Last year, Ouija Board improved with every race before taking the Oaks in convincing style, a path followed by market leader Eswarah this time around. Michael Hills always had the daughter of 1986 heroine Midway Lady well placed and took up the running a furlong out to take the race by an emphatic one and a half lengths. Trailing Michael Jarvis’s classy filly were Something Exciting and Pictavia in second and third, never a serious threat to the winner.
News concerning Saturday’s main event, the Derby, already broke on Thursday. Jockey Johnny Murtagh succeeded in his appeal against a ban allowing him to take the ride on Motivator who rival Kieran Fallon had described as “the best two-year-old in training” last season. Welcoming the stewards’ decision, the Irishman’s race-plan for Michael Bell’s long-time favourite was a simple one. “Motivator has come on for the Dante (Derby trial) and I’m confident he’ll stay. He’s got a very high cruising speed so I can hold a position. In the straight, we’ll see how good he is.” Punters would have done well to listen to the jockey’s prophetic words.
Two furlongs out, Murtagh surged to the front and took the Blue Riband event by a massive five-length margin, leaving Lingfield second Walk in the Park and fancied Dubawi trailing in his wake. For Frankie Dettori on the third, the race proved an unlucky 13. The brilliant Italian has now been trying to capture racing’s most glittering prize since 1992, when he rode Pollen Count into 16th place and it continues to elude him. In this case, Motivator was simply in a class of his own.