At 4.30pm on Saturday afternoon, every sound at Epsom was drowned out by the victory roar of the 250-plus owners of Motivator, who had just completed a spectacular win in the Vodafone Derby. He left his peers standing in the final furlongs of the mile-and-a-half race, cruising past the post an easy five lengths clear of his nearest rival.
Trainer Michael Bell has had little doubt about Motivator’s class, but a main concern was how the colt would react to the atmosphere at the popular race meeting. “Once he’s out on the track I don’t see too much of a problem,” Bell had commented yesterday.
Motivator is known to have an unusual temperament, and it is widely admitted that it is hard to keep him cool. He could well have ruined his chances today if he had boiled over before the showcase Classic.
All such concerns were long forgotten as Bell patted the colt in the winner’s enclosure. “It is a privilege to have a horse like this. I watched the race next to my wife and felt that he could be called the winner a long way from home.
“He has always been a champion at home and he looked like a champion here today. Today he has won like we always hoped he would,” he added.
Jockey Johnny Murtagh was unerring in his admiration for the colt: “He is a very, very high class horse. When I rode him at York he didn’t have to do very much and he has improved 100% on that today. I am sure that there is a lot more to come.”
However, he expressed some surprise at the margin of his win: “When he was in front in the last two furlongs, it all went quiet and I just had a peek behind and I could not believe how far in front he was!”
Trainer, jockey and the Ascot Racing Group, the syndicate which owns the three-year-old, were joined by a hugely appreciative crowd in their praise of Motivator. After vying for favouritism all morning with Gypsy King, he had set off the eventual favourite, proving the worst possible result for bookies far and wide.
Gypsy King failed to make any impact in the race. Both he and Aidan O’Brien’s second strong contender, Oratorio, failed to make the trip, finishing among the tail end of the field.
Dubawi, the only Godolphin representative in the field was also disappointing. He ran a strong race until the final two furlongs, but he failed to stay the distance. He managed a creditable third, but is now likely to be dropped back in trip.
Walk in the Park exceeded expectations for his connections to finish in second place. Alan Munro blamed a bad start for their failure to catch Motivator, although he had some praise for the winning colt: “I had a bit of a rough trip. [Walk in the Park] broke a bit negatively and so we were some way behind for some time. I gave him a crack after Tattenham Corner and he responded really well, but [Motivator] had put distance between him and us and I was never going to catch him. He was very impressive.”