'I'm in a very enviable position'
Trainer David Ferraris was speechless after getting only a moral victory with Sweet Orange in the Group One Mercedes-Benz Classic Cup (1,800m) yesterday, but Zaidan's winning trainer John Moore echoed the thoughts of just about everyone else after the major Derby lead-up.
'I think I am in a very enviable position,' Moore said as he counted off the six possible Derby chances he could send out on March 18. 'Zaidan was good today even though he wanted to pull up a bit when he hit the front. Smart Giant finished just behind the placings and Dan Excel wasn't far behind Fay Fay after having a wide run and he will come on for the run again.
'And Dominant - hasn't he had a lot of knockers? Well we saw something like the real Dominant today in running third and his jockey Neil Callan told me he thought he would have been right in the finish if he had clear running when he wanted it. I couldn't be in a better position with respect to the Derby I think.'
Moore also has last Wednesday's smart Happy Valley debut winner, Military Attack, and hopes to qualify Same World, who went close to winning in Class Three yesterday.
But the main event was about Moore, French jockey Olivier Doleuze winning the race for the third time, and about Classic Mile hero Sweet Orange (Weichong Marwing), beaten after being held up at the tail of the field until well into the straight and going down by a breath.
'I am very disappointed. It's hard to take being beaten like that,' said Ferraris.
Doleuze had taken the Classic Cup previously on Green Birdie and Unique Jewellery and made it a hat trick with his first ride on Zaidan, keeping intact a quirky statistic that the race has only been won by French jockeys in its brief, seven-year history.
'So it's still a French race. To be honest, I wasn't going to ride Zaidan until Brett Prebble's fall last week,' Doleuze said. 'John called me up and I rode Zaidan in work on Friday to get a feel of him and it was a good gallop, not spectacular but nice enough. John asked me to give the horse a chance early today but when I saw the pace slowing, I got away from the inside.
'I could see the lead horses weren't going to take me far so I came three wide with some cover and I was happier to be there and make my move when I wanted than ride too pretty and be caught behind donkeys.'
The best part of the race from Zaidan was when Doleuze asked him to quicken, and the Frenchman admitted he got to the front too quickly.
'As I said, his gallop was nice, nothing special. But between the 400m and 200m today, he gave me the acceleration of a real Group One horse, and I get it now,' he said.
'I wasn't ready for that and he got there too quickly and pulled up when he was in front. I will know him better for the Derby.'
Sweet Orange was only a nose away on the line with Dominant a 1/1/2lengths further astern but ahead of Fay Fay, who let his supporters down as favourite again.
'Dominant let down today like I know he can' said Callan, who had partnered the horse in wins in the UK last year. 'That was more like him and he'll be even better for that.'
Douglas Whyte said the stop-start pace didn't help Fay Fay again but he conceded he was disappointing: 'The pace was good early, then at the first turn they slowed up and he was getting on heels and pulling, then they left him flat-footed when the sprint came. He could have finished closer I suppose but the good thing is that he kept staying on to the line.'