Teofilo: more questions than answers

WHEN Teofilo proved far too good for Holy Roman Emperor in the National Stakes at the Curragh last month it seemed to confirm what Jim Bolger has been telling us all along, that this is the best colt he has ever trained.

Prior to the National Stakes, I think most were rather sceptical. We knew Bolger wasn’t a man given to making silly statements, but still harboured doubts he could be better than St Jovite, who had, after all, a runaway win in the Irish Derby and success in the King George at Ascot on his record.

Teofilo still had it all to prove, but when he galloped Holy Roman Emperor senseless, we wondered why we didn’t just listen, take Bolger at his word and get enough out of Teofilo to at least pay for a winter holiday.

But that National Stakes is becoming more puzzling all the time. The first doubts emerged when Eyshal ran at Cork last Friday.

He was third at the Curragh, beaten a length and a quarter and four and a half lengths. Eyshal contested a lowly maiden at Cork and, hardly surprisingly, went off an even-money favourite.

He got run over by Dermot Weld’s newcomer, Consul General, to the tune of seven lengths. A literal interpretation of the form makes Consul General a better horse than both Teofilo and Holy Roman Emperor.

No one believes that’s the case, not even, one suspects, Consul General’s trainer, Dermot Weld.

On to Fairyhouse on Saturday and the performance of Teofilo’s stable companion, Slaney Time.

Now he set the pace for Teofilo in the National Stakes, before eventually filling fourth spot, beaten by a total of six and three quarter lengths.

At Fairyhouse, he again tried to make all, but had no more to offer in the closing stages and finished ten and a half lengths third behind a Kevin Prendergast first-timer, Evening Time.

You could argue that the soft surfaces at Cork and Fairyhouse probably contributed to the relatively poor efforts of both Eyshal and Slaney Time, but could hardly avoid concluding the National Stakes had been greatly devalued.

Sunday at Longchamp, however, told a completely different story. Contesting the Group One Grand Criterium, Holy Roman Emperor absolutely exploded home, winning in a canter by two lengths.

So what are we to make of it all? It’s a puzzle. I mean was the Holy Roman Emperor we saw on Sunday and the one who was quite brilliant when taking the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh the same horse who simply could not get to grips with Teofilo.

There’s now a school of thought which has it that Holy Roman Emperor was below his best in the National Stakes.

But all the big players were out that day and the vast majority of the e228,000, which was invested on course, was placed firmly on Holy Roman Emperor.

The only way to settle any argument is to put up or shut up. The Dewhurst at Newmarket on Saturday week offers the possibility of a rematch. Wouldn’t you just love it?

* CONSIDERING the weather was hardly favourable, Tipperary on Sunday enjoyed a very successful meeting, with a crowd of almost 5,000.

The National Hunt races were, of course, the main attraction and with the real jumping game now poised to swing into action, I think we can anticipate healthy attendances for many months to come.

Major disappointment at Tipperary was One Cool Cookie in the novice chase. He made a big impression when scoring at the first time of asking over fences at Listowel.

His jumping then was fast, accurate and straight and he appeared to have all the attributes to go a long way.

In contrast on Sunday, he jumped way to his right at many of the obstacles and many of us were left gasping for air at the performance.

Tom Hogan’s Kalderon was good in the novice hurdle. Had a half-decent bet on him to win his maiden at Listowel and he dotted up.

But his jumping was sloppy then and resolved he wouldn’t carry another euro until the technique greatly improved.

More gasping for air as he proceded to flick across his hurdles with far greater alacrity than at Listowel and duly won again, without ever hinting he might come off the bridle.

John Kiely’s G’Day Mate won the bumper and might be useful. He never really settled at any stage and, more often than not, when a horse behaves like that has nothing left when the race hots up.

* LATE on Tuesday night the Horseracing Regulatory Authority in London decided there was no question of team-tactic being employed as far as Ballydoyle was concerned in the controversial Group One taken by George Washington at Ascot last month.

That was no surprise at all and very much anticipated throughout racing. It was a ridiculous decision on the day by the stewards to hand Seamus Heffernan a 14-day ban for “foul play” on Ivan Denisovich in that contest.

The stewards were clearly greatly influenced, which is quite extraordinary, by the rantings of Frankie Dettori, who has come out of this affair with no credit and his reputation tarnished.

Dettori has, essentially, been very good for racing. On this occasion he behaved like a spoiled brat and may well be just a bloody bad loser!

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