Criterium International (Group 1)

SOMETIMES it’s about the horses. Sometimes it’s about the trainers. Last weekend in Paris the spotlight fell firmly on the riders as a trio of jockeys yet to enjoy the sweet taste of Group 1 victory got to experience what it’s like to be successful at the very highest level.

Saturday at Saint-Cloud was all about the two-year-olds and, if patriotic French racing fans had cause for optimism after two home wins in the big juvenile races on Arc Day, they were brought down to earth with a bump as overseas raiders filled the first three places in both of the showpiece events.

Espionage and Proud And Regal, two Galileo colts out of top-class racemares owned and bred by Coolmore, one trained by the sorcerer, Aidan O’Brien, and one by his son and apprentice, Donnacha, dominated the Criterium International throughout its one-mile journey.

Espionage made the running with Proud And Regal never as much as a length behind. Proud And Regal, runner-up in the National Stakes on his previous start, seemed to be going marginally the better and may have taken a narrow advantage as they swung to the wide outside on the home turn, then it looked like Espionage might be getting the upper hand passing the furlong marker.

Proud And Regal, a 2.9-1 chance, was on top by a head at the winning post, but 100 yards earlier or 100 yards later it might have been the other way around.

Here we have breakthrough jockey number one, 22-year-old Co Tipperary native Gavin Ryan, Ireland’s champion apprentice of 2020. In hindsight, his switch to get up Espionage’s outside early in the straight may have been a race-winning manoeuvre as Proud And Regal then had then benefit of the running rail all the way home.

“Gavin gave him a lovely ride,” O’Brien junior said afterwards. “It took him until inside the final furlong to get on top of Dad’s horse and they look like two nice staying horses for the future.”

“Proud And Regal has been pretty busy, that was his fifth run since late June, and he proved how genuine he was today. Whether we stick around and contest the classics with him or go travelling, we have plenty of options for next year.”

Dubai goes the extra Mile

Criterium de Saint-Cloud (Group 1)

BREAKTHROUGH jockey number two was celebrating 35 minutes later following the victory of Dubai Mile in the mile-and-two-furlong Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud, this time in the shape of the Zimbabwe-born, Welsh-raised Daniel Muscutt, the 27-year-old son of South African trainer Peter Muscutt and another product of the famed Andrew Balding jockey academy alongside William Buick and Oisin Murphy.

Given his inexperience at this level, Muscutt did extremely well to keep a cool head when, after setting a sedate early tempo which was probably sensible in the prevailing heavy ground, his Mark and Charlie Johnston-trained mount was swamped for speed when Strako gave the race a sudden injection of pace with over half a mile to run.

Having dropped back to fifth, Dubai Mile was back vying for the lead again approaching the two-furlong pole and thereafter, just as in the previous Group 1, a tremendous duel ensued between the son of Roaring Lion and a second British challenger, the 2.3/1 favourite, Arrest, trained by John and Thady Gosden.

This time Arrest had the advantage of the outside rail but he came up against a supremely determined opponent in Dubai Mile, who kept finding a little extra and was a head in front at the line.

There was a yawning six-length break back to the best of the three Irish representatives, Aidan O’Brien’s Adelaide River, in third with the Jim Bolger-trained Gan Teorainn another neck adrift in fourth and the Ballydoyle second string, Covent Garden, eighth of the nine runners.


The initial reaction from successful owner Ahmad Al Shaikh suggested that Dubai Mile, whom he picked up for just €20,000 as a yearling, could now either take up his entry at the Tattersalls Horses-in-Training Sale (Al Shaikh banked £1.2 million after allowing this year’s Derby runner-up, Hoo Ya Mal, to move on to new connections following his Epsom heroics) or head to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

But, after more time to mull it over, the plan is now to put him away for the winter in the hope that he can go one better than both Hoo Ya Mal and Khalifa Sat the year before and fulfil Al Shaikh’s ambition to land the Epsom classic.

The Johnstons will no doubt be relishing the chance to gain an overdue first triumph in Britain’s biggest race – Charlie admitted that Dubai Mile keeps on surprising them with his progress and said that he thought the colt had no chance once he had forfeited the lead.

Irish victory

A second Irish victory on Saturday’s card came when the Blue Wind Stakes heroine, Tranquil Lady, put behind her a series of below par efforts since that May win with a second Group 3 success in the Prix de Flore over a mile, two furlongs and 110yards.

Trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden by Dylan Browne McMonagle, she sported the maroon and yellow Teme Valley silks that have been carried with distinction of late by the likes of State Of Rest and Bayside Boy.