Jan’s the man for me

FINALLY, we can get down to business this afternoon, leaving all the St Nicholas Abbey drama behind us, and concentrate on the most exciting flat race in the world, the Epsom Derby.

St Nicholas Abbey was good copy while it lasted, from yesterday week to early Tuesday morning when Ballydoyle bit the bullet and let the world know that their latest superstar had “pulled a muscle”.

If that’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth then the son of Montjeu will be back sooner rather than later. We await with bated breath further news on that particular front!

I adore the Epsom Derby and cannot believe it at times when you hear people express the notion it should be run somewhere else.

You can say what you like about the Curragh being a fairer test, and their is no argument there, but Epsom is unique, offering a series of different challenges.

So what will win? Well, he’s hardly an original choice, but as a long-time fan of Jan Vermeer, he’ll do for me.

The first day we sat up and took notice of Jan Vermeer was when he won his maiden at Gowran Park last September. Seamus Heffernan popped him straight into the lead and he made all of the running to score unextended by two and a half lengths.

The horse he beat that day, Behtarini, remains a maiden, so it’s hardly a ringing endorsement. But there was a style and swagger about the performance which was impressive and, of course, Midas Touch was third.

The surface was fast at Gowran and then Jan Vermeer went to Saint-Cloud for a Group 1, this time in testing conditions.

He is bred to handle heavy ground and I distinctly remember that Sunday afternoon in November bursting to back him. But Ballydoyle also ran Midas Touch and with Johnny Murtagh aboard, Colm O’Donoghue partnering Jan Vermeer, sitting on the fence seemed the intelligent option.

What an idiot! One assumed Midas Touch, who followed Gowran by running away with a maiden at the Curragh, was now regarded as superior to Jan Vermeer and was working better than him.

Whether or which, Jan Vermeer won by four lengths, with Midas Touch struggling home in fourth.

There was so much focus on St Nicholas Abbey through the winter that Jan Vermeer became something of a forgotten horse.

When he made his seasonal reappearance at the Curragh in the Gallinule Stakes, there was no fanfare and little hype.

I had good word of his homework travelling to the Curragh that morning and felt he would have no trouble conceding moderate opposition 7lbs.

Astonishingly, however, he was very easy to back and returned at 6-4. Jan Vermeer strolled through the race and won in a canter.

The bare form is virtually worthless, but again you got the feeling he might be a really good colt. My interpretation of the form book is that this is an ordinary Derby. You can’t really have Midas Touch, on the basis he’s not good enough and was annihilated in a gallop recently by St Nicholas Abbey.

Bullet Train did alright to win at Lingfield, but this will surely have to be an even worse race than we think for him to be competitive.

Workforce couldn’t get anywhere near Cape Blanco in the Dante at York and that winner has been dispatched to Chantilly tomorrow.

I suppose maybe Rewilding, Azmeel and Al Zir have some sort of life, but all do appear limited.

They say our Lord works in strange ways and we’ll see if that’s the case one more time.

If St Nicholas Abbey was the principal Ballydoyle challenger he would not have been burdened with any of the hard-to-get euro from this quarter. Jan Vermeer is different. He has to carry at least the profit, and a bit with it, gained when winning the Gallinule.

Tipperary on Thursday night, where the track could hardly have ridden any better. Warm weather causes major headaches for managers of courses, especially when dealing with National Hunt racing.

Tipperary had to cater for an all-jumps card, so was certain to have faced huge criticism if sufficient watering hadn’t taken place.

But they got it absolutely right, with Davy Russell summing it up best. “They did an outstanding job and every rider in the weighroom was delighted,” reported Russell.

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