Racing Post Trophy: American Post blazes to head of the Derby market; Tom O'Ryan sees a magnificent family double at Doncaster - spanning a mere 29 years.
IT'S taken 29 years but the wait was well worthwhile, as was evident from the mile-wide smile on her face as she spoke on her mobile phone in the winner's enclosure.
Criquette Head-Maarek was overjoyed at winning the Racing Post Trophy with American Post, bridging the gap stretching back to 1974 when France last won this race, courtesy of the trainer's father Alec with Green Dancer.
"That was my father on the phone from Normandy, and he's as thrilled as I am," said the triumphant trainer after her pride and joy had waltzed home with the pounds 151,500 first prize, having one and three-quarter lengths to spare over Fantastic View. Magritte was a further length and a quarter back in third.
Tahreeb, the only other runner following the withdrawals of Cape Fear and Mikado, both with veterinary certificates, was two lengths away in fourth.
The performance of Khalid Abdullah's colt in the final Group 1 race of the season in Britain shot him right to the forefront of the 2004 Classic betting, with Coral Eurobet and William Hill making him Derby favourite at 6-1 and 7-1 respectively. Paddy Power made him 7-1 (from 12) for the 2,000 Guineas.
Head-Maarek stressed there were "no plans yet" for American Post, although she said that the owner was keen to gain his first win in the French 2,000 Guineas.
Heavily backed into 5-6 from 11-10, as Magritte, bidding to provide Aidan O'Brien with his fifth victory - and third in succession - in the race in seven years, drifted ominously from 2-1 to 11-4, the market leader never looked in any real danger of defeat.
Unlike in his previous outing, before his Group 1 victory in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp, where he behaved badly at the stalls, he never put a foot wrong.
And he did precious little wrong in the race either, ridden for the first time by Christophe Soumillon. Never more than a length off Magritte, who set just a steady gallop, he was sent about his business more than a furlong out and, despite not looking entirely happy on the fast ground, was never going to be caught.
"He travelled easily following the leader and showed a good turn of foot when I asked him," said Soumillon. "He went a little bit to his right inside the final furlong, but I would put that down to being a bit babyish. He is very good."
Head-Maarek would testify to that. "He's a very talented colt," she said. "He didn't have to race today, he's done nothing, really. He did everything so easily."
The Chantilly trainer described American Post as "playful" when recalling his antics before his previous triumph. "What he's got is a lot of fighting spirit," she added. "But he would never do anything wrong."
Fantastic View, stepping up from Group 3 company, made a bold bid but was just found wanting for a turn of foot when it mattered most.
Trainer's son Richard Hannon jnr had no excuses. "The winner is a very good colt. Our horse ran well and will win a Group 1 eventually," he said.
Jamie Spencer was also able to offer no excuses for Magritte, attempting to write his name into the record books alongside the two previous winners of this race, his stablemates Brian Boru and High Chaparral, both subsequent Classic winners.
"He's a lovely horse who is going to make a smashing three-year-old," said Spencer, adding: "The winner looked very good on the day."
Defeat for Magritte means Aidan O'Brien ends the campaign with no juvenile Group winners in Britain, from 19 runners.
For the victorious Head-Maarek, who had never been to Doncaster, it proved a memorable first visit which was complemented by a surprise gift from a member of the public. She revealed: "Before the race, someone came up and gave me a St Christopher medal and told me it would always bring me luck. I won't be able to part with it now. I shall have to keep it with me forever."
William Hill: 7-4 One Cool Cat, 8 American Post (from 14), Lucky Story, 10 Grey Swallow, Three Valleys, 16 Milk It Mick, Pearl Of Love, Snow Ridge, 20 Akimbo, 25 Balmont, Bayeux, Grand Reward, Pastoral Pursuits, 33 Auditorium, Bachelor Duke, Byron, Duke Of Venice, Fantastic View, Haafhd, Holborn, Imperial Stride, Mukafeh, Peak To Creek, Whipper.
Racing Post Trophy
1 American Post 5-6f
2 Fantastic View 7-2
3 Magritte 11-4
Owner: Khalid Abdullah
Trainer: Criquette Head-Maarek
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
Groom: Yves Van der Meerck
Breeder: Juddmonte Farms
Distances: 134 l, 114 l
What they said
Jubilant winning trainer Criquette Head-Maarek
"He will have a rest now. Like me, he deserves a vacation!"
Winning jockey Christophe Soumillon
"A mile is perfect for him at the moment, but he will stay further."
Richard Hannon jnr, after saddling Fantastic View to take the runner-up spot
"The winner looks very good."
Winning team: Criquette Head-Maarek, Christophe Soumillon and groom Yves Van der Meerck are thrilled with American Post's triumph in the Racing Post Trophy
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Oct 26, 2003|
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