Things We Learned » Tell-tale-time


The overall winning time for Sunday’s Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown was desperately slow, it was the slowest comparative time on the seven-race card by some way. However, the overall time may mask the quality of the performances that the first three horses home put up in fighting out the finish.

They went really slowly through the early throes of the race, with the result that it took them 57.45secs (according to this stopwatch) to cover the half-mile between the stalls and the six-furlong pole. That is positively pedestrian, even allowing for the standing start. It was obviously the sedate early fractions that hurt the overall time.

They did pick up around the home turn, however, and they sprinted from the two-furlong pole. Even visually, it was obvious that there was a significant change in tempo from the top of the home straight.

The comparisons of sectional times on the day are interesting, even allowing for the inaccuracies that are inevitable in hand-timed splits. These inaccuracies notwithstanding, it appears that they got from the two-furlong pole to the winning line in 23.61secs (timed from the point at which the leader, as opposed to the winner, hit the two-furlong pole to the point at which the winner hit the line), this after racing for a mile before they got to the point at which the stopwatch was started.

That time compares really favourably with the other races run on the day. In the six-furlong juveniles’ maiden, it took them a hand-timed 25.65secs to get from the two-furlong pole to the winning line (two seconds longer than in the Derrinstown). Of course, they were only juveniles, but remember that that was after racing for just a half a mile as opposed to a mile before they reached the two-furlong pole.

In the Group 3 Amethyst Stakes, run over a mile, two furlongs shorter than the Derrinstown, it took them 24.48secs (almost a second longer than in the Derrinstown) to get from the two-furlong pole to the wining line. In the Group 3 1000 Guineas Trial, also run over a mile, it took them 24.81secs (over a second longer). In the seven-furlong handicap, it took them 25.53secs, in the 12-furlong handicap it took them 25.36secs, and in the concluding 12-furlong maiden it took them 25.83secs.

These are significant disparities, even allowing for the inaccuracies of hand-timings. The net result is that all three protagonists in the Derrinstown – Fascinating Rock, Ebanoran and Geoffrey Chaucer – may still be under-rated now as Epsom Derby prospects.

Derrinstown downgrade

It was a shame to see the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial run again as a Group 3 race and not as a Group 2.

The race was elevated to Group 2 status in 2003 after the rat-tat-tat-tat Sinndar, Galileo, High Chaparral era. Alamshar, Yeats and Dylan Thomas followed hot on the heels of that era, but the fact remains that – notwithstanding the fact that last year’s winner Battle Of Marengo finished a close-up fourth in the Epsom Derby – you have to go back to Fame And Glory in 2009 to find a horse that made a real impact subsequently at Group 1 level.

The downgrading of the race was probably inevitable. Hopefully it transpires to be a temporary blip.

Ballydoyle Derby team

The Ballydoyle Derby talk is, of course, all about Australia. This year’s Guineas, in which the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt finished third, winning his ‘race’ on the near side, looked like a strong race at the time, and the first runner to emerge from it, 10th-placed The Grey Gatsby, won the Dante at York on Thursday. In so doing, as well as enhancing the strength of the Guineas, he deflated the True Story bubble somewhat, thereby exposing the vulnerability of the erstwhile Derby second favourite.

Australia is a worthy Derby favourite. The quality of his homework has been well documented, and he had the pace to finish third in what was probably a far-better-than-average Guineas, yet he is bred – by a brilliant Derby winner out of a brilliant Oaks winner – to excel over a mile and a half.

However, it might be a mistake to under-estimate the supporting Ballydoyle act. Said supporting act is often under-rated in the Derby. Interestingly, of the four occasions on which Aidan O’Brien has saddled the Derby winner, once the winner (Galileo) was the sole Ballydoyle representative, once the winner (Camelot) was the better-fancied of two representatives, and twice (Ruler Of The World and High Chaparral) the winner was only the second-shortest of the Ballydoyle horses in the betting.

It may pay to have a second look at both Geoffrey Chaucer and Orchestra. Geoffrey Chaucer won the Beresford Stakes last year and ran really well in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, without enjoying much luck in-running and conceding 3lb to all his rivals. That was his seasonal debut, just his third ever run, and there is no telling the magnitude by which he could improve.

Orchestra won the Chester Vase. He only got home by a nose in the end, but he travelled like a high-class horse through the race, and he eased to the front before appearing to idle close home. Like Geoffrey Chaucer, that was his seasonal debut and just his third ever run.

There is no knowing by how much he could improve from Chester to Epsom. Also, the fact that Ryan Moore rode him there, despite the fact that he was the better-fancied of the Ballydoyle pair in the Vase, may not be insignificant, with Joseph surely set to partner Australia in the Derby.

The fact that Orchestra handled Chester so well at the May meeting augurs well for Epsom, which is not wholly dissimilar in terms of configuration or atmosphere. And remember, Aidan O’Brien sent out Ruler Of The World to win the Vase last year before he followed up in the Derby, and he sent out Treasure Beach to win the Vase in 2011 before he got to within a head and a victory salute of winning the Derby.

Wood Ditton looking strong

Tabreek’s win in a maiden at Newmarket on Thursday evening means that the fourth, fifth and sixth horses from last month’s Wood Ditton Stakes at Newmarket have all now won. Hamdan Al Maktoum’s colt and the Martyn Meade-trained Venezia – who had finished second to the talented Munjaz on his debut this season – pulled clear of their rivals. Both colts look really useful.

It is always difficult to tell how good the Wood Ditton is at the time that it is run, given that the race is restricted to unraced three-year-olds and that, consequently, there is no prior form going into the race. The time of this year’s renewal was ordinary, so initial indications were that it might not have been that good a race this year. However, with three of the first six home now having run and won, those indications may have been misleading. It is legitimate to start to come around to the conclusion that, actually, this year’s renewal may have been a particularly strong one.

The first three home – Basem, Made With Love and Moonvoy (who is entered at Redcar and Windsor on Monday) – have yet to run. Their next respective appearances are awaited with interest.

Girl power

Following hot on the heels of Jessica Harrington’s Champion Hurdle victory – the first female to win the race since Flakey Dove – and her magical Punchestown, the girls dominated the landscape again this week.

First Evanna McCutcheon sent out her first winner as a trainer when Maarek won the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes at, well, York under a canny ride from Declan McDonogh. It matters not, statistically speaking, that Evanna has been involved with Maarek since he was in short trousers. This was his first win with Miss Evanna McCutcheon written down beside him in the trainer’s column.

Some way to get off the mark. In a Group 2 race. It would be like starting your managerial career by winning the National League final.

Five hours after Maarek had been hosed down, Caroline Murtagh rode her first winner on the Flat at Naas on Regal Power. Riding in just her 13th race, Caroline didn’t panic as the leaders kicked for home early in the home straight. She bided her time before asking her horse for his effort and, without leaving the inside rail, she delivered the Johnny Murtagh-trained gelding with a perfectly-timed run to get up and win by a half a length.

You could have been watching Sole Power’s King’s Stand Stakes.

Next they’ll be telling us that the new Minister for Justice, the Attorney General, the Chief Justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the acting Garda Commissioner are all females.

© The Irish Field, 17th May 2014