Sunday Times Sport, 13 October
It wasn’t scintillating but the new star shone through the Newmarket gloom. Six days after Enable’s great run ended at Longchamp, Pinatubo maintained his status as Europe’s top two year with a decisive win in the Dewhurst.
At just sixteen hands (5ft 4 inches at the shoulder) and 480 kilos, Pinatubu is two inches shorter and 25 kilos lighter than the great mare whose colours were finally lowered last Sunday by the tough conditions and Waldgeist’s superior stamina. Yet if we are to hail a new hero it’s good to have a different one and Pinatubo’s career pattern is already on a very different trajectory than Enable’s. She never ran until the November of her two year old season while Pinatubo won first time out at Wolverhampton in May and since then has travelled onwards and upwards via Epsom, Ascot, Goodwood and the Curragh to earn the highest rating for a two year old this century.
After a five length romp at Goodwood and a nine length destruction of a top field in Ireland, yesterday’s comparatively hard fought two-and-a-half length defeat of the Aidan O’Brien pair Arizona and Wichita could be seen as somewhat underwhelming, especially as he had Arizona almost 10 lengths adrift last time at the Curragh. But, as we were reminded all too sharply in Paris last Sunday, soft conditions can slow the best of champions, and this was as much an examination of Pinatubo’s guts as it was of his ability.
Straight from the gate Arizona was going to test them. He is the big long striding bay who was so impressive in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot but was deserted here by stable jockey Ryan Moore who was now in his slip stream hoping to sling shot Wichita along the rail while Pinatubo worked his challenge on the other side.
In soft conditions as divots fly most horses find their striding more difficult and even after a quarter of a mile Buick’s poise on Pinatubo made it clear that this was unlikely to be a performance as explosive as last time when we hacks reached for the ‘eruption’ metaphors for a colt who is named after that famous volcano in the Philippines.
Nonetheless Pinatubo moved powerfully up from sixth position to join battle with Arizona before the final furlong pole with Ryan Moore and Wichita trying to the same on the other side. It was going to be a tussle but both Moore and Seamie Heffernan had already gone for the whip before William turned his over and asked his plucky partner to put the race to bed.
This Pinatubo did decisively enough. Newmarket’s final 100 yards are the moment of truth and as he drew clear, there was a true glow of satisfaction amongst those closest to him. “This was a very different test,” said William Buick afterwards. “He had to show his courage today and what you saw was a complete racehorse.” Trainer Charlie Appleby echoed this with a heartfelt tribute: “Will gave him a great ride,” he said, “and he showed once it came to a fight he was not going to lie down.”
“People ask why we were running him again and if we were taking a big risk running him having already done so five times, but if you are a boxer going into the ring you want someone that has plenty of experience behind him and someone that has been in a dogfight.
“He went to Epsom on Derby day, he went to Royal Ascot, he went to Goodwood, he’s been up and down dale and all around the country and across the world so he brought a wealth of experience to the table as well as an engine, which is the most important thing.”
Sheikh Mohammed was in noticeably ebullient form and even danced an Arabian twirl believed to be called ‘The Yulla’ on the victory rostrum. He had good reason having sponsored the day and having won France’s top two-year-old race last Sunday with Victor Ludorum who, like Pinatubo, is bred by the Sheikh’s own Darley operation and sired by his star stallion Shamardal who won the Dewhurst back in 2004. Shamardal went on to win the French Guineas and Derby in 2005 but it is to the English 2,000 Guineas that Pinatubo will be bound and at the moment he is not offered higher than 11-10 to take it.
That’s too short for me as a lot can happen and other horses can emerge before we come back here as spring turns to summer. But this season Pinatubo has given us something special, an unbeaten year of emerging brilliance crowned by this drizzly day when he set his neck very straight and showed he was as tough as he was talented.
The Dewhurst is the most important two-year-old race of the season and so it was appropriate that the day was redolent with history acknowledged as well as history hoped for. Beforehand a silver haired Lester Piggott was on hand as Frankie Dettori unveiled a life size bronze in the Newmarket paddock and afterwards two young jockeys gave notice that they aspired to the big time in which Lester won no less than 10 Dewhursts. Jason Watson followed Friday’s first Group One success on Quadrilateral with a close fought Cesarewitch success on Stratum and Harry Bentley won no less than four races on the card for his trainer Ralph Beckett.
But it will be William Buick who will be happiest of all, as in early May a nasty head injury had put his whole career in jeopardy and forced him to miss Pinatubo’s first four victories. “I was pretty rough during Wolverhampton and Epsom,” he said, ”better at Ascot, but this makes it all worthwhile and next season could make it even better.”