Things move along rapidly in life in the 21st Century even if a certain English monarch has shown plenty of stickability, writes Tony Stafford. In the Coolmore box on Saturday after the authoritative triumph by Desert Crown in the Cazoo Derby, the main players were adamant we had all witnessed a superstar – one that might go all the way.
Even in his interview after the race, Sir Michael Stoute felt emboldened enough to declare him “promising”. Maybe he was saying, “seen it all before”, and I suppose he had all those years ago in Shergar, but promising? Hardly.
Maybe he was talking about his jockey. You would never have thought Richard Kingscote was having only his second mount in the race in a large field where more experienced big-race riders could easily have got caught up in the inevitable Epsom traffic that can envelop them on the wrong day.
But Kingscote, untroubled, could just as easily have been riding on a Friday evening at Haydock or Chester, the two tracks where he had best showcased his talents in the years he spent riding for the Tom Dascombe stable until Michael Owen’s mid-winter shake-up.
You need luck in this game. Sir Michael Stoute has never been a man in his half-century as a trainer to change his stable jockeys unduly, but Ryan Moore’s progressive unavailability with his Ballydoyle commitments meant there needed to be an available back-up.
In the past, Frankie Dettori might have been a contender for drafting in with Moore cemented to Coolmore, but Kingscote had moved south after leaving Manor House Stables and must have impressed Desert Crown’s trainer that he would do very nicely when he showed up to ride out at Freemason Lodge.
The son of Nathaniel, who before York had raced only once in a maiden at Nottingham last November, was obviously very talented. His trainer, though, was unsure whether Desert Crown could be readied in time for the Dante. Fortunately he was and Kingscote was on board, looking the part as they strolled home in what history has told us is always the best Derby trial.
All that was left was to beat the Godolphins and the Coolmores on Saturday, and this they did with panache, coming down the straight with a surge that took them past Moore and Stone Age as the Aidan O’Brien first string was battling to take control.
The consensus in the box afterwards was that Stone Age didn’t stay, along with a recognition that it would not have mattered if he had. The winner was supreme. It was going to take something special, they thought, to beat him.
That view held until mid-afternoon yesterday and, as is often the case when Coolmore don’t have the winner of a Classic, they still have more than a little to do with the breeding and production of it.
Step forward Vadeni, who swamped the front-running Modern Times for speed and drew effortlessly away in the last furlong of the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly. He won by five lengths, avenging a defeat in a Group 3 on the track last September when third to James Ferguson’s El Bodegan. That colt battled on well to pip Modern Times for the runner-up spot.
The consolation for the Coolmore partners is that the winner was the result of an outsourcing by his breeder the Aga Khan, who sent Vadeni’s mother, Vaderami (an unraced daughter of the German stallion Monsun), to be one of the first group of mares to visit Churchill.
The quest is always how to replace – or in their wildest dreams – replicate Galileo. They’ve always thought Churchill was his quickest Classic son as the champion juvenile of his year and easy winner of both the Newmarket and Curragh 2,000 Guineas.
Having gone into this weekend as the sire of two Group 3 winners, Churchill now has a five-length winner of a Classic in a field of 15 where runner-up and third had already won at Group 1 level.
Churchill is, on a lower plane, the sire of one of my favourite handicappers, Brian Meehan’s Lawful Command, who has all the courage of his wonderful grandsire. That colt will keep on winning handicaps, but I bet Sam Sangster, who bought Lawful Command, will already be resigned that his yearlings will be priced out of most mortals’ budgets this autumn with the stud fee doing a similar exponential jump as Galileo’s did when his first three-year-olds began flexing their Classic muscles almost two decades ago. Not even his passing has stopped them twitching away!
I mentioned last week when discussing Desert Crown, that he might not have been the most obvious contender for winning a Derby. Not all products of Nathaniel, Frankel’s contemporary and three-quarter-length debut victim to the unbeaten champion, are high-class. Both colts of course were by Galileo, and Nathaniel will always be remembered as sire of the 21st Century’s best race-mare, Enable. He has been a great servant to Newsells Park Stud in Hertfordshire and Gary Coffee and Julian Dollar have every right in declaring him a steal at £15k too!
