting in modern times. Mickael Barzalona was rightfully the toast of Epsom after winning on Pour Moi, but Joseph O'Brien played his part, too.
When the disappointment of seeing the Queen's colt Carlton House beaten into third had been digested, the enormity of Barzalona's achievement started to sink in. Having only his fourth race-ride around the world's trickiest international racecourse, the 19-year-old had not only been able to settle his bold-running mount at the rear in the early stages, he had also launched him down the outside with a finishing thrust reminiscent of the great Dancing Brave.
But whereas the Greville Starkey mount eventually ran out of ground and had to make do with second behind Shahrastani in 1986, Barzalona found he had enough time on his hands to stand high in the stirrups and wave his whip to the crowd as he sailed past Treasure Beach to win by a head. The extraordinary slow-mo pictures showed him yanking on the horse's mouth with only a head to spare.
The premature celebration brought a caution from the stewards, who also gave the young Frenchman a one-day suspension for excessive use of the whip. But Barzalona will not lament missing a quiet day at sleepy Saint-Cloud.
He can only be thankful that he was not riding in Australia, where the ban would have started at two months, for such a flamboyant gesture.
Andre Fabre has moulded so many young riding stars over the years, but Barzalona is clearly ahead of most for sheer raw talent. Indeed, he is a natural successor to Frankie Dettori, and it will be interesting to watch the inevitable bidding for his services from racing's superpowers. He was winning this Derby for Coolmore and associates, but he had impressed greatly when wearing the Godolphin royal blue in Dubai last winter.
There should be no underestimating the influence of Fabre on a young jockey's career. When asked for his reaction to Barzalona's antics as he crossed the line, the master trainer said: "He is only 19," before adding: "I will have a quiet word to him later."
With the time for the race 3.21secs slower than Workforce's record, after the field had travelled at only an even tempo for the first half of the race, it is clear that young O'Brien, fresh from his win aboard Roderic O'Connor in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, had been adventurous enough to open up a break and kick for home in the run down to Tattenham Corner.
O'Brien, 18, was the youngest jockey in the race, and having his first Derby mount, yet he showed a certain maturity as he balanced Memphis Tennessee and guided him around the corner. At one point, he led the field by six lengths, and with Treasure Beach emerging from the pack to chase him, you could argue he had set the race up beautifully for the Coolmore squad, especially when Barzalona swooped late to triumph aboard Pour Moi.
But Memphis Tennessee, runner-up to Recital in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown, kept going to take fourth. It was a tremendous run and gave the Coolmore colts a 1-2-4, with each of their leading stallions, Montjeu, Galileo and Hurricane Run, represented.
Experience is everything in the Derby, which is why jockeys such as Scobie Breasley, Lester Piggott, Mick Kinane and Pat Eddery were all being booked for the Classic at Epsom in their 50th year and beyond. It is a place for nerves of steel, for great judgement and supreme horsemanship, which, they say, comes only with practice.
Yesterday, the two freshest-faced lads in the weighing room made a mockery of that theory. For both, it may have been the real starting point in two great careers in racing.
Sunday Indo Sport