Things We Learned » Derby jigsaw

Derby jigsaw

Thursday was spent re-arranging the jigsaw that is the Derby picture; taking three of the four corner pieces that you had in place and realising that they weren’t the corner pieces at all. 

US Army Ranger scrambled home in the Chester Vase from his stable companion Port Douglas as the pair of them pulled seven lengths clear of their four other rivals, and the market wasn’t impressed.  The Galileo colt, who had started the day as the 3/1 and 4/1 Derby favourite, ended it an 11/2 shot.

Port Douglas saw his odds clipped, from 50/1 and 66/1, first to 33/1, then to 25/1, and now the best you will get about him is 20/1.  That still looks big enough about the Beresford Stakes winner.  Remember that he was giving 4lb to his stable companion on Thursday.  He comes out of the Chester Vase the best horse.

There were other changes on the back of the Chester Vase.  Midterm’s odds were shortened from 9/2 and 5/1 to 7/2 and 4/1, as he usurped the Ballydoyle colt as market leader.  A few more bookmakers put up a price about Minding with a run (5/2 if you’re interested), and Idaho’s odds were clipped from 25/1 to 20/1.

Then, just when you thought that it was all settling down, Hugo Palmer goes and says that Guineas winner Galileo Gold would not run in the Derby.  And so, the table got kicked and all the pieces were on the floor again. 

Awtaad looks good 

Awtaad was very good in winning the Tetrarch Stakes at The Curragh on Monday.  Settled nicely just behind the pace, Kevin Prendergast’s horse picked up nicely at the two-furlong pole, he struck the front inside the final furlong and he kept on nicely for Chirs Hayes all the way to the line, pulling two lengths clear of another talented colt in Blue De Vega.

The Tetrarch Stakes is steeped in history, it is a race that has been won in the past by Desert King and Creachadoir and, going back, by Secreto and Flash Of Steel and Prince Of Birds and Royal Academy. 

And at least as encouraging as the visual impression of the performance was Awtaad’s trainer’s reaction afterwards.  Kevin Prendergast has been looking at good horses for long enough to know what one looks like, and you get the impression that he likes Awtaad a lot. 

The Cape Cross colt has now won his last three races.  Winner of his maiden at Leopardstown last October, he was impressive in winning the Madrid Handicap on the opening day of the turf season at The Curragh, and this was another step forward.  Prendergast won the Irish 2000 Guineas in 1976 with Northern Treasure, and odds of 6/1 about Awtaad emulating that colt look more than fair at this stage.

O’Meara getting going

David O’Meara’s yard is clicking into gear now. 

It can take a little while for a trainer to settle into a new yard, start to figure out the new facilities, how to use the new gallops.  O’Meara started the year relatively slowly for him following his move to Willow Farm in North Yorkshire, but signs are that he is settling into a rhythm now.

To put it into context, in the first four months of 2015, he had 24 winners.  In the first four months of 2014 he had 20 winners.  In the first four months of 2013, he had 30 winners.  This year, from January to April, he had just 10.

In April last year, he had 14 winners from 71 runners for a strike rate of 20%, while in April 2014 he had 11 winners from 56 runners (20%), and in April 2013 he had 11 winners from 62 runners (18%).  In April this year, he had just seven winners from 77 runners, a strike rate of just 9%.

But May has started off very well.  He had a winner on the first day of the month last Sunday, Tawdeea in a maiden at Hamilton.  Then, on Monday, he sent four horses to Beverley, three of them won (completing a 272/1 treble) and one, the only favourite that he had on the day, was second beaten a neck.  Then he had another winner at Catterick on Tuesday, and Burano was only beaten a neck by Newera in a good handicap at Chester on Thursday.

It is a small sample size, but, at the time of writing, O’Meara has had five winners from 10 runners so far in May for a level-stakes profit of €19.25.  It could be worth following him now for a while.

Punchestown fallout

It may be that, in the back of your head there is this notion that Willie Mullins perhaps did not have as successful a Punchestown Festival as he usually has. 

That may be down to the fact that he was so strong in Britain this year, that he was so strong at Aintree and at Sandown this year, as well as, obviously, at Cheltenham as always.  Or it may be down to the fact that Yorkhill and Vautour and Outlander all got beaten on the first day, and that the shadows of those defeats were difficult to shake even as the week progressed.

It might be surprising, then, to count back the winners and count 12.  Douvan in the Ryanair Novice Chase, Vroum Vroum Mag in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, Whiteout in the Mares’ Champion Hurdle, Apple’s Jade in the Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle, and the rest.

It was always going to be difficult to emulate last year’s haul of 16, but Mullins only had nine winners at Punchestown in 2014, and 12 winners is the champion trainer’s joint-third-highest Punchestown haul.  That’s a hugely successful week by any standards.

Some chance

Speaking of Galileo Gold and the Derby, Equinome said that there was less than a one per cent chance that a mile and a half would be Hugo Palmer’s colt’s optimum trip.  There is a better chance of that being the case than there was of Leicester winning the Premier League, admittedly, but then, there is a better chance of just about everything than there was of Leicester winning the Premier League. 

Norton’s Coin was only 100/1 when he won the Gold Cup.  You would have had to have had him in a double with Beech Road in the Champion Hurdle.


© The Irish Field, 7th May 2016