Monday Musings: Enjoying My Afternoon (and Evening) Naps

Anyone who has read more than a few of the 300-plus weekly offerings, either Sunday Supplements or Monday Musings in this space will know that I used to tip horses for a living, writes Tony Stafford. For all my working life until I left the Daily Telegraph at the end of 2002, I was obsessed with solving the problem of every race. More often than not I had an opinion on them all too.

So you can imagine the sort of bother I could get myself into. Being regarded in some quarters as knowing something about the game didn’t square with the reality of thousands of frustrating afternoons in betting shops and on racecourses.

Then it all stopped. The analysis of races was really only brought into play in my racing manager days, from 2007, trying to derive optimism about the chances of Ray Tooth’s 30-or-so horses which were soon to feature Coronation Stakes winner Indian Ink and Champion Hurdler Punjabi.

Then Ray’s numbers steadily dropped and by early this year, apart from a few mares and young stock, was down to a trickle. As January arrived I was almost in despair at the turn of events, and then the Editor /owner of geegeez.co.uk was asked by friends if he could recommend someone to run a new project they had just bought.

Laurence Squire and Frank Crook are co-directors of Trainers’ Quotes, which as it says on the tin, relays the opinions of a number of highly-respected handlers’ runners every day to members. Over the winter the owner of a rival concern in the same sphere of activity, namely From The Stables, offered them his service for sale as he wanted to concentrate on his main activity, a kitchen-fitting business.

I visited Laurence at his place down the road from Venetia Williams in Herefordshire and also had an hour or two’s inadequate tutorial with its former owner and, by Cheltenham time, six weeks in, I still didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. Slowly the technical side worked itself out, disproving the maxim: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

Anyway, as with these articles, I’ve never missed a day since and having lost our biggest trainer to a new bookmaker sponsorship on Derby Day eve, I had the good fortune to sign Hughie Morrison, Brian Meehan, Shaun Keightley and lastly Ian Williams to cover what would otherwise have been a fairly barren flat season while our top jumping trainers were enjoying their summer breaks.

In those far-off days in Fleet Street, I was obsessed with the naps tables, with near misses a few times in the Sporting Chronicle, three wins in the Sporting Life – I’m looking at the trophies now - and a handful of monthly awards in the Racing Post.

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Now I’ve reverted to type. Whenever I was in contention I used to have the table in front of me and put a line triumphantly though other tipsters’ losers and grudgingly mark any winners. It didn’t work, in all honesty, especially the time when Teddy Davis of the Chester Chronicle had a 66-1 winning nap that wiped out my 40 points lead one February.

About six weeks ago it was brought to my attention that From the Stables was doing quite well in the William Hill Radio naps table. I hadn’t known we were even in a tipping competition until Laurence called and told me: “You’re not far behind. Try to beat Sam Turner”.

At the start of this month, I was around £4 behind Sam who in turn was a few pence adrift of Dave Lowe. I met Dave for the first time at Doncaster on Saturday. He was on duty for William Hill, for whom he works in promotions, for their sponsorship of St Leger week.

A mutual friend introduced us and I asked Dave if he knew anything about the naps table. “I do,” he said: “I’m lying third in it, why do you want to know?” “I’m leading it,” I replied and he added: “So YOU’RE From the Stables.”

In the intervening few weeks, the old habit of making a list and crossing through the losers has become almost my major activity. It hasn’t been helped as over the past nine racing days I’ve had a run the like of which I cannot ever remember when it was a major focus of my employment.

It started on Saturday a week ago at Haydock, when the Ian Williams-trained Time to Study won at 7-1; then Oliver Sherwood’s Archimento won at Fontwell, starting 7-4. Monday’s winner was Morrison’s Escape the City, 4-1 at Brighton, followed by Byron Flyer, Williams 11-8 at Worcester, and Shaun Keightley’s Trouble Shooter, 7-1 at Kempton.

Two losers followed but then Meehan slipped in a 13-8 winner, Top Buck at Bath on Saturday, and Williams completed a memorable nine days when Blue Laureate stormed home by seven lengths at Ffos Las at 15-2 yesterday.

