- Sire-Dam -
In the build-up to this year’s Investec Derby Festival, Roger Varian attended Epsom’s annual Breakfast With The Stars event and was interviewed by Nick Luck.
After being asked about various horses, the award-winning Luck concluded by asking Varian along the lines if there was anything he had missed out.
Varian might easily have said “no” and shuffled away but instead went out of his way to say that he had never had 16/1 chance Defoe better for the Investec Coronation Cup.
He repeated the statement several more times to the media before the Group 1 feature and was completely vindicated as Defoe, despite an awkward start, stayed on well to beat Kew Gardens to take the spoils under Andrea Atzeni at 11/1.
It was a first top-level success for the grey five-year-old gelding, a son of Dalakhani.
Newmarket-based Varian, for whom it was a second Investec Coronation Cup win after Postponed’s 2016 victory, said: “You dream about results like that. We were slow from the gate and we didn’t get the handy pitch that we were looking for; maybe as it has turned out, that has worked in our favour.
“We had a lovely trip round the inside; of course they fanned out to challenge in the straight and he got a lovely split. Still, he was good – he quickened up really well. On his day he has looked like a Group One horse, and his last three or four runs perhaps haven’t quite measured up to his summer form of last year, but I said beforehand that I didn’t think he has ever been better.
“I’m so happy for his owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, who is a great supporter and who has been very patient, and of course so happy for the team at home who are doing a great job., I’m delighted with the result; it is fully deserved for the horse and we’ll really enjoy it. It’s a great day.
“It was a great ride, but they always are when they win! From his draw – one and two are quite tricky here over a mile and a half. History and the stats will tell you that, but it’s really worked out for him.
“Andrea saved every bit of ground he could, and when they fanned out there was just enough room. There was a sort of gap – if you were going well enough you could take it; if you weren’t quite going well enough they would have rolled in on top of them. Andrea was sat on a fair bit of horse; the horse went through the gap without flinching, then once he had a target he always looked like getting there.
“I was fairly relaxed watching it because I thought, well, we could run first three or four, and it was a bit different to watching Postponed [who won this race for Varian in 2016], when he was even money and expected to win. As the race developed today I thought he had a real chance.”
Atzeni added: “Defoe deserved that, the horse has been tried very highly in the top races and kept knocking on the door,” said Atzeni, who had took a brave inside route up the home straight on the five-year-old who won by half a length from Kew Gardens.
“I had wanted to sit a bit closer to the pace, but he was a little slow out of the stalls. He didn’t have the early speed to get up there, so we I had to take my time and ride him for luck and ride him to run well.
“I wasn’t going well enough to decide and switch around, he was off the bridle but was picking up at the same time and I didn’t want to disturb his momentum.
“But the splits came at the right time, he took off and it all worked in quite nicely.
“He stays well and his homework has been good. It is great for the team and especially for owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, unfortunately he is not here today but will be watching from London.
“It is great for him as he is a loyal supporter of the yard; it is great for the boss too.”
Defoe was making it eight wins from 17 starts at Epsom, but had previously come up short in five Group 1 assignments.
He improved that record when following up in the £225,000 Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. He defeated Czech raider Nagano Gold by a half-length in the 12-furlong event.
BCS Career statistics
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