Winning the Derby is far from a free pass into the equine pantheon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 February, 2011, 12:00am

For all the millions spent on trying to win it, is the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby an ever-so-slightly poisoned chalice? Each year we see owners outlaying big sums to find 'the Derby horse', usually somewhere overseas as a tried horse, and the reality is not only can they all not win it, but the one that does has already come to a crossroads.

Yes, there have been winners like Viva Pataca and Vengeance Of Rain, who have assumed a greatness and carried it on past their four-year-old season, but winning the Derby anywhere is far from a free pass into the equine pantheon and it seems especially so here.

No doubt, the winning owner on Derby day wouldn't swap the thrill, but the presumption that the future top horses are going to come via that stage is not altogether a solid argument.

Since the turn of the century, we have had one Derby winner like Keen Winner (2000), who raced another 29 times without a success.

Then there have been the usual stories of illness and injury curtailing what might have otherwise been a brilliant career - Industrial Pioneer raced only six more times after his 2001 Derby win, with his last-start Gold Cup win the only hurrah; Olympic Express managed a Gold Cup and a Hong Kong Mile but was dogged with problems after the 2002 Derby.

Vital King (2007) and Helene Mascot (2008) had problems, too, and only 10 more starts between them after the classic without looking likely to regain the top mantle.

Elegant Fashion (2003) raced with credit in top grade for another 22 starts, though she only managed to win twice and not at Group One level.

Australia's Widden Stud, which bought Lucky Owners (2004) after his success, knew enough to pack him off to a breeding career following a sixth in the QE II Cup at his only other start.

Most recently, Collection has not emerged as the giant we expected two years ago, though he did win an International Trial and Gold Cup in the 12 runs he has had since.

Then we come to Super Satin, who hardly looked the part on the weekend getting on for a year since he won the classic. He is winless in eight runs since beating Super Pistachio - hardly a great advertisement for the race himself in the same period.

Something to bear in mind on Sunday as a fresh batch of Derby-driven owners do battle in the Classic Cup on their way to March 20.