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Motivator ready for Derby date

Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

There is no doubting that much rests on the strong shoulders of Derby favourite Motivator as the big day at Epsom approaches.

The hopes and fears of his owners at the Royal Ascot Racing Club, of course; those too of Michael Bell, his trainer; and, naturally, those of punters who forced down his odds further following victory in the Dante Stakes at York.

Johnny Murtagh on Motivator
Motivator is the ante-post favourite for the Derby

However, perhaps what is most important as the unbeaten colt is prepared by Bell and his team at Newmarket, is what such a success would mean for British racing.

As far as I can see, his task is a bit like football's just-completed Premiership, during which the Arsenal/Manchester United title monopoly was smashed by Chelsea.

So Motivator seeks to break the mould of recent Derbys.

Since the turn of the century, the race has been dominated by two big forces: John Magnier, and his Irish empire, and trainer Sir Michael Stoute.

Between them, they have won the race twice each, with another Irish-trained colt, the Aga Khan's Sinndar, the only other horse to get a look in.

Nothing wrong with that, you might say, but, like everything else, for the world's most famous Flat race, variety is the spice of life.

And Motivator, to be ridden by Johnny Murtagh, can provide that.

Simon Cowell
Music mogul Simon Cowell is among the owners of Motivator

Although his owners, 230 members of the Royal Ascot Racing Club are hardly paupers - Ken Bates and Simon Cowell are amongst them - neither are they all that close to being princes.

And Michael Bell, 44, though consistently successful during 16 years as a trainer, has never reached these kinds of dizzy heights before.

Indeed, prior to the 1999 Derby, I recall causing much amusement as he observed me scurrying around trying to get an interview with the sometimes-monosyllabic Henry Cecil.

"I look forward to the time when you are chasing after me like that," he grinned.

Motivator is a very worthy favourite

I must have raised a dubious eyebrow, or something, because he added: "And, don't you worry about me, I will be there one day, that I promise you."

And that he is with Motivator.

Having won three races from three starts, the horse is a very worthy favourite.

Epsom may be a very different kettle of fish, but he has been cantered around there before, and went okay. I believe the biggest worry is the going - he has done everything on soft - but Bell is sure good ground, which is most likely, will suit as well.

In which case, things are looking good for the mould to be broken.

see also
Derby hope Motivator wins Dante
12 May 05 |  Horse Racing

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