Alter egos 7- Polly Peachum

Conditions were pretty filthy at Stratford yesterday, very suitable for a horse that shares her name with a character from one of the murkiest musical operas ever to be staged. In that you can take your pick between John Gay’s 18th century The Beggars Opera and Kurt Weill’s 20th century re-working, The Threepenny Opera.

Polly Peachum is one of the lesser lights in the Nicky Henderson yard. She hasn’t had a mention in any of the Stable Tour features I have seen that are filling the racing papers and industry web pages. Yet there are signs that he may have an exciting hurdle prospect on his hands.

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Yesterday was just her third run. Last season she finished second in a Newbury bumper, staying on in the final furlong. At the start of this season (May), she took a low grade Warwick hurdle race, again running on well at the finish. Matt’s little “5 hurdle trainers” mini system gave a solid clue to her chances yesterday. Here we had a four-year-old hurdler, trained by one of the select five, stepping up from Class 6 to Class 3. Perfect in every respect, bar one: the odds. Polly Peachum was too short a price at 6/5 for a bet.

She has already caught the eye of Henderson’s assistant, Ben Pauling, who said after the race, “She is as tough as old boots but with a touch of class as she has got back up despite hating the bad ground. She will get further and be better in decent conditions.

Now, I’m not suggesting that she will go on to be a hurdler of the highest quality, but she’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

If Polly Peachum got covered in mud yesterday, her alter ego was very familiar with it. The Threepenny Opera is set in the seamy, filthy side of Victorian London, where Polly Peachum is the daughter of a man who controls the beggars of the city. She is a young naïve girl in love with Macheath, the leader of a gang of thieves. During the course of the opera her initial horror at Macheath’s activities disappears so that in time she is ready to take over as leader of the gang when he is imprisoned. Another Polly Peachum who is touch as old boots but with a touch of class.
Most people will have heard of Weill’s wife, Lotte Lenya, who played the Polly’s rival in love, the prostitute Jenny Diver.

Few remember anything about the actress, Roma Bahn, who played Polly. And had it not been for a bout of appendicitis which struck down the young woman due to play the role in the opening production, Bahn may have remained a complete unknown. As it was, her chance break as Polly Peachum opened the door to a long career in cinema, although rarely as a leading lady.

Will the Polly Peachum running at Stratford yesterday become a leading lady? It’s probably too early to say, but I’ll follow her career with interest.

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