Though Murtagh’s rehabilitation of himself was not unique, few sportsmen have managed to reverse the trend after too long spent leaning on the self-destruct button.
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Perhaps the Coolmore empire will not win the Derby as they have for the last four years. Perhaps they will - their three candidates have stamina in their favour, a vital factor for any Derby winner whether present in large or small quantity.
Australia (GB) (Galileo) will face 15 rivals in today’s G1 Investec Derby at Epsom, with Aidan O’Brien’s much-vaunted colt set to break from stall 12 in his bid to provide Coolmore with a fourth consecutive renewal and his trainer with a fifth overall.
The field for the most famous three-year-old race in the world goes postward at Epsom, England on Saturday. The modern history of the Investec English Derby (Gr.1) has been dominated by three of the best Classic stallions of all time, Sadler’s Wells and his sons Galileo and Montjeu, who between them have maintained a vice grip on the outcome not only of the Derby, but also of its “sister”, the Oaks.
Click above to watch Lammtarra winning the 1995 Epsom Derby
(Image : Jockeysite - Footage : Sewageable)
Nijinsky (CAN) - Snow Bride (USA)
Nicola HaywardAs I drove up the High Street in Newmarket the week before Christmas past, I tried to imagine how it might have looked early in 1904. It was difficult given the tarred road, beautiful Christmas lights and decorated storefronts - Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys, and French Connection filled with eager shoppers. Yet it was to 1904 that my mind returned, for that was when Signorina was booked to be covered by the Champion Isinglass. For a decade, the Oaks runner-up had failed to produce a foal and her owner, the Italian trainer Ginistrelli, followed on foot as she was led down the High Street for her planned assignation with Isinglass. On the way Chaleureux, a lowly stallion that was being used as a teaser, passed the aging mare. The two called to one another and refused to move apart and so, on a whim, Ginistrelli allowed his mare her ‘love match’. The result was the filly Signorinetta who in 1908 won the Epsom Derby and two days later the Oaks, a feat not accomplished since.
Myth or legend, it is one of the stories that Newmarket holds and was worthy of consideration. Of course, for one who loves the Thoroughbred, to be in the same country as Frankel, let alone to drive past the yard where he is stabled and trained, was very special. That an entire town can be dedicated to the horses that have for centuries made it their home, is quite remarkable. Bridleways crisscross the suburban roads allowing every animal to reach the gallops safely and the public happily accept that it should be so, as it always has.
Of course, one does not turn down a visit to Dalham Hall Stud. Even though a number of the stallions were on stud duty in Australia and South America, there was the chance to see the mighty Dubawi. A son of Dubai Millenium out of the Deploy mare Zomaradah, he has risen to star status. He won 5 of 8 starts and is a compact bull of a horse. Dubawi is all power and he knows it. His son Poet’s Voice, out of Bright Tiara (Chief’s Crown) was victorious in the 2011 G1 QEII Stakes and is a taller, more elegant horse than his sire. He is bay without white markings and has a beautiful head. He had let down very well and has a good book of mares waiting for his attention once the season begins. Both horses live in roomy stalls in the stallion block that overlooks the graveyard where the memorial to the great Dubai Millennium dwarfs all those around it. It takes one into the past - Singspiel, Machiavellian, Reference Point, Great Nephew…
Then, a woolly, muddy liver chestnut danced toward his stall and the world stopped turning.
By Nijinsky (Northern Dancer), out of Snow Bride (Blushing Groom), Lammtarra won his only outing as a two-year-old in 1994. His trainer Alex Scott was certain of classic success but then in a cruel twist of fate, an employee with a grievance shot and killed Scott. The colt was transferred to Godolphin, to Saeed Bin Suroor. Under Walter Swinburn, Lammtarra won The Derby in a time only bettered in 2010 by Workforce. Then under Frankie Detorri he took the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe before being retired to stud unbeaten in four starts. His pedigree was impeccable - by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner - and his record faultless. Yet at stud he was a failure. He covered one season at Dalham Hall before being sold to Japan for $30,000,000. Eventually, in 2006, Sheikh Mohammed bought him back and he returned to Dalham Hall to live out his days in retirement.
Do yourself a favour and watch his Derby win above courtesy of YouTube and you will see why it was he more than any other that made my heart soar. It was an old, sprightly gentleman who danced and squealed as his groom led him in who made me smile. It was a Champion now past his prime that made me wonder what if? Why not? And ask the question what might have been…