The Classic Picture

Derby-hand Springs
Terry Clark

That was the year that was. Steve Cauthen became the first American to win the English jockeys' title since Danny Maher in 1913. Richard Quinn was the leading apprentice. Robert Sangster beat off the challenge of the sheikhs to be the top owner. But the year in question produced one of the most unsatisfactory Derby results since the war. The horse that finished second went on to head the International Classification with a rating of 98 out of 100, fully twelve in front of the horse that had beaten him at Epsom.

Second and fourth in the classifications were Chief Singer and Sadlers Wells, so that must have been some horse! Yet - though he redeemed himself for defeat at Epsom by winning the Irsih Derby - the colt we're talking about is still regarded by some racing historians as a doubtful stayer.

Not until Dancing Brave was a horse so unlucky in the Blue Riband of Classics as El Gran Senor.

Secreto and El Gran Senor by Sue WingateWhat really happened that June day in 1984 is still a matter for debate. Pat Eddery looked to have a double handful on El Gran Senor; then suddenly Secreto, the horse he seemed about to hack past, refused to give way; Eddery had to get down to riding a proper finish and the two sons of Northern Dancer fought neck and neck to the line.

For me, it was simply a case of overconfidence, with Pat unable to recover in time when Secreto unexpectedly responded. "Senor" was the moral winner but moral winners don't get the cash, and the form book says that David O'Brien's Secreto edged the verdict over the Vincent O'Brien trained 2,000 Guineas winner who later won the Irish Derby at the Curragh at 7-2 on!

Now a third O'Brien (no relation) can finally lay the ghost of El Gran Senor's defeat at Epsom with Senor's son Saratoga Springs.

Aidan O'Brien, trainer of the Newmarket Guineas winner King of Kings and Champion Hurdler Istabraq within the space of a few weeks, is, like Vincent before him, making the transition from Jumps to Flat....only faster, in weeks not years.

Saratoga SpringsWith Saratoga Springs, the lazybones-at-home horse, he has the best trial winner and a colt with the right make-up for Epsom: laid back, able to negotiate a bend (that's pretty nearly a hairpin into the York straight!) and with a gear change at the business end of a race.

Though the Dante Stakes had an untidy finish, with Border Arrow being squeezed out on the rails, it was a fast-run race, yet Saratoga Springs was able to produce a run which would look good on any Derby winner. Historically, the placed horses, City Honours and Border Arrow, cannot reverse the form.

The disappointment was Dr Fong in fourth. He had canncelled out my Capri vouchers the Saturday before York when coming out easily the best of Henry Cecil's pair on the Newmarket gallops.

So, when Greek Dance did the same thing to Capri in the Glasgow Stakes on the final day of the York May meeting, I wasn't a bit surprised, though Greek Dance (another Sadler's Wells) was certainly showing improvement at the right time. Since Bahr's defeat of Midnight Line in the Musidora fillies' trial was nearly five seconds slower than the colts in the Dante, the sheikhs' Godolphin stable would be wise to keep Cape Verdi for the Oaks and not be tempted to try for the Derby.

All photographs in this article by
Lesley I Sampson
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All 5 Classic Races covered annually and major meetings at the following courses: Ascot, Epsom, Newmarket, Doncaster, Kempton, Sandown and York plus the winter all-weather racing at Lingfield.

Well known horses on file include: Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Lammtarra, Sadlers Wells, Pebbles, El Gran Senor, Oh So Sharp and Xaar plus many others less famous!

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No filly has won the Derby since...well, since Danny Maher was riding in England!

How often have we heard the lament:"It's a poor Derby this year." But it's never that easy. there's no such thing as a bad Derby winner.

Cape Verdi, by Caerleon, is out of a Sagace mare, a stout pedigree if not an ideal one for an Oaks winner. She won the 1,000 Guineas impressively enough by five lengths from another Aidan O'Brien raider, Shahtoush, with Exlusive taking third for Michael Stoute in front of Clive Brittain's Cloud Castle.

The disappointment of the first fillies' classic was Jibe; she was only eighth for Henry Cecil, more than 12 lengths behind the winner, having been taken off her legs early on. Now Jibe has since redeemed herself over 10 furlongs in the Newbury fillies' trial and, while this no doubt gilds the Newmarket form, it also points up the difference between a 1,000 Guineas and an Oaks.

Cape Verdi and company ran the first part of the 1,000 in very fast time but finished the race much slower than the colts in the 2,000. This explains why Jibe, more the staying type, was unable to go the pace early on, and it also demands the question: can cape Verdi, a filly with such early speed, have the stamina to win an Oaks?

My own view is that Midnight Line remains the better Cecil staying prospect than Jibe and will reverse the Musidora form with Bahr over the extra distance at Epsom.

The good galloper will always be vulnerable to the speed horse if Cape Verdi has enough left for that final climb up the Epsom hill to glory. But it could be close.

TERRY CLARK, a former Fleet Street racing editor for many years, now works as a freelance. He has also been involved in racing promotions and for a long time was closely associated with the Grand National which his paper sponsored. Terry, who has helped organise charity racedays on the Flat (Ascot) and over jumps (Wincanton), has just been commissioned to write a book about betting. He was the first to introduce ante-post and morning odds comparison in English newspapers, his first column recommending a 66-1 winner.

You can reach Terry at:

"Sandhills" 5 Bayford Hill
Tel: 01963 31794

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