Derby day finally came, although the rain I’d been hoping for didn’t. It was a blow – I’d only kept Bouguereau in the race in the hope that the ground would come up on the soft side, but that wasn’t going to happen. Still a great day out beckoned. I got dressed in my fancy togs and headed off to the course with the wife and kids.
We got there fairly late, missing the first two races. The first thing I saw on the course was Alan Munro being interviewed on the big screen – he was talking about Bouguereau. He said he thought he’d run a decent race provided his instructions were realistic. I sensed a message was coming my way.
We headed into the Queens Stand where we met a few friends. It was pretty packed and not the right place for children so we wandered off looking for somewhere more suitable. Eventually we found a quiet beer tent, and we settled in with a few ice creams. In truth it didn’t really work bringing the children – it was too crowded and they didn’t enjoy it much.
The Derby came around and I headed over to ring. I had to wait for an age to get in as the Queen was coming through. When I got in Alan was already there and waiting. He said he’d had a long chat with Pete, and rather than sit handy with the leaders they wanted to drop Bouguereau in in mid div. We knew he was a stayer, but they expected the pace to be blistering and they thought he’d be run off his feet. I was happy with this strategy.
I spent a while looking at the principal horses as they went round the ring. I spend a fair amount of time looking at horses and I was pleased at how easily I was recognising them. Bouguereau really surprised me as he was so well muscled up front. I was struck by his lean appearance in Italy, but he seemed to have suddenly filled out. Casual Conquest stood out – a big and impressive looking beast who looked as if he still had plenty of room to improve. Tartan Bearer was very much as I had pictured him – he looked like a speed horse. I had a good look at New Approach – I didn’t want him to win after the nonsense with Jim Bolger. There was no getting away from it – he was an exceptionally good looking horse.
I met with Tom Goff and we headed up to one of the restaurants to watch the race – I watched it on tv. Alan settled in mid div as discussed while Maidstone Mixture and Bashkirov cut out the pace. As the race settled down it was apparent that there was next to no pace in the race – the leaders were flat out but they were such moderate animals that it was a dawdle for those in behind. When they turned into the straight the two real speed horses in the race went on to fight it out, with New Approach prevailing. I was horrified – not only was this the horse I really didn’t want to win, but I had picked these two out as non-stayers in my blog.
Bougie stayed on nicely, finishing ninth at the back of the main pack. It did occur to me that he might have finished better if we had raced more prominently as the expected breakneck pace did not come about, but that wasn’t something I wanted to dwell on as I thought Alan had ridden a great race and couldn’t have done any more in any case as he had nowhere to go. I think it’s a shame that nothing pushed through to cut out a proper pace as ultimately the race was pretty much gifted to the speed horses. The pace was cut out by two distinctly moderate animals, neither of which had the faintest chance of winning and one of which (AFAIK) was doing it as a publicity stunt. It’s not easy to legislate against this sort of thing, but I can’t help thinking that it’s not in the long term interests of the race.
As far as New Approach is concerned – he ran so well that even if the pace had been there it seems reasonable to conclude that he would have prevailed. With pace in the race and softer ground I couldn’t be so sure – also I wonder what would have happened if Henrythenavigator had run. Surely a worthy winner though.
King’s Head ran in the next race, but I had to rush off and I didn’t watch it. He was last for most of the race, but stormed through at the end, finishing in fourth in a virtual blanket finish at 33/1. A great run from him, and I think he’s really coming on now – he could have a great summer campaign.