DERBY AND ECLIPSE WINNER CITY OF TROY COULD BE SOMETHING OUT THE ORDINARY... IT WOULD BE A TRAGEDY IF SPORT FANS START OBSESSING AT THINGS OUR CHAMPIONS DIDN'T DO, WRITES DOMINIC KING

  • It seems more and more fans have forgotten the joy that sport can bring
  • England can make history, yet Gareth Southgate finds himself being lampooned
  • In racing, Derby winner City Of Troy 'only' had a length in hand to win the Eclipse

SPORT: when was the last time you truly thought about the meaning of the word? The question must be asked for these, increasingly, are unusual times to be around this remarkable industry.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives you the definition that sport is 'diversion, entertainment, fun' and leads to 'success, pleasure, or recreation derived from, or afforded by, an activity' – it should never be forgotten.

Thousands will stream through the gates at Lord's today simply to say they were there for the moment Jimmy Anderson, England's finest of them all, steamed in from the Pavilion End to bowl for the final time. Watching him bowl will provide a wonderful break from reality.

But, more and more, it feels as if there are many passing through turnstiles or sat on their sofas who have forgotten the joy that sport can bring and lost the appreciation of seeing the team, the player or horse you support emerge on top.

Take Andy Murray. Within minutes of that magnificent tribute to him appearing at Wimbledon last Thursday, a flick through social media saw the know-it-alls provide reminders he'd 'only' won three Grand Slam events. And there the rest of us were thinking he might be Britain's greatest sportsman.

There's more. Unless you've had your head buried in the sand, you will know Gareth Southgate – who takes charge of his third major semi-final as England manager tonight – had beer cups launched at him for taking his side through the group stages without defeat.

Has this been England's most stylish tournament? No. Do they still have a chance of making history? Yes. So why does Southgate find himself being lampooned or treated as if he's scribbled some names on the back of a piece of paper and gone into each match hoping for the best? Truly, it's odd.

This all takes us to Sandown Park last Saturday and City Of Troy's victory in the Coral Eclipse. He was sent-off the 1-4 favourite but 'only' had a length in hand at the line over 12-1 outsider Al Riffa, with jockey Ryan Moore's arms pumping like pistons through the final, dramatic furlong.

It wasn't the kind of triumph that had been envisaged by his owners, Coolmore, and, immediately the scrutiny was cranked up like never before on this most-talked about horse – he doesn't look fast, so they said; the depth of the race was poor, he was getting weight, he might simply be all hype.

Some points to consider. As the field returned back down the Rhododendron Walk back to the winner's enclosure, Richard Kingscote – rider of third-place Ghostwriter – was met by the colt's trainer, Clive Cox, and told him: 'He's run a huge race.' He would repeat those words for emphasis.

Kingscote isn't the kind of man who would call a goose a swan. He's a consummate professional who knew the talent of the horse he was riding. There is a big day coming for Ghostwriter but he could have gone around Sandown again and still not passed City Of Troy.

Then there is Al Riffa. Those who think this piece of form was a fluke should remember that Joseph O'Brien's colt got within three-quarters of a length of Ace Impact last August at Deauville, closer than any horse ever managed to get to the unbeaten Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe hero.

Al Riffa had the weapons to expose any chink in City Of Troy's armour but, 100 yards past the line, he was still behind his younger rival. They had fought out a tremendous finish but the winner wasn't clinging to his advantage by fingernails.

None of this mattered, however, as the debate raged. 'Unimpressive' was one take, 'ugly' was another after City Of Troy had become just the 11th horse since 1876 to win the Epsom Derby then follow up over a shorter trip on a track with different dimensions five weeks later.

The faith those closest to City Of Troy have in him is colossal – why else did Coolmore supremo John Magnier travel to Sandown for the first time in 22 years? – and the sense of anticipation about his next start, be it at Ascot, York or Leopardstown, should be immense.

We are looking at a horse that might be something out the ordinary.

Why not embrace this possibility? If we start obsessing at things our champions didn't do, rather than focusing on what they actually achieved on a court or a pitch or a racecourse, we will have lost the thing that makes sport such a diversion, entertaining and fun. And that would be a tragedy.

 

Billy Loughnane's star is ascending at a rate of knots and another big day at Sandown last weekend showed why there is such excitement about what he might achieve, with many already thinking he could be a Champion Jockey.

It is going to take time for the 18-year-old to jostle with men such as William Buick and Oisin Murphy for that great title but don't rule out the possibility of him winning another gong for the season's leading rider.

Loughnane, who will ride Khaadem in Saturday's July Cup, has established an enormous lead in the World Pool Jockeys' Championship – an initiative that began on May 4 at Newmarket and concludes on October 19 at Ascot on British Champions Day.

Points are awarded in this race on the price of their horse returns on the World Pool and Loughnane steering Rashabar to a 80/1 triumph in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot propelled him over the hills and far away from second-placed Murphy and Company.

If Loughnane was to win, he would donate the £50,000 prize to The Christy Lambe Foundation. His progress will be eagerly followed.

 

The crowd, in terms of numbers, was moderate. The weather was wretched, dank and grey and soon to turn to rain. But, for 10 minutes, none of that mattered, as the wonderful, old servant Truehsan scampered through the gloom to win his first race of the season last Friday.

Trueshan is eight now but his zest for life is unquestionable and the ovation he got when returning after striding away with the Listed Esher Stakes was exactly what racing is about; he's been superbly and considerately trained by Alan King.

Hollie Doyle, his jockey, is adamant the old boy will be winning more races for a few years yet, particularly when conditions are in his favour. She had a glint in her eye when mentioning targets at Doncaster in September and Paris in October. Keep this in mind.

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