Not even Alastair Campbell could spin this one

Not even Alastair Campbell could spin this one

In television interviews Aidan O’Brien strove manfully to explain how it could happen, but not even PR guru Alastair Campbell could spin this one!

Yes, the success O’Brien’s Sovereign, in last Saturday’s Irish Derby at the Curragh, was utterly baffling and, quite frankly, the worst possible result as far as the Curragh was concerned.

Indeed, it might not be an exaggeration to describe the outcome as a public relations disaster.

The Curragh clearly needs all the help it can get, given the disappointing attendance figures for its three-day Derby festival.

Thursday night saw a paltry 2,859 on site and it was only marginally better on Friday at 3,661. It was a little under 12,000 for the Derby and emphasised the days of 20,000 plus are now gone, new Curragh and all.

Was out for a walk on Sunday when a man of my acquaintance pulled up in his car. He has just a passing interest in horses, tuning in on big days such as Cheltenham, the Grand National and, obviously, the Irish Derby, that sort of thing.

He immediately launched into a tirade at what he had seen the previous day, describing the Derby as “a joke’’ and “a farce.’’

He could not understand, admittedly based on very limited knowledge, how Ballydoyle could run five in the race and win it with an outsider. Truth to tell, I didn’t offer much of a defence.

Perception seems to be regarded as being most important in just about every aspect of life, so his view of the contest is at least worth an airing.

O’Brien did his best to tell those still listening as to why Sovereign was able to win, the good form he had and the fact he is by Galileo.

But if he kept talking until blue in the face, he was essentially wasting his time, as his sweet words were lost in the Curragh air.

I have long admired on-course bookmakers, not driven daft by traders and accountants, who risk their own money day after day. Good luck to them if they copped the lot and to Sovereign’s partner, the unsung Pádraig Beggy, who enjoyed yet another unexpected day in the sun.

But otherwise this was a disaster and, you suspect, Ballydoyle-Coolmore mightn’t have got a great kick out of it either.

Sovereign left the gates rated 105 and had 13lbs to find with the Epsom Derby hero, Anthony Van Dyck, and 12lbs with both Broome and Madhmoon.

You could even argue that 105 inflated his value and was based on the fact he was regularly competing in high-class races, helping to make the pace for far better fancied stable companions.

My understanding of Sovereign is that he is a lead horse at Ballydoyle, which means he is simply way down the pecking order.

None of his three runs this season, prior to Saturday, gave any indication he might be capable of landing an Irish Derby.

Broome beat Sovereign eight lengths into second in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown and had him three lengths behind in third when taking the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, also at Leopardstown.

Sovereign then made a lot of the running in the Epsom Derby, before fading away in the straight to eventually finish 10th of 13. Add in the fact the horse had only won once prior to the Irish Derby, in eight outings, that was as a two-year-old when taking a modest five-runner heavy ground maiden by 14 lengths at Galway in September, and making any sort of case for him was simply impossible.

What was almost funny about Sovereign’s success was that there didn’t appear to be any real fluke about it.

I’ve heard Ryan Moore criticised for giving Anthony Van Dyck too much to do, but can’t have that. To my eyes the favourite couldn’t go any faster and had every chance to close down the winner in the straight and was still six lengths adrift at the line.

Nor can I agree with those who think we will see the ‘real’’ Madhmoon when h e drops down to ten furlongs.

I thought he got every yard of the mile and a half; he was actually staying on well at the finish, and now just shapes as an ordinary enough horse to my way of thinking.

Excuses were trotted out about Broome, because he lost three or four lengths at the start, but that holds no water.

He was soon in contention, but looked decidedly short on enthusiasm and was beaten out of the park in sixth at the line.

And so a race that gave €855,000 to the winner hardly offered the impression of being a genuine Group 1.

But the Irish Derby has been in freefall for a while. A glance at the last five winners tells us all we need to know, Jack Hobbs, Harzand, Capri, Latrobe and now Sovereign. Latrobe was only rated 103 when he won a year ago. He has not won in eight subsequent outings.

Anyway, you know what, I have a feeling the current crop of three-year-olds colts aren’t much good. I said it after Epsom and will say it again, we may well be looking at National Hunt stallions.

I WOULDN’T bet much in handicaps, but heading to the cot on Friday night resolved to have something on the John Joe Walsh-trained Davids Charm in a two-miler at the Curragh the next day.

Davids Charm was running off 83, the exact same mark he had when runner-up behind Brazos in the 24-runner Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh in October.

In his previous race before Saturday, he had caught the eye when sixth, over an inadequate mile and a half, at Cork and looked well worth an each-way wager at 10-1.

The morning, however, brought a different story and by the time this punter could get on the odds were 5-1 and that had tightened to 4-1 at the off.

Decided then to give it a miss and watched bemused as he lost a race he should have won. Chris Hayes was in the plate and hopped aboard on the back of suffering three narrow defeats earlier in the day, with the disappointing effort of fourth placed Madhmoon in the Derby proving the nadir.

If Hayes tried, he couldn’t have got it more wrong. He chose to go down the inside, never got a run and Davids Charm finished in his hands, three parts of a length and half a length third behind Shakeaspear’sgalley and Legal Spin. To add insult to injury, Davids Charm now goes up 3lbs for his troubles.

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