5 November 2000
Brough Scott in Louisville watches another triumph for the dream team of Michael Stoute and Johnny Murtagh
IN a magnificent final effort, Kalanisi sprinted past three rivals to land the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs and rescue the European raiding party from the sort of total drubbing that is always on the cards when you cross the Atlantic and take the Americans on at their own game.
Kalanisi was adding yet more lustre to the wondrous year of his trainer, Michael Stoute, and his jockey, Johnny Murtagh, who has only teamed up with the brilliant Newmarket trainer because of the terrible injury to stable jockey Kieran Fallon at Royal Ascot. But racing is all about taking the gaps when they come and Murtagh was here landing a scarcely credible 11th Group One victory of the season.
On these big days it is easy to be overlavish with the praise but not in this case for either jockey or for trainer. Kalanisi has been developed with all of Stoute’s mastery to be at his peak for this greatest day.
A winner at Royal Ascot over a mile, Kalanisi then just got beaten by Giants Causeway in those famous duels at Sandown and York before outrunning Montjeu in the Champion Stakes last time.
Kalanisi is a horse of sharp character who dumped his lad in bad temper when first exercised on this famous Kentucky track last week and did the same thing to Murtagh before the start. But what he did thereafter begs the ultimate in forgiving. Drawn No 1 right against the rail in this tightly turning six bend mile and a half, he was always going to need speed and courage of almost heroic order.
Turning into the straight of what had up to then been a slowly run race, he had half the field in front of him. A furlong out, there were still six to pass.
Yet in these final 100 yards Kalanisi’s hooves bit deep on the Kentucky turf and he sprinted past to win almost cosily on the line with his old rival Montjeu a tired and dispirited seventh.
Earlier Gary Stevens completed a comeback of almost Lester Piggott proportions when he took the Breeders’ Cup Mile with a daringly brilliant late run which swept up his field and confined European interest to the placings only four weeks since he returned from a 10-month retirement.
In the summer of ’99 Stevens had a brief and brilliant spell riding for Michael Stoute at Newmarket. So he above all knew the problems Europeans had to face and were so obvious here.
When Distant Music missed his kick at the start, Arkadian Hero had a major panic attack in the stalls.
Yet this ultimate racing away match still draws the optimists to the flame. Crimplene ran gallantly to fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Petrushka was a disappointing favourite when never getting much racing room from a No 1draw in her race.
“She just didn’t run today,” said Murtagh. The same, to our eternal, thanks, could not be said for Kalanisi nor as the evening closed with an epic attempt by Giant’s Causeway which got to within a head of victory in the Classic.
Once again “The Iron Horse” ran his heart out as he answered every call that Michael Kinane threw at him, and on the replays appeared to be a fraction unlucky when Michael had problems in switching his whip from left hand to right in the last hundred yards. Without the whip for precious seconds his momentum seem to stall and Tiznow got home.
It’s harsh to say it after such a titanic performance but this crowning classic is probably a race he should have won.