Monday, June 20, 2011

Je ne sais quoi


Je ne sais quoi

By Stephen Dwyer

The 2011 Epsom Derby will live long in the memory for two reasons. Undoubtedly, the sight of nineteen year old jockey Mickael Barzalona standing mightily on Pour Moi yards before he crossed the line in front raised many seasoned eyebrows.

Celebrating victory in the Derby before you finish it is one thing. Celebrating it early by flapping your whip, saluting the crowd and pulling sharply on your mounts reins is another matter entirely. Barzalona’s premature flourish is unlikely to prove as popular as Frankie Dettori’s flying dismount in years to come.

Despite his bold celebration, Mickael Barzalona steered Pour Moi, a son of Montjeu, to a first Derby win for the French in thirty years. This could be the start of a meteoritic rise for the Lyon-born Frenchman who became the youngest rider to win the Derby since Walter Swinburn aboard the mighty Shergar. The only jockey to have ridden a Derby winner at a younger age was an eighteen-year old Lester Piggot.

Apart from Barzalonas exuberant display of Gallic Flair, the scene of The Queen’s Carlton House finishing a fast third was also memorable, albeit for the wrong reasons. For Michael Stoute, jockey Ryan Moore and of course The Queen it was a huge disappointment. For the bookmakers, it was a welcome spectacle. Reports that £20 million would have been lost by the layers had Carlton House managed to win, but it was not to be. For Her Majesty The Queen, the Derby drought continues.

No ruling Monarch has won a Derby since 1909. The last time The Queen ran a horse in the Derby, Prince William had not even been born. The last royal runner in the race, Church Parade, was a remote fifth to Shergar in the 1981 renewal. It was a remote mainly because Shergar had won by ten lengths.

Queen’s Highland Glen with a view to racing him in Dubai and made a big offer.
The Queen had no desire to sell the Sheikh the talented, but unreliable, customer who she feared might let him down like he had let her down on two occasions by playing up at the start and being withdrawn.

Through her racing adviser, John Warren, she refused the offer, but instead suggested she give the horse to Sheikh Mohammed

Carlton House was gift from the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum. This is a gratifying tale of reaping what you sow. Apparently the Queen had a horse that was far from compliant, but considered suitable to racing on the artificial surface in Dubai if it could be ‘straightened out.’ But rather than trying to flog ‘sands to the Arabs,’ the Queen made a gift of the horse to Sheikh Mohammed.

Carlton House and three other yearlings were the Sheikh’s reciprocal gesture.
There is an Chinese proverb, A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.

And then, just like Cinderella, Carlton House lost a shoe. Just after the Derby, a course steward collected a stricken front horseshoe which had separated from Carlton House a mere 200 yards from the finish. It was a crucial time in the race for such and

There is the enticing prospect that day could see the Queen getting her own back on French soil should Carlton House reoppose Pour Moi in Europe's final big championship race of the season, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October.

Any maybe then the Queen will experience a delight that the French call “Je ne sais quoi.”

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