Snowfall and Frankie Dettori in the Oaks were almost beyond belief. Sixteen long lengths had to be counted before the gallant outsider Mystery Angel came past in second with Snowfall’s better-favoured stable companion Santa Barbara floundering in fifth. The winner had looked good at York but this was almost ridiculous.
It was a record-equalling 40th British classic winner for Aidan O’Brien and a 21st for Dettori. These are two men, and now a filly, for the ages. Snowfall is bred in the deepest purple — her dam, Best In The World, a sister to the super champion Found and her sire, Deep Impact, the best horse ever in Japan where Snowfall was foaled.
She ran six times last year with only one modest success but yesterday O’Brien said they had always thought the world of her and this year she has found herself. That was something that was said about Frankie and Aidan a long time ago. At 51, O’Brien still has many years as a trainer but for Dettori at 50 the lights should be about to dim. Not yet. As he was led in for the flying dismount he leant back and opened his arms wide to the heavens and said: “I love it here.” And we love him.
Yet for all the glories of Dettori and O’Brien’s record achievements, Martin Dwyer and Pyledriver’s defeat by a neck of the favourite Al Aasy in the Coronation Cup was very much a match for them. It was Willie Muir’s first group one victory in 30 years of training and the first for Dwyer since winning the Derby on Sir Percy in 2006, his only other group one being the Oaks on Casual Look in 2003.
He had ridden 106 winners the year before and was very much a smiling young Evertonian on the climb. Yesterday was only his 12th success of this season. At 45 the sands have been running out of the egg-timer of fortune. Despite two big-race victories, an ill-judged ride in last year’s St Leger led to some questioning whether Muir was putting his family tie as father-in-law in front of professional judgment. Never has a suggestion been better rebuffed.
Dwyer’s Coronation Cup was a masterclass right alongside a Dettori best. Beneath him was not a super filly about to spreadeagle classic rivals but an underrated little champion who couldn’t find a buyer at the sales and who has quirks under pressure that can throw a race away. To avert this, Dwyer took the brave decision to kick on early with the whole Epsom straight in front of him. As Al Aasy swept through to challenge we thought Dwyer foolhardy. We were wrong.
For Dwyer had grabbed the rail. When tackled, Pyledriver duly jinked left but the rail held him. Without losing momentum, Martin switched the whip to his left hand and drove again. Al Aasy still seemed to have the beating of him but horse and jockey would not be denied. It was just a neck, but it was everything.
In his moment of victory, Dwyer spoke from the heart. “There have been times over the years,” he said, Liverpool still strong in his voice despite 30 years around Lambourn, “when I have hated racing, but days like this make it all worthwhile. The euphoria of winning a race like this is hard to describe. Racing is a wonderful sport.”
Then there was a choke in the joker’s Scouser voice and he added: “I am getting all emotional. What’s got over me?” Nothing, little Martin, just the crowning moment of your whole career and one of the finest rides this old track will ever see.