As a result almost embarrassingly I have to report that From the Stables is almost 30 points clear at the top of the table. Many of William Hill’s staff contributors to its radio commentary service and their betting shop studio programming are among the 24 fellow tipsters. My role, apart from ensuring that the trainers’ comments are faithfully recorded, is trying to evaluate which of “our” runners have the best chance.

That itself is not always easy. Top Buck was one of 16 contenders on Saturday and he was actually the only winner. The process of ending up on the right nap does I think stay with the died-in-the-wool tipster. In my case it’s taken a long time for me to get back to looking at the races in the way I used to and I have to thank all the trainers, those I inherited and the new boys, for being so helpful in guiding our readers in the right direction.

As I understand it, it costs £30 a month to receive the service. No doubt as a result of the good performance we might get some new members. It would be typical for them to catch us on the way down. What is most satisfying is that our present profit of more than £38 would give us a £7 lead if we were competitors in the Racing Post naps table.

So it’s thanks to my friend Matt Bisogno for the suggestion and as a result giving me the chance to rekindle my love for finding winners. The downside is that I’m going to be as insufferable as I always used to be, and no longer the mellow old man I believed I’d become.

*

Important matters again have to find room at the bottom of these thoughts but I’m sure they will be given more than justice elsewhere in this publication. Pinatubo, so impressive in the National Stakes at The Curragh yesterday, must be one of the best juveniles to have been seen out for a long time. I think it’s fitting that the always-approachable and ever-modest Charlie Appleby has such an outstanding 2,000 Guineas contender in his care.

Messrs Gosden and O’Brien were both efficient in hoovering up the majority of the other big Group 1 prizes in the UK (nice St Leger winner, Logician), Ireland and France and I enjoyed Magical very much on Saturday in the Irish Champion Stakes. Could she possibly beat Enable in the Arc this time?

Joseph O’Brien’s Group 1 winner Iridessa was a big moment for Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez and husband John Murrell, incorrectly-spelt recently in the Shaun Keightley article with an “a” for “u”. As long as they keep winning Group 1 races with fillies destined for the December Sales, John I’m sure wouldn’t mind if we called him John Gosden!

- TS

Monday Musings: Makin Good After Career Switch

Two young people, their promising careers as jockeys abruptly ended by injury after near-calamitous race-riding accidents, have joined forces in a bold and visually spectacular training project, writes Tony Stafford. Well Close Farm is on the A19, ten miles north of York racecourse and a couple of miles to the south of the picturesque market town of Easingwold, population 4,627 (and 51 Grade 2 Listed buildings).

Whoever spotted the potential of the 44-acre farm previously occupied by E Drury & Sons, self-promoted as “Europe’s leading distributor of industrial motors, gearboxes and drives”, and additionally of clear float laminated glass – nice diversity there! – take a bow.

His or her foresight led to the “sale by private treaty” being withdrawn last year and by November 30, PJM Racing was incorporated with two directors, Phillip Makin (incorrectly listed with one “l” on the article of incorporation), racehorse trainer, and Samantha Joanne Bell (Sammy Jo to me and you), assistant trainer.

Now the life and business partners are reconciled to their new dual roles: Makin was age 34 and presumably with at least a decade to go as a jockey when on August 25 last year, riding the Mrs Doreen Tabor-owned Eyecatcher for Simon Crisford, he appeared likely to win when the gelding fell and was fatally injured. Makin broke a bone in his neck in that incident and has not ridden since. His final tally of UK wins stands on 951.

Sammy Jo had already called time. The Northern Ireland native is one of many to have started out from Jim Bolger’s stables, more than a few of them - A P McCoy comes to mind – from the six counties. Her ten victories in Ireland were supplemented by 72 more in Britain, 51 of them for Richard Fahey. The two winners she rode in the 2015 Shergar Cup when still an apprentice illuminated her career, but a pelvic injury in the following season led to ten months’ absence.

There was a brief revival in 2017 but after a final winning ride on All My Love for Pam Sly in October of that year at Catterick, she finally retired. On Sunday morning in the kitchen of their refurbished stone farmhouse she said: “But I hope I will get a ride for Richard Fahey in the Legends’ race on Wednesday at Doncaster”. We’ll know later today when the declarations are finalised.

