Like father like son. Bred for Epsom glory, it was Godolphin’s Masar that mastered both track and trip to land this year’s Derby.
Having finished third to Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas, it’s somewhat surprising that this son of 2008 Derby winner New Approach, had been cast aside by many punters as a ‘no-hoper’. Ballydoyle’s Guineas hero was all the rage in the markets and was sent off the odds-on favourite for Saturday’s showpiece. Part of an O’Brien battalion, his Newmarket success had been billed as a stepping stone to a tilt at the Triple Crown (Guineas, Derby and St Leger). But it was Charlie Appleby’s charge that coped best with Epsom’s unique examination.
Knight To Behold had set the early fractions, with Ballydoyle’s Kew Gardens for company. Hazapour travelled as well as any turning for home and struck the front approaching the two-furlong pole. Dee Ex Bee and Masar were in hot pursuit, and it was the latter that swept to the front closely followed by Roaring Lion. The red-hot favourite Saxon Warrior had been caught behind a wall of horses, though when asked to quicken and challenge, Ryan Moore must have been disappointed with the response.
Roaring Lion looked likely to chase down the Godolphin runner, but it was Masar that stayed on the strongest. As the line approached Gosden’s Dante winner faded slightly, leaving Dee Ex Bee to battle back bravely for the runner-up spot. Saxon Warrior stayed on for fourth, without ever looking like landing a telling blow. There’s no doubting that William Buick rode the perfect race on Masar, always in the right spot and throwing down his challenge at exactly the right moment. The best horse won the Derby, though the best jockey on the day played a vital role.
Sheikh Mohammed said of his first Epsom Derby success: “It's not easy to win the Derby, but we have won it. We are pleased to be here today. Charlie Appleby is a very good trainer and it’s good the horse came from Dubai. Horses are in my blood, I love them.”
William Buick was understandably overjoyed, saying: “This is huge, it's massive. I've come close a couple of times, I think I've had seven or eight rides and while I know people have had more without winning I was wondering if my time was ever going to come. The race was smooth and Charlie was confident that he would stay the trip. He was lovely and balanced throughout and nice and relaxed. He felt like he put the race to bed very quickly. The horse has to have temperament, balance, tenacity, stamina and speed. It’s the ultimate race, the holy grail. It’s what every jockey dreams of.”
Appleby had come close to landing the Oaks a day earlier and was thrilled to go one better: “That was absolutely amazing. All I could think of in the last furlong was that I wanted to be the first trainer to win the Derby in the Godolphin blue. It was a fantastic team effort. Brett Doyle (former jockey) rides him every day and has been so sweet on him since the 2000 Guineas. We just wanted to get him to switch off and we thought he’d stay. William’s given him a brilliant ride, but the last 100 yards seemed a long time. This season, we’ve just been knocking on the door and it was the same story yesterday.”
That defeat in the fillies’ classic came at the hands of the latest O’Brien star, young Donnacha, who rode Forever Together to an emphatic victory. It’s been a sensational season thus far for the jockey, having already landed the 2000 Guineas aboard Saxon Warrior. He again showed great maturity under pressure, giving the filly a perfect ride. More testing conditions on Friday had caused jockeys to track across to the stands side after turning for home. Donnacha was quick to ensure his filly had the perfect berth on the rail and when asked for maximum effort the daughter of Galileo powered clear of favourite Wild Illusion.
The young jockey said of his second Classic success: “Forever Together was very impressive. I got a beautiful trip through the race following Ryan (on Magic Wand). He edged over and kept me company on the rail. She is very genuine and galloped out to the line really well. She is a proper staying filly. I thought a week or two ago that she had a really good chance, then the rain came and I was a bit worried. She seemed to handle it really well, but I was not expecting her to do that.”
Father O’Brien was clearly chuffed, saying: “It’s incredible, I’m so delighted for everyone, so thankful to Michael (Tabor), John (Magnier) and Derrick (Smith), it’s brilliant for everyone. She caught the eye at Chester, she’s a staying filly and got the trip very well. Donnacha gave her an unbelievable ride, it’s incredible.”
Of future targets the trainer added: “I think it will be the Irish Oaks next, we’ll see what the lads want to do, but that’s what you’d be thinking. She’d love the Curragh, you’d imagine. I was very happy with all the fillies really. Donnacha rides her in her work and rode her at Chester and she was the filly he wanted to ride. He’s always been a very good rider, he’s very cool, he rides a lot of work at home, but he’s only 19.”
Though disappointed in being beaten, Charlie Appleby was clearly pleased with the run of the favourite Wild Illusion: “She ran a very creditable race. The winner looks to have outstayed us. She got a good run into it, but I thought the leader had skipped clear. She has just been outstayed, it’s as simple as that. When William (Buick) made his move I thought she was going to go through with it. William said she was not comfortable coming down the hill. She came there to win her race, but the winner has outstayed us and was the better horse on the day.”
Redemption came the trainer’s way just 24 hours later.