Desert Crown may well aspire to similar heights as Enable. There have been many examples of Michael Stoute horses developing from ordinary performers in their three-year-old season to international champions, like Singspiel and Pilsudski all those years ago. When they start out good, they rarely disappoint.
Sir Michael must still hanker after the days when he trained horses of the calibre of Shergar for the Aga Khan, but His Highness’s horses have for many years been centred in France and Ireland for racing and breeding. Long-term stud operations cannot be carried on at full effectiveness without regular injections of new talent and, on the day Churchill offered fresh impetus for Coolmore, the Aga Khan Studs unveiled their latest trump card.
There were three Aga Khan winners yesterday and, rather like the perfect Harry Kane hat-trick (left-foot, right-foot and a header – that’s for you Your Majesty, sorry about yesterday!) – they offered a bright vision of the future.
First in the 12f fillies’ Group 3, the Prix de Royaumont, Christophe Soumillon brought Baiykara, only second best in the market, with an irresistible run which provided a step-by-step dress rehearsal for their Classic show a little later on.
The extent of Vadeni’s success over ten-and-a -half furlongs had been even less anticipated than the filly’s win. You got the impression from winning trainer Jean-Claude Rouget that he might be thinking less about Longchamp in October for Valeni than Leopardstown the previous month. That was probably in line with Soumillon’s earlier murmurings about the Arc for Baiykara.
“I love that race, <the Irish Champion Stakes>”, said Rouget, who has now won five Jockey-Clubs and four of the last seven. Some people in racing seem to think this is the “cheaper” alternative to Epsom and, while Rouget will not hold that view, he did concede that there have been some less than top winners of the Chantilly race along with stars like last year’s hero and European Champion, St Mark’s Basilica. Then again, not every Epsom Derby winner enters the sport’s pantheon either.
The third Aga Khan winner, almost bizarrely, was a sprinter, although in the year when the Aga Khan studs are celebrating the 100 years since the colours of his grandfather, also the Aga Khan, were first seen on a racecourse. That year he bought the flying speckled grey filly Mumtaz Mahal and as well as proving a great racehorse herself, she appears in many of today’s pedigrees, often through her descendant Nasrullah.
Yesterday’s sprint winner was Rozgar, easy winner of the six-furlong Listed race, and while out of an Aga Khan-bred daughter of Sea The Stars, she is by the Darley sprint sire, Exceed and Excel.
Returning though to Baiykara, she is from the first crop of Zarak, a beautifully-bred young stallion, coincidentally listed in 2022’s brochure from the Aga Khan’s French stud, the Haras de Bonneval, at the same fee as Churchill, €25,000.
By Dubawi out of the unbeaten champion mare Zarkava, he did not quite live up to his exemplary breeding, but one of his four wins in 13 starts was at Group 1 level – the Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud and he did just nudge the €1 million prize mark.
Zarak also had something to say later in the card, providing a cross-Channel win for the William Haggas stable. This was Purplepay, a filly bought by his long-time clients Lael Stable at last December’s Arqana sale for €2 milllion.
That price would never have been countenanced in the first half of last year, even though she was prolific in the provinces, but she upped the ante for her last two runs and picked up a Longchamp conditions race before running third in a Saint-Cloud Group 1.
Fittingly, on the weekend when the 2022 Derby was run in Lester’s honour, his American friends Lael Stable, with whom he owned shares in Haggas horses, now have a very smart filly with his son-in-law.
As probably the trainer closest to the Sir Michael Stoute tradition of steadily bringing on his young horses, he can take this explosive filly a long way, perhaps starting at Royal Ascot next week. Yes, we’ve got that to come, in just eight days’ time. Chantilly was only one day after a wonderful Derby performance but, as we’ve seen, things in racing rarely stand still for long.