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Monmore proves Derby champion to be majestic
WE all want Derby champions to race on, but history shows that it is not always the best decision with the benefit of hindsight.
For every back-to-back winner such as Rapid Ranger and Westmead Hawk – rightly acknowledged as true greats – there are examples such as Allen Gift (0 wins in 19 subsequent starts), while the likes of Westmead Lord (4 in 23), Kinda Ready (5 in 26) and Bandicoot Tipoki (5 in 14) put up more respectable figures without truly setting the world alight.
The two Irish-trained winners this century, Droopys Scholes (1 in 2) and Loyal Honcho (1 in 3) werequickly retired after subsequent elimination from their ‘home’ Derby at Shelbourne Park, so only Farloe Verdict (24 in 40, unbeaten through 2004 Scottish Derby at Shawfield and Lady Godiva Oaks at Coventry) can be truly said to have justified the decision – and purists still have a hard time acclaiming her as Derby champion given that she was award the 2003 title on the post-competition disqualification of Droopys Hewitt.
Which makes Taylors Sky’s majestic run through the Ladbrokes Gold Cup at Monmore all the more welcome. The all-the-way victory might already have all but nailed the Greyhound of the Year title for him as his achievements in 2011 already stand scrutiny with Rapid Ranger and Westmead Hawk in their anni mirabiles.
Trainer Charlie Lister has suggested that the rest of Taylors Sky’s campaign will centre around the East Anglian Derby at Yarmouth starting next weekend, albeit likely without the benefit ofa pre-competition trial given the proximity of the two events.
Whatever his fate there, he has raised the bar very high in terms of achievements this year and even other possible contenders such as six-bend giant Blonde Fletch and fairytale comeback kid Jimmy Lollie are likely to have their work cut out.
Speaking of Blonde Fletch, he suffered a rare setback when eliminated from the Coral Champion Stakes at Romford on Friday evening, a night when what looked like being a standard-setting performance from Honey Trampas (35.40sec) in the opening heat of the 575m Category One proved to be anything but given the subsequent exploits of Droopys Hester (35.05sec) in heat four.
Droopys Hester was just a length outside the sprint track record when clocking 13.36sec for his sectional and, having found 640m at Sunderland patently too far when fading into fourth behind Blonde Fletch in the Grand Prix final there, got this 575m well. With a kind semi-final draw, he has become the one to beat.
Friday also saw the semi-finals of the Primus Saver Grand National at Wimbledon when, thankfully, most of the jumping was less harem-scarem than that seen in round one which was perhaps a reflection of the difficulty in finding proper schooling opportunities at tracks these days, both in terms of trials and graded hurdles racing to bring novices on gently.
However, there is no getting away from the fact that it is not a vintage renewal and you do have to wonder whether all the uncertainty about the competition going ahead, and indeed the future base of it and the Springbok, is having a demoralising effect.
Earlier in the week, I headed to one of my favourite venues, Sheffield, for the final of the Betfred Steel City Cup which saw Mill Bling Bling retain the prize for trainer Kelly Macari plus owner Peter Ancell – who had 2010 champion Mill Pinpoint in partnership with Alan Findlay. Mill Bling Bling is also owned by Keith Hixon, Paul Noble and Kev Collier.
It was a great victory and an ideal time for the Racing Post Juvenile runner-up to take up the baton as kennel star. Expect an announcement about the retirement of Mill Pinpoint in the not too distant future after a tremendous career.
There were a couple of items of food for thought at the meeting. First of all was the actual food itself which was, as usual, out of the top drawer and is must-sample especially when the track runs one of its midweek £15 three-course offers, and secondly was the exciting racing the Sky Sports cameras saw – there might not have been that many superstars on view, but the action was clean and competitive which can never be a bad thing.
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