Royal Ascot: Spencer gets Fame and Glory that he deserves
On reaching the winner's enclosure here yesterday, Fame And Glory will have glimpsed the bronze of Yeats, just a few yards from where he was being unsaddled.
Perhaps something about its coiled, regal aspect reminded the Gold Cup winner of his erstwhile stablemate, who won this same race for a fourth consecutive year in 2009. Or perhaps he simply assumed it was another of those statues he had just passed in the home straight.
It really had been that straightforward for Fame And Glory. For the bookmakers the rains that had bedraggled the Ladies' Day crowd on their way to the track now resumed as sleet in the soul. Laid at 5-2 in the morning, Fame And Glory was sent off 11-8 favourite and his backers were always sitting pretty.
That is something that has always come naturally to Jamie Spencer, of course, but he notoriously had one or two uglier moments on the track during a trying year as Ballydoyle stable jockey, back in 2004 and there was no mistaking the sense of redress and redemption as Spencer rode Fame And Glory back in, planting a grateful kiss on his mount's neck.
How gratifying to see a more seasoned Spencer riding a big winner for John Magnier and his partners in Coolmore — who now include a new face in Jim Hay.
It was his retainer for Hay that had reopened a door at Ballydoyle, for Spencer, albeit he might justifiably have expected one or two more opportunities since Johnny Murtagh in turn quit the post at the end of last season. Perhaps this might serve as a gentle prompt, albeit Spencer himself was not pretending that he had done anything out of the ordinary.
“That was a push-button ride,” he protested. “All I had to do was get him switched off in the first half of the race and then make sure nobody else slammed into us in the second.”
And that was about the size of it for a horse conforming pretty precisely to the template of his great predecessor. Ten days after Yeats's historic success in 2009, Fame And Glory won the Irish Derby by five lengths.
That kind of class is always going to take you a long way against the yeomanry of the staying division. The only question yesterday was whether it would take him quite as far as two and a half miles, but pedigree and preparation had left little doubt in his own camp.
Looking in fine shape, Fame And Glory was settled beautifully on the rail by Spencer, in easy striking distance of the lead.
Once hitting the front, he drifted right and then required a couple of slaps down the neck to keep straight — manoeuvres that earned Spencer suspensions of one and three days respectively — but they comfortably maintained an advantage of three lengths over Opinion Poll, who finished well clear of the rest.
Spencer showed authentic warmth to Aidan O'Brien in the winner's enclosure and the trainer later admitted that he did not blame so young a jockey for fleeing back to Britain when he did.
“Everyone knows that our place is a bit of a pressure cooker,” O'Brien said wryly. “And that I can be a bit intense.”
The tensions at Ballydoyle are never greater than in the Derby, of course, but it was this horse's defeat at Epsom that ultimately created a new star. “He could run up a sequence in this race,” Magnier remarked.
“But if Sea The Stars hadn't run at Epsom this horse would have been retired to stud as a Derby winner.”
O'Brien's mentor, Jim Bolger, had earlier produced yet another of the remarkably robust fillies that have so decorated his career when Banimpire won a photo with Field Of Miracles — who had made most, under the ride of the week from Richard Hughes — in the Ribblesdale Stakes. Banimpire had won at Cork only four days previously.
“We used Cork instead of giving her a blow at home,” Bolger explained. “All she does at home is eat and sleep.”
Apart from this sorcerer and his apprentice, a refreshing variety of talent was again rewarded yesterday. Hughie Morrison saddled two winners, while Kevin Ryan could have a juvenile equal to taking on the older sprinters in the Nunthorpe in Bapak Chinta.
Then, for the second day running, Tom Dascombe won the last race with a handicapper produced to run for its life, this time Brown Panther, in the colours of his landlord, Michael Owen.
It is impossible to dissent from the footballer's emotional assertion that Dascombe has renewed his reputation as one of the most gifted young trainers in the land.