06/05/2010 12:00AM

Workforce dominates in Epsom Derby


An astonishing performance by the largely untried but fast improving Workforce electrified the crowd at Epsom on Saturday as the Michael Stoute-trained son of King's Best romped to a seven-length triumph in the $2.1 million Epsom Derby, setting a track record for 1 1/2 miles.

Stepping into the starting gate for just the third time in his life, Workforce was eighth at the halfway point and fifth entering the 3 1/2-furlong stretch behind Coolmore's pacesetting rabbit At First Sight. Workforce reeled that one in at the three-sixteenths pole and galloped clear in hand under Ryan Moore, who celebrated his second classic win in as many days, having ridden Snow Fairy to victory in the English Oaks on Friday.

Stoute knew he had a good one in Workforce last Sept. 23 when he won at first asking at Goodwood, taking a seven-furlong maiden by six lengths, but skeptics remained unconvinced about his Derby chances despite a fine second to Cape Blanco in the Group 2 Dante Stakes on May 13. In providing Stoute with his fifth Derby winner and owner Khalid Abdullah with his third, Workforce has sprinted to the head of the class of Europe's 3-year-olds.

Sent off at 6-1, Workforce set a track record for Epsom's hallowed 1 1/2 miles on good to firm ground in 2:31.33. The old record of 2:32.31 had been set by Lammtarra in the Derby in 1995, a performance that had cracked Mahmoud's longstanding 1936 record.

At First Sight, serving as the sacrificial lamb for Aidan O'Brien's 9-4 favorite Jan Vermeer and Midas Touch, nearly stole the race under Jamie Heffernan, going five lengths clear approaching the quarter pole. But nothing was stopping Workforce on this day. The 100-1 At First Sight held on for second by a half-length from Godolphin's 9-2 Rewilding, who took a while to get untracked from near the back of the 12-runner field but was running on late. Jan Vermeer, who threw two shoes during the race, was an unthreatening fourth, four lengths behind Rewilding, while his 6-1 stablemate Midas Touch was a head farther back in fifth.

Workforce's victory will have reverberations in France and Japan. Cape Blanco, who defeated Workforce by 3 1/4 lengths in the Dante, returns for Aidan O'Brien in Sunday's Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly. As a son of King's Best, the winner of the 2000 Guineas in 2000, Workforce presents further evidence that his sire can get horses to win over 1 1/2 miles, as King's Best is also the sire of Eishin Flash, the winner of last Sunday's Japanese Derby.

The image of Workforce crossing the line in glorious isolation will remind many of Stoute's first Epsom Derby winner Shergar, the ill-fated colt who won the 1981 Derby by a record 10 lengths. Stoute was noncommittal about Workforce's immediate program, but the lightly raced colt must be under consideration for races like the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.