Weaver recalls when Derby trip took its toll on Mister Baileys

It is 30 years since Jason Weaver rounded Tattenham Corner on the Guineas winner Mister Baileys in the Derby and kicked for home – forging six lengths clear.

For a moment, it looked as if he had slipped the field on the Mark Johnston-trained colt but with a furlong to run, King’s Theatre and Colonel Collins joined him and his stride began to rapidly shorten.

There was still to be a twist in the 1994 renewal, though, as Willie Carson conjured up a brilliant finish on the favourite Erhaab, who followed up his win in the Dante, in which Mister Baileys also ran.

For Weaver, now a respected TV pundit, there is no real sense of what might been, however.

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“Obviously, winning the Guineas was great but I didn’t feel any pressure because he wasn’t my ride. He was Frankie’s ride but he overlooked him for Grand Lodge and he was also a big price (16-1). It wasn’t until his gallop at Ripon we thought he had a chance,” said Weaver.

“When we went to the Dante, I loomed up on the outside going well but it was probably a bit of inexperience on my part and he saw too much daylight.

“It’s not the done thing these days, winning the Guineas and going to the Dante – and of course we were disappointed he didn’t win. I think it was probably a fact-finding mission.

“We ended up making the running in the Derby and I still thought we were going to win turning for home, but he got to the two pole and emptied out.

“Philip Robinson ended up taking me on early on a horse of Mark Tompkins’ (The Flying Phantom) and we were skipping along and I was thinking we were going a bit quick, and we paid the price.

“Who knows, in another year we could have got away with it, as the front three were all very good horses, but I remember when he pulled up, he barely had the energy to canter back, he put everything into that and quite clearly it left its mark.”

Nowadays, Weaver is in the perfect position to offer his views on the current Classic crop, seeing them at close hand in the paddock, and he believes this year’s Betfred Derby is a fascinating edition.

Jason Weaver is now a respected TV pundit
Jason Weaver is now a respected TV pundit (Mike Egerton/PA)

With last year’s star juvenile City Of Troy needing to bounce back from a lacklustre run in the Guineas, Weaver is astonished he is still favourite and believes the fact he is boils down to one reason only; his trainer Aidan O’Brien.

“Aidan has brought horses back before but Auguste Rodin had excuses in the Guineas and was bred for the Derby,” said Weaver.

“He has pulled so many rabbits out of the hat but if ever there was a peak training performance from somebody, surely this will top the lot. It will be the greatest Houdini training act, it’s got to be.

“I keep looking back for a reason he ran like he did in the Guineas – the ground, the way the race was run – but I just can’t find one.

“Ryan (Moore) normally goes through the gears smoothly but from three out you could see him moving his hands, so he didn’t even go five furlongs of the mile and now he’s going a mile and a half. There’s so much confidence behind him though!

City Of Troy (left, dark blue) was left toiling by Notable Speech in the Guineas
City Of Troy (left, dark blue) was left toiling by Notable Speech in the Guineas (David Davies/PA)

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“Think of all the superstars he has trained, and Aidan doesn’t miss a day, he flies everywhere so that he is always at home religiously – and to keep that level of discipline for the amount of time that he has makes him an extraordinary human being.

“That is the only reason that he sits at the top of the market, because of his trainer. Because of all we know about Aidan as a human, as a character, his discipline and repetition, that is the only reason he’s favourite.

“I just thought there was something different in the horse’s make-up last year (Auguste Rodin) compared to this lad.”

One thing the uncertainty around the favourite has led to is a potentially big field.

“Because of all the question marks, it’s why quite a few who might not be running are taking their chance, like Dancing Gemini and Tabletalk,” added Weaver.

“The Lingfield winner (Ambiente Friendly) probably has the strongest claim and he’s obviously been in the news because of the jockey. I spoke to Willie Ryan, who was second jockey to Sir Henry Cecil for 20 years, and he just said it has happened so many times you just have to get on with it.

“The one thing you can say about this year’s race is it is intriguing. Yes, it would have been great if the favourite had won the Guineas and we were all talking about a wonder horse, but the fact he hasn’t has opened it right up and made it an open race.”

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