Monday, 5 July 2010
: The last Derby winner successful in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes was Galileo in 2001 and the last three-year-old to win was the Irish Derby winner Alamshar in 2003 (also the last year that the Derby winner went on to run in the race).
| Workforce wins the Derby|
Photo by Racing and Sports
When the King George was inaugurated in 1951, it was one of the first major developments which diluted the importance of the traditional classic races. Races like the King George and the Prix de lfArc (which had its prize money raised substantially two years before the King George came into being) brought the leaders of the classic generation into regular competition with the best of the older horses.
Before the King George and the reinvigorated Prix de lfArc, classic winners did not have to race outside their own age group to enjoy exalted status. Nowadays, however, the classics are seldom the most rigorous tests that a three-year-old faces.
Outstanding classic winners ideally have to go on to prove themselves in the top open-aged championships, but the King George, it must be said, has struggled to maintain its status as the most important of the midsummer clashes of the generations, its position increasingly challenged by the Eclipse in recent seasons.
When Sea The Stars contested last yearfs Eclipse, he was the third Epsom Derby winner to do so in five years (following Motivator and Authorized), during which time the Oaks winner Eswarah in 2005 and the relatively unexceptional trioby the highest standardsof Alwaary, Golden Sword and Rockhampton (used as a pacemaker) in 2009 were the only three-year-olds to run in the King George.
But the situation is not quite so bad as the stark facts suggest. Had Sea The Stars run in the Irish Derby as planned (he was pulled out following heavy rain) he would have run in the King George, something confirmed by his connections after he had won at Sandown. The 2008 Derby winner New Approach might well have run in the King George had he not been sidelined by injury at the time.
The Ascot executive must hope that nothing untoward befalls the latest Derby winner Workforce to prevent him taking his place in the King George line-up at the end of July.
Workforcefs presence looks set to provide just the shot in the arm that the King George needs after the experience of recent years.
He put up an outstanding performance to win the Derby by seven lengths, eclipsing the five-length winning margins of Motivator and Authorized, at the same time recording an exceptional time performance.
Workforce won by the widest official winning margin recorded in the race for a quarter of a century, since Slip Anchor scored by seven when making all in 1985.
Slip Anchorfs winning distance equalled that of Troy six years earlier, seven lengths an official margin of victory bettered in the history of the Derby only by Shergar, who won by ten in 1981, and by the last of Steve Donoghuefs six Derby winners Manna who won by eight in 1925.
Workforce won the Derby in devastating style, finishing with gusto reminiscent of Troy who swamped his field after having eight horses in front of him at the two-furlong pole before quickening and going away with every stride over the last furlong.
Workforce didnft have so many horses in front of him as Troy, but he had eight lengths to make up on the leader At First Sight with three furlongs to go before romping home in similar fashion, providing an extremely rare sight in a top race.
It was a magnificent display, backed up by an exceptional time performance. Workforcefs time of 2m 31.33sec was well inside Lammtarrafs Derby record of 2m 32.31sec set on firm going, though the time itself was of little significance.
Record times usually indicate no more than that prevailing conditions were favourable for the setting of a fast time.
However, when Workforcefs time was analysedthe computations of Timeform
fs timefigures involve sophisticated reference to a vast pool of datait came out at 1.35 fast, equivalent to a timerating of 134, one that can only be recorded by a top-class Group 1 performer (the best timerating recorded by Sea The Stars was 132 in the Eclipse, the fastest recorded by any horse over any distance in Britain in his year).
Wide margin victories in the top races are always hard to follow. Slip Anchorfs subsequent career was restricted by injury, but both Troy and Shergar, genuine giants in the Derbyfs history, went on to cement their reputations in top all-aged company, starting in the King George after both had followed up their Derby victories in the Irish Derby.
The Derby rarely turns out to be the most significant race of the year but this is one year when it might do. Workforce will do very well to better his performance on Derby Day (Shergar and Troy didnft better theirs) but, whatever happens, he is already established beyond doubt as an exceptional middle-distance performer.
Workforce is the outstanding classic performer of his generation and his form puts him right up there with the best of the older horses. A clash with Coronation Cup winner Fame And Glory, who won a good renewal very readily, will not, however, take place in the King George since Fame And Glory is being aimed principally at an autumn campaign.
The Coronation Cup runner-up Sariska and the Sheema Classic winner Dar Re Mi head a formidable team of older middle-distance fillies who look as if they will provide too big an obstacle to the classic fillies (Snow Fairy won a substandard Oaks).
The miling division looks like being close, the older horses including the brilliant mare Goldikova and Paco Boy who fought out a tremendous finish to the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot (Rip Van Winkle returned from seven months off and needed the race).
The three-year-old milers are now headed by Canford Cliffs, who followed up his Irish Guineas win in a strong renewal of the St Jamesfs Palace Stakes, just two races after the Queen Anne.
On the sprinting front, Royal Ascot staged two legs of the Global Sprint Challenge, Equiano taking the Kingfs Stand in good style before ex-Australian Starspangledbanner put up an even better performance in winning the Golden Jubilee from another cosmopolitan field.
It was the start of a new era in the Gold Cup without four-times winner Yeats, and his successors Rite of Passage (rated 124) and Age of Aquariusseparated by a neck at the end of a gruelling raceboth recorded high-class performances which suggests the quality in the staying ranks is not likely to drop.
Royal Ascot again featured a small number of challengers from the United States, Kinsale King doing best of them when reaching a place in the Golden Jubilee, while, back home, the running of the Preakness and the Belmont completed the Triple Crown series.
Neither of the winnersLookin At Lucky
and Drosselmeyerput up performances within reach of those of now-retired Eskendereya, who annihilated Preakness third Jackson Bend and Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box when really catching the eye in winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Wood Memorial earlier in the year.
The outstanding mare Zenyatta continues to enhance her reputation, taking her unbeaten run to
seventeen with her third win of the season in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, the same
weekend as Rachel Alexandra at last began to look something like her old self when winning at Churchill Downs. The prospects of a summer showdown between the pair are, excitingly, enhanced by Rachel Alexandrafs return to form.