by Ciarán De Barra
WOW!! That was all I could say after Workforce’s demolition job at Epsom on Saturday. In fact, I don’t think I said much at all after his performance. And how else should I have reacted? That was the fastest derby I’d ever seen; it was the fastest derby anyone has seen! Workforce went off at 6/1; third favoured in the betting behind Ballydoyle’s 9/4 favourite Jan Vermeer and Godolphin’s Rewilding who went off at 9/2 in the betting. The early fractions were set by the Ballydoyle pacemaker; At First Sight and he went off at an even gallop from the start. He steadily wound up the pace into a really good gallop and coming around Tattenham corner, the 100-1 Aidan O Brien chance looked like he might wire the highly talented field. With three furlongs left he was six lengths ahead, as Workforce led the challenge to catch him.
Workforce was really motoring but could he catch the pacemaker...with one and a half furlongs left he reached him, went by with ease and powered home to win by seven lengths and provided jockey Ryan Moore with his first Derby win. It was a sublime performance, twelve furlongs covered in 2 minutes 31.33 seconds on ground rated as good to firm. At First Sight was best of the rest in second, Rewilding was half a length behind in third with the favourite Jan Vermeer a further four lengths behind in fourth. It was a hell of a race, fast and ferocious!
The winner could not have been more impressive. The race panned out to suit him and he had a very real target to pick off in front after being tucked in at the back of the main group for most of the race. One race does not make a superstar and things could not have fallen any better for him on the day. He could not have been more impressive. I’ve said that already but it’s worth saying twice. Though everything fell for him on the day, there were other horses out there whom the pace would have suited too, amongst them Jan Vermeer. The favourite did however lose two shoes during the race but it would not have altered the result in my opinion; it’s also worth noting he lost one shoe in his impressive Gallinule Stakes win at the Curragh last month. Plans aren’t apparent yet for the awe inspiring Workforce but it is highly likely his next port of call will be the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot next month.
The following day to my surprise and delight, I saw an equally impressive display from the French Guineas winner Lope De Vega, as he absolutely blitzed the field in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly. Connections of this son of Shamardal were apparently worried about him getting the ten and a half furlong trip but you wouldn’t have noticed as he was ridden aggressively on the heels of the pacemaker throughout. Two furlongs from home he quickened up, to take up the running from Vivre Libre and he had put the race to bed in the next few strides. Eased in the final fifty yards his winning distance was three lengths to Planteur, with Pain Perdu three quarters of a length further back.
Now, European media have fallen into a nasty trap of comparing every three year old that notches up a good performance with Sea the Stars,which is just plain unfortunate for this year’s crop. I have been asked this week whether Workforce’s record breaking derby means he is better than Sea the Stars. The answer is a plain and simple no.
I have to say though, that of the two derbies I watched last weekend, Lope De Vega’s was more reminiscent of Sea the Stars, his early pace when breaking from the stalls and the sheer abundance of pace when asked to go by his rider Maxime Guyon at the business end of things. An utter joy to watch and a very exciting horse who will be campaigned from a mile to ten furlongs, most likely. The Prix Jacques Le Marois in August, over a mile, has been mentioned by connections as the next target for Lope De Vega and he will probably have his hands full in that one with so many older milers still knocking about! He is likely to stay in training next season too, which means there will be plenty of time for this beautiful chestnut colt to add to his already impressive CV. It was a great weekend of action and performances like these that leave you feeling like you’ve just seen something a little bit special is what the sport of kings is all about!