Trueshan trumps Westover win | SportsLens Editor’s Blog
A memorable day for Ralph Beckett, who won the Irish Derby with Westover and helped Frankie Dettori prove a point as he prepares to take a sabbatical from his role as stable jockey for John & Thady Gosden.
The rides the punters’ darling lost from Clarehaven didn’t win anyway, which should only add to the satisfaction of Lezoo clinching the Empress Fillies’ Stakes. Could higher goals at Newmarket races be in his future?
Westover turns the Irish Derby into a procession
Making fun of runners is a hot topic right now. You must feel Rob Hornby, regular driver of Westover. Colin Keane, his replacement in the saddle, will have to make some to lead an easier classic winner after Irish Derby glory at the Curragh provided Beckett with a double in all horse racing jurisdictions.
An exhausted field and failed filly by Aidan O’Brien on Tuesday, without even touching the frame, saw this colt run away with things in Juddmonte’s silks. Sent off as a favorite by top betting sites and bookmakers, Westover was 7 pounds ahead of anything other than the Ballydoyle runner. He won by seven lengths, again showing strong stamina in the last furlong to clear the field.
Westover is still in St Leger type form for me, but before we get on the trip, could there be a rematch with Desert Crown at King George, the next of the big Ascot races, in four weeks? It was not a vintage revival of the Irish Derby but a relationship gift.
Tuesday went to the well one too many times?
It could have been one classic too many – a fourth in 55 days and the fifth round of the campaign – for Tuesday. O’Brien and “the guys” had foals entered, including winner Lingfield from the United Nations, but withdrew them and instead put all their eggs in a completed basket.
Much like the Bolshoi Ballet at last year’s Epsom Derby, it seems in retrospect a big mistake in Ballydoyle’s relationship with Coolmore, especially when the crowd approach has always served so well. Tuesday could benefit from a mid-summer break with around seven weeks before the Yorkshire Oaks.
There’s the Irish Oaks in mid-July before that, but O’Brien knows it’s already been a busy campaign for her. Bookmakers had no problem relaxing on Tuesday for his potential York Races commitment with Epsom Oaks second-unlucky Emily Upjohn now favorite to reverse form.
Trueshan carries everything in front of him in Newcastle
The performance of the day was neither Frankie at headquarters nor Westover in the Emerald Isle, but trueshan under the upper weight of the Northumberland Plate. The big flat race betting handicap at Newcastle switched to All-Weather a few years ago, and the champion stayer has once again put that price firmly on the map.
When we think of great weight-carrying performance, the mind is drawn to gritty images of Arkle, Flyingbolt and Red Rum in obstacle courses. Trueshan, unable to race at Royal Ascot due to his hatred of sound surfaces, instead took on the welterweight burden of 10st 8lbs in ‘The Pitman’s Derby’.
The only thing like him in modern times in either code of horse racing on our shores was Denman’s second Hennessy Gold Cup triumph at the highest weight. Undeterred by the prospect of conceding 19+ pounds overall, Alan King ran his standard bearer flat in the plate for a second consecutive season.
Well-supported defense and Goodwood Cup could be next
Undaunted by the task ahead of Hollie Doyle, a potential successor to Frankie at the Gosden stables depending on the market, bettors backed Trueshan off the boards. Ejected from the 3/1 favorite on horse racing betting sites after a sustained bet, he won by half a length in comfortable fashion, conceding two full stones at second and 30 pounds at third home.
It would be almost uncharitable to say that this was a proven Group 1 performer (under the right conditions) beating a bunch of mediocre to top handicappers. Never mind that only two other horses in the Northumberland Plate field had an official rating of over 100.
Trueshan depends on the grass pitch, so he needs rain in late July if he is to defend his Glorious Goodwood Cup crown. If the weather stays dry, it won’t be until the fall that we’ll see him again with races like the Doncaster Cup, the Prix du Cadran in France and the Long Distance Cup at Ascot likely on his agenda.
Valley Forge Ebor hopes to take a hit
Class rather than huge weight difference at Gosforth Park says. Even those who received huge chunks of it were shaken by Trueshan after arguably hitting the forehead too soon. And that brings us back to criticism of jockeys.
Newcastle’s signature flat race saw another well-imagined runner in Valley Forge, the first horse to qualify for this summer’s Ebor in York no less, finished out of places. He ran high but had no response for closures or Trueshan’s power despite landing a big 27-pounder.
The horses selected did not participate in this great field event last year. Rainbow Dreamer’s Connections therefore tried something different. Running at a lower 12-pound mark, he could only finish ninth. Too far off the pace 12 months ago and until we got shot for too long and finally down in this renewal.
Northumberland Plate highlights how thin the margins are for runners
Jockeys are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The Pitman’s Derby tells us that it’s not just Dettori who can misjudge rides in big races. All jockeys walk a tightrope, balancing the racing styles of their mounts and how they ride best.
Criticism comes if they engage too soon and get caught or challenge too late and don’t reach the front in time. Only the winning ride is good. Barring a dead heat, that leaves everyone disappointed. Who would be a jockey?
As for the winners, Doyle gave the camera a kiss before pulling out his loaded saddle to weigh in. Dettori made his flying dismount after proving a point and is now leaving to ride overseas. Keane reveled in getting away with the first Irish Classic.
Bring on next week and the races at Sandown, where it’s the Eclipse and the first clash of generations.