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Pour Moi primed for Arc after dramatic Derby

By Chris McGrath

As a round pen that can only accommodate a single horse, the winner's circle at Epsom is literal.

Uniquely on the British Turf, the placed runners here are banished among the also-rans, unsaddled out on the track. The bare inches that divided the first two in the Investec Derby spanned an emotional and financial abyss.

But the marginal nature of Pour Moi's success on Saturday was sooner expressive of the precarious pinnacle he had achieved, than of his superiority over his peers.

y Thirteen colts had lined up for the 232nd running of the sport's most venerable race, themselves sieved down from a foal crop, back in 2008, running into tens of thousands.

As the one ultimately led into this tiny enclosure, Pour Moi seemed to enter the eye of the needle.

Those who watched him do so included a trainer who has now saddled the runner-up four times in five years and, in the owner of the third - the Queen's Carlton House, which had battled injury all week - someone who might fleetingly comprehend how you might indeed trade a kingdom for such a horse.

But his ravenous acceleration past the entire field - perceptibly picking up again when still five lengths down a furlong out - permitted them no doubt that Pour Moi was the best horse on the day.

If anything, however, the performance of his rider was still more extraordinary.

In standing bolt upright to salute the stands, even before his mount's nose had intruded between Treasure Beach and the winning post, Mickael Barzalona flourished a signature onto the first masterpiece of what will manifestly become a great career.

In yanking back Pour Moi's head, even as he joined Treasure Beach for the photo, he allowed some froth to spill over the simmering pot of his young genius.

When he settled the colt in last place, just 24 hours after his first ride over this bewildering rollercoaster, we saw something closer to effrontery than impudence. The celebration, to that extent, was seamless with the ride.

Aidan O'Brien again saddled the runner-up and the Ballydoyle trainer will recognise that his employers at Coolmore Stud, who owned both winner and second, will probably see more commercial possibilities in the relative flair of Pour Moi - albeit he is not stabled at their own yard in Co Tipperary, but outside Paris with a close ally of the Maktoums.

Even so, it would be excusable for O'Brien to be privately cursing his luck in the race that so dominates his brief for John Magnier and partners.

He has now had 39 starters since Galileo and High Chaparral won consecutively in 2001 and 2002, but serial podium finishes confirm his approach to be spot-on.

And you could not be at all surprised were Barzalona to be in the saddle when it does, depending on the outcome of the inevitable competition for his services in the years ahead.

Already Sheikh Mohammed, Magnier's great rival, has been grooming the boy wonder as a potential successor to Frankie Dettori, but Murtagh's resignation from Ballydoyle at the end of last season has left a more pressing vacancy.

Magnier would presumably be tempted by a fresh solution, an old one having back-fired last week in a manner that was at once astonishing and unsurprising.

The latest evidence of Kieren Fallon's incorrigible capacity for melodrama ultimately saw him prohibited from riding against Native Khan - to whom he had made a formal commitment - by the Court of Appeal, barely six hours before the race.

In the event, Recital proved every bit as awkward as in his trial at Leopardstown and finished a place behind Native Khan, who did not quite seem to get home in fifth.

As it was, the 22-time champion trainer of France, Andre Fabre, defused his intrusion on the script with consummate diplomacy. "It is a race between horses, not between persons," he said. "Otherwise I would have finished far behind Her Majesty."

Fabre will now train Pour Moi for the Arc.

Another formidable candidate volunteered himself yesterday when Reliable Man preserved his unbeaten record in the Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly.

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