15 JUNE 2002, Page 52

Lows and highs

Robin Oakley

Newmarket trainer Michael Jarvis had entered the winner's enclosure after a Derby once before, in 1966, as the stable lad escorting that year's winner Chariottown. Last Saturday Jarvis and his lad Colin Dalton were full of hope that they might have been leading in Coshocton as his own first Derby winner. The handsome chestnut by Silver Hawk was a grandson of Roberto, who had won the race for John Galbreath, grandfather of Coshocton's owner John Phillips, 20 years before. But as the leading pair High Chaparral and Hawk Wing flashed past the post, Coshocton, having raced up with the pace behind Moon Ballad and kept on doggedly in fourth from two furlongs out, went sprawling with a shattered knee, hurtling rider Philip Robinson into the sodden turf.

Within minutes, as the bloodstock experts began adding noughts to High Chaparral's value, Coshocton's life was extinguished with a merciful injection. Jarvis and his family were in tears. Colin Dalton left the course not with a prize in his hands but with an empty bridle, and many who had gone to Epsom to revel were too shaken to celebrate a famous victory. All of us who glory in horse-racing have to accept that injuries sometimes happen, that sometimes these glorious animals who quicken our pulses, fill our hearts and etch themselves indelibly into our memory banks end by paying the ultimate price for their endeavours and our excitements. But that did not help the stomach-chilling, brain

numbing awfulness of poor Coshocton's end close to the winning post of the world's most glamorous horserace.

No horse had died in the Derby since a pile-up down Tattenham hill 40 years before and it made it impossible to summon up enough enthusiasm on the day for a proper salute to another extraordinary triumph for Aidan O'Brien and for the Coolmore Stud operation masterminded by John Magnier and Michael Tabor. O'Brien had trained the first two home in the 2,000 Guineas, Rock of Gibraltar and Hawk Wing. Now he had the first two in the Derby as well, 12 lengths clear of the rest. It was Coolmore first and second, the rest nowhere, the first 1:2 in the Derby for over 50 years achieved by the man who trained last year's winner Galileo as well. In just five years 32-year-old O'Brien has trained the winners of 16 European Classics. As one Irish voice said at the entrance to the winner's enclosure, 'What on earth is he going to do when he grows up?'

Of course, there are the problems of success. Hawk Wing, who did stay the Derby distance but not as well as his stable companion did on good to soft ground, may now become one of the best horses not to win a Classic. Though O'Brien talks of him having enough speed to win a July Cup over six furlongs, the ten furlong Eclipse looks likely to be his next target. The biggest fear for most of us is that the Cool more operation, formidably brave until now, might be less inclined in future to race its stars against each other. The biggest hope is that they might now consider running Hawk Wing as a four-year-old instead of maintaining their usual policy of sending the star three-year-olds straight off to stud on lucrative bonking duties.

What serious thinking is now going on, one wonders, in the fearsomely competitive Godolphin operation, who did have the compensation of Kazzia's gutsy all-the-way win in the Oaks but who could do no better than Moon Ballad's third in the Derby? Not so long ago we used to mutter, while touching a forelock to the rejuvenation the Maktoums and their sporting friends had brought to British racing with their petrodollars, that it was becoming impossible for others to compete with them at the highest level.

But now we have the answer to that, without any of the O'Brien string over-wintering in Dubai. One more year of Epsom success for Coolmore and we will be cheering on Godolphin as plucky underdogs.

I watched the Derby alongside an ominously silent Mark Johnston. Nobody can turn out a horse fitter. With 190 in his yards he has no shortage of horsepower. But his pair Fight Your Corner, who was injured in the race, and Bandari, both bought by the Maktoum family and supplemented for the race at a cost of £90,000 each, could finish no closer than fifth and eighth. Looking at a 12-runner Derby with three entrants supplied by Coolmore and four by the Maktoum family, people were asking if there will ever be much hope for anybody else.

Perhaps there can be. People laughed when Andy Turnell, well known for his exploits as a jump jockey and as trainer of the Grand National winner Maori Venture, less well known for his handling of Rhapsody in Blue, once the apple of this column's eye, sent Jelani down from Yorkshire to contest the Derby. I didn't because Andy is no bullshitter. His prediction that 'wherever Moon Ballad finishes, we should be close' proved absolutely accurate. They finished third and fourth.

But it has to be said that the odds against anybody but a rich man winning the Derby have shortened. Dr John Hollowood, Andy Turnell's patron, wouldn't miss a million or two after a chemical business killing. Nor would Terry Mills, whose locally trained Epsom hope Where or When ran with credit also to finish sixth. Terry, too, made a fortune first out of the waste management business. But thank you to the connections of Jelani and Where or When. Whatever the comparative comfort of their bank balances they have helped to keep the dream alive for others forced to exist on the same planet as Coolmore and Godolphin.