Angus McNae's Racing UK Blog
|Thursday 9th June 2016|
Ballydoyle tactics played in to Harzand team’s hand
The Investec Derby meeting was this year one where a lot of the races were run at an overly strong pace. This is particularly true of the Oaks and Derby, which were thorough tests of stamina.
The jockeys over both days seemed to struggle with the vagaries of pace on an undulating track in softish conditions and these dynamics have led to some interesting post-race analysis.
Ballydoyle had a clear plan going into the Derby and that was to allow Port Douglas to set a furious gallop and to drop US Army Ranger out and give him a patient ride.
The tactic nearly worked. In fact, it did work because the gallop softened up every rival bar the winner Harzand and US Army Ranger showed massive improvement from Chester to be second.
He was simply beaten by a stronger stayer. In the final 100 yards two sharp cracks from Pat Smullen on the winner saw him pull out more and he won going away, undoubtedly the winner on merit.
There is an argument that seems very popular in these situations that states that if Ryan Moore had been closer to the pace he would have won.
This concept reckons without the dynamics of pace because it is fact that if he had sat closer to the furious gallop he would have used up vital energy, and it is my contention he would have been beaten further by the stronger stayer Harzand if he had been closer early on in the race.
If the pair were to meet again, I believe the outcome would be different on fast ground. It would play to the strengths of US Army Ranger and against Harzand, who clearly wants some cut in the ground.
How ironic that the Ballydoyle masterplan played right into the hands of the strongest stayer in the race, which wasn't US Army Ranger.
Red Verdon one to note
One horse to follow out of the Derby is Red Verdon.
He met loads of trouble on the inside when looking for a run having travelled up very strongly. He did eventually get room up the rail but once out his run was rather tame. I think this effort points him to being a pattern race performer over ten furlongs.
Given his owner and trainer, I suspect plenty of globetrotting is on the agenda. Wherever he races it looks like speed rather than stamina is his main asset.
The Oaks was a sub standard renewal bar the impressive winner, Minding. She found some trouble in running turning for home, but only because even at this early stage of the race some fillies were recoiling and reversing out of the strong early gallop and getting in her way.
Such was the speed of their capitulation that she soon found space to run in and easily overcame Architecture in second place. This fully is a superstar, but she did not beat a stellar bunch. Given her pace ten furlongs may well, ultimately be her best trip.
Tibr can bounce back on quicker going
The Woodcote Stakes is often a decent contest for two year olds and before the race I was very keen on Tibr. This colt had been impressive in a fast time at Lingfield on debut but here he was undone by the soft conditions. He travelled up to the leaders strongly before spinning his wheels in the conditions. He is much better than he showed here and being a son of Distorted Humor whose progeny like fast ground it's clear that when he gets his conditions again he will be very interesting.
The runner-up in the Diomed Stakes was Decorated Knight who was narrowly beaten by Tullius. Thus effort should not see us downgrade this thoroughly progressive Colt. He got a wide trip, lost his hind legs turning for home and saw daylight all the way up the home straight. He did well to get to the front inside the final furlong before just being edged out. Under faster conditions and with some cover this horse can continue on an upward curve for a good while. A mile is his trip and ideally he wants decent ground. He is not yet a Group one performer but he is going the right way.
Draw beat Haalick
A similar analysis can be made of Haalick who, like Decorated Hero, hails from the Roger Varian yard. He had a terrible run through the Surrey Stakes. He finished fourth and was essentially beaten by being drawn in stall 1. He is a hold up horse so dropping out from stall one and then finding running room was always going to be awkward. He never got a chance to show what he could do and even though he has arguably been unlucky in his last two starts I would be prepared to give him another chance in Listed company over seven furlongs.
Idaho drops St Leger clue
My final thought is to have a small bet on the St Leger, which could be a tremendous race with the likes of Algometer and Wings of Desire in the mix but what is wrong with the Derby third Idaho? He was closer to the strong pace than the two that beat him, quickened up smartly before understandably being overhauled. He is a little bit better than the bare result and this string travelling stayer could be hard to beat in the final classic if that is indeed his ultimate destination this season.