Who would want to be a handicapper with a horse like Willie Mullins’ Micro Manage around?
At the Curragh last night week, the son of Rip Van Winkle took a mile and a half handicap by 12 lengths, stamping himself one of the hottest properties in training right now.
When any horse wins a race such as this, by so far, it’s nearly always worth a second glance. But Micro Manage’s display demanded a third, fourth and, indeed, many more glances!
You can make the case he had only five opponents to beat, it was a race that didn’t take a whole lot of winning, and some of us are now guilty of getting totally carried away with the performance.
Fair enough, but you still could not fail to be impressed with such a slamming. It would have been a greater margin had rider, Donnacha O’Brien, so wished, over the 5lbs receiving Cuban Hope, who had won his previous race at Gowran Park.
Micro Manage went to the Curragh following a break of 243 days and with just two races under his belt.
He made his debut at headquarters in late August, over seven furlongs, and we now know that was a trip which was, to say the least of it, inadequate.
That said, Micro Manage (33-1) wasn’t entirely disgraced in finishing 11th of 23, in a race won by Sheila Lavery’s Breaking Story, also a 33-1 shot.
Mullins’ charge reappeared at Tipperary on October 7, on much softer ground and stepping up to nine furlongs.
In a 16-runner affair, Aidan O’Brien’s South Pacific was the 6-4 favourite and making a solid case for Micro Manage was difficult enough.
Partnered by Rachael Blackmore, he was, however, backed from 8-1 to 11-2 and those lobbing the grenades in the direction of the bookmakers could hardly have got it more right.
Micro Manage simply sailed through the contest, eased into the lead under two furlongs down and was four and a quarter-lengths clear of second placed South Pacific at the line.
The bare form is ordinary. South Pacific was on a mark of 85 when beating his stable companion, Barbados, by a short head to land his maiden at Naas in April.
He went up 7lbs for that, but could not defy his new rating when beaten into second at Naas subsequently.
The third at Tipperary in October was Elite Trooper Grey (runs at Limerick today), who has been beaten three times since and currently sits on a mark of 74.
The fourth at Tipperary, Shamalov, has literally made no impression whatsoever in four outings in the meantime.
And so, the handicapper, armed with all of that information, gave Micro Manage a mark of 91 and you could not say the horse had been afforded any great edge.
You could have laid him at one stage on the exchanges at less than 4-5, he was eventually returned at evens, and the temptation to do so was almost overwhelming.
Only respect for the mighty Mullins prevented the trigger being pulled.
What followed, of course, was a dagger through the hearts of the layers, with young O’Brien able to sit motionless, as Micro Manage bounded clear in the straight.
You’d imagine the handicapper engaged in a sharp intake of breath and quickly concluded enough was enough.
Understandably, his retribution was savage and he moved him up by 18lbs to 109.
To put that in context it leaves Micro Manage just 9lbs shy of English 2000 Guineas winner, Magna Grecia.
What then does the future hold for a three-year-old, who is reportedly a great jumper?
It is going to be utterly fascinating to see how Mullins now campaigns him.
Make a note of a once-raced juvenile of Aidan O’Brien’s called Year Of The Tiger, who is bred to be really good, by Galileo out of speed machine Tiggy Wiggy.
Year Of The Tiger made her debut at the Curragh eight days ago and to say she caught the eye, under tender handling, would be a huge understatement.
O’Brien ran three in the race and the other pair, Royal Count Down (Donnacha O’Brien) and War Leader (Seamie Heffernan) both started at shorter prices than Year Of The Tiger.
Wayne Lordan was aboard our potential heroine and so, both in the market and on jockey bookings, she was, at least in theory, the Ballydoyle third choice.
But Year Of The Tiger proved easily the best of them, coming from behind to be nearest at the finish and second to Lil Grey, trained by Sheila Lavery. She was briefly threatened with the whip in the closing stages and will gain much-needed experience with another spin, presumably, in a maiden.
There were tears in my eyes on reading a story in the Racing Post on Tuesday regarding the fears harboured by off-course bookmakers, as they face into Royal Ascot next week.
They have all these little worries, apparently, of what might happen, with an Aidan O’Brien bonanza top of the list.
Gee, I hope it goes really well for them, it would be terrible if these multi-million organisations lost a few quid!
Anyway, I hope, when the five days are concluded, the Post will actually have a real story, that most of the favourites won and at least some of the off-course bookmakers moan it will take them years to recover. Yeah, I know, I may as well be dreaming here as in bed.
It is as hard to back winners at Royal Ascot, if not harder, than it is at Cheltenham and they are two meetings that can get any horse beaten.
O’Brien will have a strong hand, obviously, through the week and there’s no possibility of him leaving empty-handed.
I will be especially interested in what he runs in next Friday’s King Edward VII Stakes, where he has a number of possibilities.
The one of his I would most want to see in the line-up is Japan, who ran that cracker when third in the Epsom Derby behind Anthony Van Dyck and Madhmoon.
Also, on Friday, O’Brien saddles the banker of the meeting, at least as far as I’m concerned, in Hermosa in the Coronation Stakes.
The Hermosa we saw winning the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh screams maximum wager!