Neither Makin nor Bell, particularly the ever-active Bell, seems any larger than jockey size. Makin said: “When you ride horses for a living, you think you are busy enough. When you train it’s altogether different, always something to do and it takes over your life.”

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The development of this impressive training centre, totally private, is going on apace. There is a four-furlong all-weather (waxed sand) circuit and a seven and a half furlong gallop that joins the circuit and is visible from the trainer’s office on the upper floor of a converted barn. “But when the indoor ride is completed that view will be obscured, so we’ll need to build a new viewing platform to watch the work”, he says.

There are 50 boxes already in place in large converted barns with another ten to come. A feature of the farm while operating as an industrial business was the quality of the grassland and there are around 25 small turn-out paddocks designed to keep the horses fresh.

Makin and Bell have the support of a number of local businessmen and the 30 horses in training have recently been bolstered by the arrival of seven yearlings. No doubt Ascot sales tomorrow, the next spot on the talent-seeking treadmill will provide one or two more. “We’ve a potential owner who’s looking for a ‘cheapie’ and I told him we might find one there,” said Makin.

It was not until early this year that Makin announced his plans to train and the first winner came just over a month into the new season when Galloway Hills won at Redcar. The tally is up to seven now and when we went to York races later in the afternoon, Fennaan, once with John Gosden, was fancied to run a big race. Unfortunately it seems that his questionable wind continues to hamper his progress.

There are two planned runners at Doncaster on Wednesday, but the trainer is looking further ahead to Ayr. His candidate is Lahore, originally with Roger Varian, when racing in the colours of Invincible Spirit’s owner-breeder Prince Faisal. The five-year-old was a 99-rated horse when acquired for just 11k at the autumn sales last year, a price that suggested some problems. Makin’s team has clearly sorted them out and Lahore has been running well all year. A Ripon win early last month was followed by a short-head second of 16 to Bielsa at Thirsk, a run which led to his rating going back up from 93 to 97.

Makin’s hope that Lahore might squeeze into the Gold Cup’s top 25 seems destined to disappointment as he’s number 61 in the list, but that should easily ensure his place in the Silver Cup. “He loves soft ground and we’ll be running 4lb well in so I have to like his chance.”

Whatever happens, the young man who made something of a habit of riding Raymond Tooth winners at Carlisle, “I remember Rainbow Zest for Wilf Storey and I Say for William Haggas”, he says – so do I – has all the cards in place to make a big splash.

It doesn’t hurt that he has recently added Lee Enstone to the team. Lee rode 140 winners in the UK, 47 of them for the late Patrick Haslam, but it’s amazingly ten years since he last rode in public. The Chester native had been working at Michael Owen’s stables for Tom Dascombe, but as he told Rachel, queen of the owners’ badges at the top northern tracks for the past 23 years, “I’m back!”

Enstone was given a fair compliment a little earlier as Fennaan toured around the pre-parade ring, by David Easterby, son and assistant to the venerable Michael. Easterby junior, presumably fully refuelled by the excellent owners’ room roast beef lunch – no I didn’t have one! – told Makin: “Lee came along at the same time as Paul <Mulrennan, who was riding Fennaan> and probably had more talent.”

A little research showed both careers started in 2000, Mulrennan with no wins and Enstone four.  “But Paul”, he added, “was much more determined”. Speaking to Enstone later, it was clear he is taking his new job as a major opportunity. “There are some nice horses, including later-developing two-year-olds and a great work atmosphere. I can’t wait to get going,” he said.

The small team of stable staff will no doubt need to grow but with Well Close Farm’s facilities and several local owners prepared to spend money to buy success, PJM Racing should have a bright future.

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One week I’ll have the space to write up properly the continuing success story of the Alan Spence horses. Last week Revolutionise won a little handicap at Kempton to follow Positive’s Solario Stakes at Sandown. This Saturday it was Salute The Soldier, owned in partnership with Mr and Mrs Hargreaves, that made all, showing great resolution, under a big weight in the valuable seven-furlong Cunard Handicap at Ascot – which Ray Tooth won with Dutch Art three years ago.

