Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Workforce can go on to produce more

Cape Blanco, the only horse to have beaten him, could hardly be expected to match Workforce's spectacular Derby performance when he instead ran in France yesterday.

In the event, however, his owners' disturbing preference for the Prix du Jockey-Club proved even less productive than their challenge to one of the most impressive Epsom winners of modern times.

In fact, to their probable bemusement, the only colt in their stable to make any impression in the two races that divided the elite Ballydoyle prospects was At First Sight, the 100-1 pacemaker, who saw off all bar Workforce on Saturday.

His performance doubtless reflects a culpable complacency in Seamus Heffernan's rivals, who let him open up that startling lead off Tattenham Corner. But it also shows how emphatically Workforce separated himself from charges of mediocrity levelled at a field stripped, respectively by accident and design, of St Nicholas Abbey and his stablemate Cape Blanco.

In barrelling seven lengths clear, and pulverising the course record, Workforce reiterated the Derby's primacy just 12 months after Sea The Stars established his own credentials as an exceptional champion. Indeed, a provisional Timeform rating of 132 qualifies Workforce as the best Derby winner since Generous in 1991, albeit Sea The Stars might well have exceeded 126 this time last year but for his tendency to idle in front.

It was characteristic that Ryan Moore, even in contemplating a breakthrough in his quest for perfection, should rebuke himself for setting the winner alight prematurely.

“With an inexperienced horse, you want to make sure,” he said. “It's a shame, because he's a very honest horse, who gives you everything. He had a tough time out there.”

Workforce certainly looked tired afterwards, as well he might, but it is precisely because the Derby is so demanding that it reliably produces an authentic pack leader. This one does not have the flamboyant attributes of many predecessors — a gorgeous physique, say, or a demonstrative temperament.

Instead he vested all extravagance in his sheer superiority. And that enabled him, at the same time, to imply the fortitude to deal with more persistent competition in the future.

For now, he can be celebrated as the horse that sealed the partnership between Sir Michael Stoute and Moore as the most formidable in Britain. Stoute's four previous Derby winners had achieved something similar, at different times, for Walter Swinburn and Kieren Fallon. Moore, of course, has won his first three championships only in Fallon's absence, and this is the first season when he has had to see off a man who had previously made the Epsom winning post the sceptre of his dominion.

Fallon, in turn, had hitherto been able to view a failure to win even one Classic as a source of insecurity in his young rival. Now, of course, Moore suddenly has an Oaks-Derby double on his CV. Fallon has two, in 1999 and 2004, but must now acknowledge that his young rival has come of age as a big-race jockey.

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