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News from Europe

Sir Percy wins Epsom Derby in a photo
By Tom Krish

LONDON -- Graham Cunningham of London's Evening Standard had made a strong case for Sir Percy to win the Epsom Derby. In a column on Friday, the day before the Derby, he had maintained that Sir Percy will get the 12-furlong trip and the route to success in 2006 is through Newmarket's 2,000 Guineas. He had repeatedly said that Visindar had beaten 'second raters' in France. Christophe Soumillon, Visindar's jockey, according to Graham Cunningham, would be found inadequate at Epsom Downs.

Oh yes, Cunningham was right but I am not sure on both counts. Sir Percy won the Derby on Saturday. Visindar was beaten and he plodded on to be fifth but I think that the kind of trip he had contributed to his downfall and not Soumillon's lack of experience and skill. Visindar was bumped repeatedly and seemed to be indifferent to what was going on. Soumillon was having a hard time making Visindar focus on the job at hand.

Sir Percy, at 7-1, got the better of the 66-1 Dragon Dancer in a photo. The verdict was a short head. A head away in third was Dylan Thomas. Another short head away in fourth was Hala Bek. A further two lengths off was Visindar in fifth.

Sir Percy lay in the rear, took the inside route to get into contention midstretch, found enough room along the fence in the last 50 yards and charged through. Dylan Thomas and Dragon Dancer had been in front all along. Hala Bek looked like a winner for a split second close home but he veered to the right. Visindar loomed large with a furlong to go and failed to sustain.

I asked the owners, Victoria and Anthony Pakenham, if their win taken with Motivator's success in 2005, meant that the grip on the Derby that the Magniers, the Tabors and the Dubai family have had is loosening. "May be so. I cannot believe we won. It's simply fantastic." Sir Percy was bought for 16,000 guineas as a yearling.

Marcus Tregoning, Sir Percy's trainer, was lavish in his praise of the winning jockey, Martin Dwyer. "Martin was terribly disappointed that we did not win the 2,000 Guineas. I am truly grateful to the team, including the doctors, that has cared for Sir Percy after the 2,000 Guineas." Sir Percy was second to George Washington in that race at Newmarket on May 6. A pulled muscle had interrupted his training and put his Derby status in doubt. A Lingfield (racetrack) gallop early in the week convinced Tregoning that his colt was fit for the fray.

"I had always believed in my colt. I had to go for the inside trip because that's the way the race developed. He has vindicated my confidence," Martin Dwyer said at the presentation.

The evening before, at Bath, jockey Dwyer was thrown off his mount and hurt his ribs. He rode in the Derby only after being examined and cleared by doctors at Epsom Downs.

Horatio Nelson, ridden by Kieren Fallon and one of Aidan O'Brien's four runners, was in the rear and made a menacing move with two furlongs to go. He stopped suddenly and Fallon got off. Horation Nelson broke one of his front legs and put down soon after.

It was another great Derby. The Queen was at Epsom Downs. Tradition has it she invites the winning connections for a chat. The weather was glorious. It is an experience I look forward to in June every year.

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