There are trainers who greet winners by noisily embracing their owners, planting smackers on everything in sight from the horse to the clerk of the course and suddenly becoming voluble blood brothers with racing writers they have previously shunned like slugs in their lettuce. And then there is John Oxx, the Irish maestro from whom a significant display of emotion is a brief adjustment of the tie knot or a ruminative stroke of the chin. After his unbeaten Sea The Stars had won last weekend’s 2000 Guineas in a thrilling race from Brian Meehan’s Delegator, Oxx was as quiet, courteous and painstaking as a Classics professor.
Immediately he declared the Derby as Sea The Stars’ next target, declaring, ‘He’s got everything — speed, temperament, size, strength. He is a beautiful horse. He is such a presence in the yard and such a pleasure to look at and train. Horses like that get you out of bed in the morning.’
Will he stay the Derby distance? As Oxx acknowledged, you can often read pedigrees either way and we won’t know until the day. But Sea The Stars is a half-brother to the 2001 Derby winner Galileo out of a winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and his trainer reckons there is a fair chance he will. ‘If we thought he had no chance we wouldn’t be running.’
That is good enough for me. John Oxx is not one of those trainers who throws numbers at races hoping for the best. It is one of my racecourse rules that horses he sends abroad are always worth a look. I had backed Delegator, so admirably and openly prepared by the straightforward Brian Meehan, to win the first Classic. But an unbeaten John Oxx colt had to be the saver and at a generous 8–1 he certainly proved that.