Salute The Soldier, bred by Spence and the Hargreaves’, was running off 101, so even a small rise, maybe 3lb, will concentrate the attention of talent-seekers for Hong Kong or the Middle East. When I asked Alan whether the offers had been flying in, his “not yet” was delivered in the quizzical sort of way that suggested: “but they will!”

Thence to Doncaster and his Golden Horn filly, West End Girl, who goes for Group 2 honours in the May Hill Stakes. Airport duties – Mrs home from hols in Mexico – might hamper my trip north that day but, as Alan says: “What will she be worth, a first crop Group 2 winner by Golden Horn?” He’s always known the value of a pound note has Spencie!

Monday Musings: Second Time Lucky for Keightley

A former jockey who according to the meticulous Derek Thompson was the “first man to ride on every racecourse Flat and jumps in England, Wales and Scotland” 20 years on from his final ride during a four-year stint in Australia, is now making waves as a trainer at Exning in Newmarket, writes Tony Stafford.

I first knew Shaun Keightley ten years before that when, on one memorable – and more than a little frustrating – Oaks day in the late 1980’s, he rode one of three winners in a four-horse raid on Catterick (afternoon), Carlisle and Leicester (both evening) of a Peter Hudson-trained quartet owned by Sheikh Mohamed Al Sabah from Kuwait.

The Sheikh, a larger-than-life character who was prone to through-the-night four-hour telephone conversations with interminable pauses and ancient English idioms – “er…and so on and so forth” was perhaps the favourite – was also prone to excess in most other areas.

He had a 50-horse stable, Linkslade, in Lambourn, where Willie Muir has trained for many years now, originally under the care of Stan Mellor and then briefly Fred Ffitch, Stan’s assistant. The Sheikh was looking for a permanent replacement and soon after my friend George Hill had interviewed Hudson following his first winner on an outside reporting day for the Daily Telegraph, the appointment was made.

Hudson, previously assistant trainer to Barry Hills at Manton where he was also estate manager, had only recently gone out on his own. The old Etonian instantly got on well with George, an old Edith Cavellian - Haggerston (alma mater of Rodney Marsh) and the appointment soon ensued.

The Sheikh had some nice horses and after a quiet spell told me he was intent on landing a gamble. Money duly collected from the United Bank of Kuwait, various friends, family (well Dad anyway), Telegraph employees and Dad’s dog trainer Paul Philpott were despatched around East and South London, Kent and Hertfordshire placing multiples on the quartet, with a total of 300 establishments being targeted.

It needed the first, Absolutely Perfect at Catterick, to set the bet in motion. Carrying the deep red and white colours of Al Deera Bloodstock, the Sheikh’s ownership name, he duly obliged at 11-2 under George Duffield. Thirty minutes later a rather more significant moment in British and European racing came in the Oaks on that June 10 day when Aliysa, after passing the post first under Walter Swinburn for the Aga Khan and Michael Stoute, was disqualified in favour of Henry Cecil’s Snow Bride and Steve Cauthen.

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That would prove to be a road with no turning as the Aga Khan almost immediately decided to take all his horses from England, basically his strong representation in the Stoute and Luca Cumani yards. They were moved to France and Ireland and the same status quo persists to this day. It even extends to his sales policy, using Arqana in France and Goff’s in Ireland to the exclusion of Tattersalls.

Even before those two races, it had been a red-letter day for Shaun Keightley. With most of the big riding guns down at Epsom, he was enlisted by Ben Hanbury for the mount on Weldnaas, a 20-1 shot, in the Listed John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock. Despite putting up 1lb overweight (8st7lb, really Shaun?) he made the most of his first ride on the horse to gain his own sole Listed winner on the Flat. Weldnaas never ran again.

That was five minutes before Absolutely Perfect and half an hour before the Oaks. Then it was a two –hour gap until the first of two Leicester runners, Careful Lad, under Steve Dawson in the seller. The odds of 11-8 were not easily landed. In a 13-runner field, he got up by only a head.

Keightley by that time had completed the ride north to Carlisle up the M6 with Peter Hudson. His mount Radish’N Lemon was a 3-1 shot in the maiden, and strolled home by six lengths with never a moment’s doubt. In view of what happened to the last leg, there now is a feeling of “swings and roundabouts” for me as Radish’N Lemon later had the race taken away on technical grounds.

