31 Aug

Weekend Reflections

Philip Sale | Monday August 31 2020, 11:04am | Racing Comment

Saturday 1st June, 2019. Anthony Van Dyck, a son of Galileo, would win the Derby. He simultaneously gave Aidan O’Brien his seventh win in the Epsom classic.

With just three quarters of a length covering the first five home, it was the type of barnstorming finish more commonly associated with the Epsom Dash, which took place just 45 minutes earlier.

The annual jamboree opened with its usual 10-furlong handicap, won by Le Don De Vie. Subsequently sold to Aziz Kheir by owners Mick and Janice Mariscotti, the gelding also left Andrew Balding, joining Hughie Morrison.

Then rated 86, today the four-year-old is a lofty 106 and, given his efforts at Windsor this weekend, he is rightly due another hike. 

An hour after Le Don De Vie’s Epsom triumph, Sir Michael Stoute’s Zaaki would battle hard to win the Group 3 Diomed Stakes. Now aged five and rated 112, he retains all the ability that saw him grind to victory under Ryan Moore, albeit he is yet to win in 2020.

On one of Britain’s hottest days of 2019, Le Don De Vie and Zaaki certainly represented a day in the sun for their late sire Leroidesanimaux. What a crying shame he had lost his life some three years earlier.

After establishing himself in his native Brazil, Leroidesanimaux would become an outstanding turf-miler in the United States. Under the guidance of the late Robert J. Frankel, the colt won three Group 1s inside a year before an agonising defeat in the 2005 Breeders’ Cup mile on his swansong, aged five.

A son of Candy Stripes, sire of the phenomenal Invasor, Leroidesanimaux had already gifted us the exceptional Animal Kingdom – expertly handled by Cambridge-born Graham Motion and winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup - before transferring to Lanwades Stud in Newmarket. He stood for less than three years before his death.

Given he represented the seemingly non-existent Blushing Groom line in Britain, Leroidesanimaux remains a tragic loss to the British breeding industry. Le Don De Vie’s Listed victory on Saturday was a stark reminder of what we miss.

Back to the Derby, and many would have you believe its importance is ever-diminishing with the passage of time, not to mention an increased focus on speed in the breed. Others turn their noses up at the likes of this year's runaway winner Serpentine (eight winners and counting for Aidan O'Brien). 

But try telling that to William Muir, whose Pyledriver suffered such maddening interference his race was over before he could mount any sort of challenge. Try telling that also to Paul and Oliver Cole whose Highland Chief was quietly fancied, but ultimately came up short. And yet, both colts have subsequently proven themselves to be three-year-olds of the highest quality.

It was a similar story for Hughie Morrison's Telecaster. After winning last year's Dante, he was sent off as short as 5/1 for the Derby. Alas, he finished last of 13 runners. Telecaster's demolition of his rivals in yesterday's Grand Prix de Deauville reminds us not only of his innate ability, but just how difficult it is to win the Derby. 

Finally, how nice it is to refer to 'Paul and Oliver Cole'. By permitting dual licence holders, Britain has finally caught up with Australia. As Simon and Ed Crisford proved with Saturday's Celebration Mile winner Century Dream, sometimes in racing it pays to look forward and not always rely on anachronistic practices.

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