28 October 2001

Brough Scott reports on yet another Group One juvenile success for the prolific O’Brien stable

It was noon British time, 7 am in New York when Kevin Darley’s mobile phone rang at Doncaster. It was Aidan O’Brien with the instructions which were to win Darley and his ride, High Chaparral, the Racing Post Trophy from O’Brien’s shorter-priced Castle Gandolfo, thus continuing the stable’s march to an unprecedented European clean sweep of the top two-year-old races for colts.

“Sorry to disturb you,” said Aidan in his elaborately courteous way, “but I’m thinking your horse will beat the other one. He was very green when he won last time at Tipperary. He has a lot of potential and if you can wait until the last furlong. I think he’ll go past Castle Gandolfo in this ground.”

There are just 10 two-year-old races for colts in the European Group One category and this was O’Brien’s eighth win. With an overall record of 21 Group Ones already landed this season, who is to say that the remaining juvenile Group Ones at Saint-Cloud and San Siro can escape? Who can suggest that we should not have realised that apparent Ballydoyle second-strings are often good enough to beat their apparently better-fancied stablemates.

“You can quite see how Michael Kinane sometimes picks the wrong one to ride,” said George Duffield after enduring the exasperation of watching High Chaparral sail past him and Castle Gandolfo in the final 100 yards. “They have such strength in depth that nobody can be absolutely sure how good they are until it comes to the crunch.”

Enough punters had got wind that High Chaparral was anything but a no-hoper to see his odds (as long as 16-1 earlier in the week and 12-1 on the morning of the race) shrink to 9-2 at the off, Castle Gandolfo being comparatively easy to back at 8-11.His breeding, by the   mighty Sadler’s Wells whose progeny are much more renowned for heavy ground than those of the favourite’s sire Gone West, was complimented by one look at him in the paddock – his bay coat shone deep and bright. The Godolphin colt, Mount Joy, was massively muscled up while Mr Sandancer and Redback, the two non-Coolmore or Godolphin runners, looked positively skeletal in comparison. Would that paddock inspection always told so direct a tale.

The race can be swiftly told. Two-and-a-half furlongs out George Duffield shortened up his reins on Castle Gandolfo and the favourite swept past as if victory was a papal blessing. With Kevin Darley working overtime to try and rouse High Chaparral it looked all over. But it wasn’t.

For trying to get a powerful but still mentally-uncoordinated two-year-old colt to hit the rhythm of stride to gain his highest speed potential is not either easy or instantaneous. It is a question of physical and psychological persuasion, something between rowing a skiff and catching a full sail of wind. It took Darley time, but when High Chaparral finally clicked, the result was handsomely impressive.

“It was just greenness that made it looks so difficult,” said Darley in answer to a query about his mount’s high head carriage when first challenging on the outside of Castle Gandolfo.

“He wanted to lug in behind the other one and I began to think he wouldn’t go past. But I remembered what Aidan had said and when I pulled him back to challenge on the other side, he found his stride and gave me a great feel. The other horse wasn’t stopping but mine showed real class to have nearly a length in it at the line.”

Because the ground was too heavy on the round course, the race was run over the straight mile and was completed in a dilatory 1 minute and 45 seconds, but with the third horse Redback beaten a full five lengths, this might well be decent form.

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