25 May 2003

Brough Scott sees jockey atone for a luckless run at Newmarket and land a first Classic win for rainer Paul D’Arcy in the Irish 2,000 Guineas

Justification should be the making of a reputation. After the English 2,000 Guineas trainer Paul D’Arcy told anyone that would listen that Indian Haven, 14th in a field of 20, was so unlucky that he could have won. And it was worth spending 40,000 euros as a supplementary entry for yesterday’s Irish equivalent. In 1 min 41 secs of head down effort, this marvellously powerhouse liver chesnut showed that D’Arcy is a man worth listening to.

D’Arcy, 47, has only been training for five years, but he was a canny jockey before that and spent a full decade as one of Sir Michael Stoute’s work-riding team. When you have galloped the likes of Ezzoud, Opera House and Singspiel you know what a top horse feels like when he is moving near his peak. D’Arcy, himself, was aboard Indian Haven for his blow-out last week. He was sure. His elation yesterday was of the deepest kind.

There was absolutely no fluke about it. He was re-opposed by the second, fourth, fifth and eighth in that English Guineas and beat them all decisively. Aidan O’Brien’s mighty Ballydoyle battalion sent out five contenders in this 16-runner field and when Rock of Gibraltar’s brother Great Pyramid was pushed up to the front to do the pacemaking duties you knew that excuses of muddled, mid-race scrimmaging were unlikely to be part of the post-race briefing.

In fact it was avoiding just that thing which emphasised Indian Haven’s qualities. For his rider John Egan was tracking Saturn who, as at Newmarket, was being allowed to stride out close to the leaders as the field tacked across to the stands’ side. “Three furlongs out,” said Egan, “I was thinking of taking him a bit closer when Johnny Murtagh gave Saturn a big kick in the belly and took my ground. I had to snatch up a bit and wait for a gap.”

Ballydoyle stable jockey Mick Kinane had picked Tomahawk but it was the blinkered France who now joined battle with Saturn. Egan eventually had to force through a gap between them before finally committing everything up the stands’ rail. He surged a length clear a furlong out, and was never going to be denied this first European Classic winner (his other was in India) on what was his 35th birthday.

Tout Seul was struggling on gallantly past Tomahawk up the centre but never looked like cutting down the two leaders. The winning distances on this rain-softened ground were one length, and two and a half lengths with Saturn half a length further back in fourth, Great Pyramid hanging on well to be fifth, with Tomahawk 11th and the 2,000 Guineas second Zafeen a disappointing 15th.

Egan’s victory was special for rather more than anniversary reasons. He served his apprenticeship just the other side of The Curragh racecourse under the eye of the inimitable Mick O’Toole. He later went to England and then five years ago was invited to try the delights of Hong Kong, where he looked set to hit the big time before his whole career came under threat when he was suspended after an anti-corruption raid. Egan still stoutly denies any wrong doing, but when he started again in England two seasons ago it was at the end of a slide in racing’s game of snakes and ladders.

All that seemed far away as he bathed in the victory celebrations. “I always said that this horse would have won the English Guineas,” he said. “I have never ridden a big horse (Indian Haven stands 16.3 and pulls 500 kilos) who has so much acceleration. He is real class and he has been absolutely brilliantly handled.”

With his leathered face and thinning hair it is John Egan who looks the 47-year-old. D’Arcy, still round-faced and full-headed, could masquerade as 35, but the tribute from jockey to trainer was one of a pupil to a master. “I have never ridden for anyone who takes so much trouble,” said Egan. “Paul is an absolute master of detail and he can tune a horse better than anyone at McLaren. This is the first Classic for him too but you are going to here a lot more of him in the future.”

D’Arcy’s post-race analysis did not disappoint. “I knew this horse was really top class from the very first time I worked him last summer,” he said. “He won well enough first time but things were not right in his other three races. By the time of the Dewhurst, in which he was way behind Tout Seul and Tomahawk, he really should not have run. He had a nasty quarter crack in his off-fore hoof. When I got him back I gave him six full weeks total rest in the box to let it grow out. You can still see the place but it doesn’t now affect him. I have always said he was a Group One horse and am delighted for his owners.”

These are Messrs Gleeson, Smith and Conway, who also own the six-and-a-half acre Green Ridge site on which D’Arcy will surely soon need to double his current 40-horse capacity. Their whooping podium shouts of “we’ve won the Guineas” were particularly deeply felt because it was they who stepped in to buy Indian Haven last autumn after his previous owners lost the faith which D’Arcy has so strongly kept.

On the face of it, this Classic victory puts Indian Haven at the head of his generation over a mile, but looking at the ante-post odds for Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes you would never think it. Despite yesterday’s heroics Indian Haven is available at 7-1 with Cashmans of Cork. Favourite at 6-4 is yesterday’s Kempton winner Kalaman, trained by D’Arcy’s old mentor Michael Stoute.

Not everyone believes yet. Another Indian Haven and it won’t take long.

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