Come and get me: Christophe Soumillon offers encouragement to his rivals as Dalakhani cruises home
Dalakhani lived up to his superstar status by routing a high-class field in the French Derby, taking it up inside the two-furlong marker and then sprinting clear to beat old rival Super Celebre by two lengths, with three lengths back to Coroner in third.
Christophe Soumillon, landing his second French Derby, was taunting his weighing- room colleagues all the way to the line, waving his left hand and shouting: "Where are you?" It was a ride of the utmost confidence on a colt regarded by those associated with him as "very special."
Now, victory in Saturday's Derby would consolidate the Aga Khan's reputation as Europe's most successful owner-breeder and make him the first since Khalid Abdulla, in 1990, to win both races in the same year. Prince Khalid won with Quest For Fame (Epsom) and Sanglamore (Chantilly).
The other great achievement within the Aga Khan's grasp is a record fifth Derby win as an owner-breeder. He has already won at Epsom with Shergar, Shahrastani, Kahyasi and Sinndar. "And the reports I have been getting from John Oxx in Ireland regarding Alamshar are encouraging," the Aga Khan confided.
Until that up-beat bulletin yesterday, Alamshar was in danger of slipping out the Derby limelight - for no good reason. He was just beaten in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown when given too much to do, and then won the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, at the same track, despite a niggling injury setback before the race.
Surely, he will be sent off shorter than his current top-priced 4-1 with Ladbrokes, Hill's and the Tote, particularly with such positive reports emerging from Oxx's stable.
"He bounced out of his last race, and has done very well since," Oxx reported yesterday. "I'm pretty happy with him. He lost no weight after his Derrinstown win, and I think he did very well to win, considering the circumstances. I admit I was pessimistic beforehand. I may be wrong, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't improve on that run," he added.
It is a significant comment on the current strength of Irish racing that five of the top six in the Derby betting are from the stables of Oxx, Dermot Weld and Aidan O'Brien.
The O'Brien-trained Brian Boru, the mount of Mick Kinane, is generally quoted 3-1 favourite with most major firms, while 4-1 is offered about Refuse To Bend (Pat Smullen) and Alamshar (Johnny Murtagh), 8-1 Alberto Giacometti (Christophe Soumillon), 16-1 The Great Gatsby (Pat Eddery).
Alberto Giacometti was paid a handsome compliment by yesterday's Chantilly Classic outcome. He had been beaten just 1.75l by Dalakhani in last month's Prix Lupin, which augurs well for his Epsom chances.
The only non-Irish colt on the upper rungs of the Derby betting is Kris Kin, at 16-1; he will be added to the field at today's supplementary stage.
Dalakhani, who is a half-brother to Godolphin's globetrotting star Daylami, is very highly thought of by his owner-breeder, and his trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupre. The Irish Derby is possibly next on the agenda, which seems only logical following this facile win.
In Friday's Vodafone Oaks, the Aga Khan will rely on Halawanda, who was among the 17 fillies who stood their ground for the Classic. Hammiya, winner of the Cheshire Oaks, and Santa Sophia, who took the Lingfield Oaks Trial have been supplemented.