06/04/2005 12:00AM

Motivator cruises to Epsom Derby victory


EPSOM, England - Motivator needed little encouragement from jockey Johnny Murtagh on Saturday as he quickened clear to an overpowering five-length victory in the 226th running of the $2.25 million Epsom Derby.

Cruising along up the Epsom hill in third place through the first half of the 1 1/2-mile classic, Motivator had only the pacesetting Hattan to pass as they rounded Tattenham Corner, four furlongs from home. Murtagh did not even push Motivator's button until he had taken command at the quarter pole, at which point Motivator sped clear. Walk in the Park charged home for second, three lengths in front of Godolphin's Irish 2000 Guineas winner, Dubawi. Fracas finished fourth, and Gypsy King, the best of trainer Aidan O'Brien's four runners, came home fifth.

The winning time on ground labeled good - good to firm in places - was a more-than-respectable 2:35.69.

Purchased at Tattersalls as a yearling for $126,000, Motivator was turned over to trainer Michael Bell by the colt's owners the Royal Ascot Racing Club, which consists of 230 individuals. In remaining undefeated through four races, Motivator has greatly improved with each start, winning a one-mile Newmarket maiden last August, the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy in October, and the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York on May 12.

"He's the best horse I've ever trained," said Bell. "What is encouraging was that he had never been hit before, and when Johnny gave him a crack, he just went away from them."

The 5-1 Walk in the Park may have run just as well as Motivator, who went off as the 3-1 favorite in the 13-runner field, but he made his move much too late.

"I got great acceleration," said Alan Munro, Walk in the Park's rider, "but Motivator was gone. If we meet again, I'll have to ride Walk in the Park more positively."

Murtagh's win aboard Motivator was his third in the Derby, the other two coming with Sinndar and High Chaparral. Motivator was Bell's first Derby starter in 17 years, and only his second overall.

"Obviously, the next stage will be the Irish Derby, but we are looking at him as an Arc horse," said Bell.

Motivator earned $1.3 million for the win.