IT is often said that the British prefer a gallant loser to a glorious winner but doubt was cast on that maxim after the running of last weekend’s Epsom Derby.
Even though this most highly prized contest is always the subject of great anticipation and is one of the most publicly celebrated events on our sporting calendar, there was something extra in the air prior to this particular renewal of a British tradition.
On a sultry summer’s day, an estimated crowd of more than 100,000 people flooded onto the Downs hoping to see the Queen’s horse Carlton House win his owner her first ever Derby.
However, the dream did not materialise with our local riding star Ryan Moore unable to elicit the extra dash required from his charge to book his place in racing folklore.
Carlton House ran with great credit but he could ultimately achieve only a valiant third place finish and as they crossed the winning line three quarters of a length behind the first French winner of the race for 35 years, the disappointment of the vast majority more or less became immediately apparent.
Although of course no one would admit it publicly, there may have been an element of xenophobia mixed in with the obvious deflation as the French and Irish connections of the winner were presented with their prize to a muted response from the large crowd, despite the efforts of the compere Claire Balding to elicit the usual rapturous applause.
The hope of success for our monarch was gone but no one could argue that the best horse on the day won the race.
Post race the jockey of the winner Pour Moi, Mickael Barzalona, was lauded as having ridden a terrific race despite his unusually early victory celebration. I do not concur with that view and feel that he got lucky on a horse that was flat out with two furlongs to run and going nowhere.
Bringing a horse widest of all into the Epsom straight and then getting him unbalanced on the camber whilst well off the pace is never the best way to ride this fast switchback track.
To my eye it looked like the leaders were paddling inside the last furlong and as such I think the quality of this renewal may have possibly been only fair, although Pour Moi did well to overcome what I feel were problems that came as much from the saddle as from the run of the race.
Barzalona is only 19 and held in the highest regard by some of the top trainers. He is definitely an emerging talent who will probably reflect in years to come that this was a day that lady luck shone down on him.
Personally, I thought the ride of the race came from Colm O’Donoghue aboard the 25-1 runner-up Treasure Beach. Colm always had the outsider of Aidan O’Brien’s four protagonists in a good position, produced him at the right time and showed excellent strength in a finish.
Getting beaten just a head must have been devastating for a jockey who has yet to receive the accolades his riding deserves. Maybe this performance will help to change that.
It should also be mentioned that Montjeu sired his third Derby winner here, following the successes of Authorized and Motivator.
He must be the sire of the year as he is also responsible for the Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly and the highly talented Coronation Cup winner St Nicholas Abbey. He seems to have many detractors because of the quirky nature of some of his progeny but boy does he impart some class when the breeders get the match right.