That left Pharaoh’s Delight, a 100-30 second-favourite on debut behind Bright Flower, an odds-on shot ridden by Frankie Dettori for Cumani – that’s right 30 years ago and Frankie was already winning! She was the one we reckoned to be the banker. Ask Dave Dineley?

But Eddery could finish no nearer than sixth after easing her when beaten and came in to tell George Hill: “Bad luck, she’ll win at Royal Ascot”. She did, by six lengths in the Windsor Castle, and followed up, first in the Princess Margaret at Ascot on King George day. Then soon after came her crowning glory in the Group 1 Heinz 57 Phoenix Stakes at now-defunct Phoenix Park while family Stafford was returning from New York on the QEII. He knew what he was talking about Mr Eddery!

Pity she was wasn’t ready first time. I recall having more than £50k in cash on my living-room floor after the boys managed finally to bring it all home, usually needing three or four goes to get the money. If the filly had won it would have been more like £250k, but had she done so, the cry of “foul” would have come from the bookies and the team would have had even more bother in getting the cash. Anyway that’s all conjecture.

So let’s fast forward at least a couple of decades. Shaun Keightley, following an initial spell between 2002 and 2006, reappeared after a gap of 12 years in his late 50’s as one of the oldest “new” boys in the game. He set up in Darryl Holland’s yard in Exning, next door to Gay Kelleway, but it was when building contractor Simon Lockyer sent him Rail Dancer to train in the spring of 2018 that the success story really began.

For many years his main mentor had been John Morrell, owner of the La Manga resort in Spain, with Shaun often taking care of his pre-training horses. Morrell’s family horses are run in the name of John’s wife Chantal Redalago-Gonzalez, best known for the 2015 Oaks winner Qualify, trained by Aidan O’Brien.

Morrell, true to character, supported Keightley’s latest training venture and in San Carlos they have a nice three-year-old who is sure to continue to pay his way. After taking some time to come right, Rail Dancer produced a quick-fire winning double within five days in May, setting in motion a memorable first full year as a trainer.

Working largely with low-grade animals, and following on from two wins in 2018, Shaun has now hit the impressive figure of 15 this year. Simon Lockyer, who is now comfortably his principal owner says: “It’s amazing. He had seven winners in August alone, four of them in the last fortnight from only nine runners.”  Three of the four winners had won their previous race and defied either a penalty or a rise in their rating.  “The owners are all delighted with how it’s going,” added Lockyer.

A man who partnered almost exactly 200 winners (150 jumps, 50 Flat) in his 20-year riding career might not be expected to remember everything about them all, but when I told my friend Peter Ashmore that Raymond Tooth was sending Keightley a horse, he said: “I remember him”.

Back in the late 1970’s Peter had a share in Captian <correct spelling> Cheeko, a hurdler with Philip Allingham at Lilley, near Luton. He said it had finished second in a three-horse seller with Keightley, then a 7lb claimer, riding. “Yes, he was a flashy chestnut with a white blaze and four white socks,” Keightley recalled.

Another equally impressive feat of memory was when he met another friend, Shaun Ellery, a great pal of the late David Wintle, at Chepstow when Trouble Shooter won there a couple of weeks ago. Keightley said:  “Are you Shaun Ellery? I came to your night club, The Bank, in Cardiff back in the 1980’s.” Right on all counts, says the man known universally (as long as you’re old enough!) as Sonic.

As a last word I’d like to congratulate Alan Spence on the Solario Stakes win of his Positive at Sandown on Saturday. Not as clear-cut maybe as the betting had predicted but the way he battled and Adam Kirby’s glowing endorsement makes a 2000 Guineas aim realistic.

Monday Musings: Forgotten man Queally still has it…

York last week was great. Yorkshire’s eagerly-awaited four days was again the canvass to the peerless quality of Enable and Stradivarius; the delayed crowning of Battaash as champion sprinter and the emergence of Japan as perhaps the best middle-distance male racehorse in Europe, writes Tony Stafford.

It also, on the seventh anniversary of Frankel’s only run at the meeting, when he made the Juddmonte International the 13th win of his unblemished 14-race career, was host to that horse’s constant accomplice. Tom Queally drove up from Newmarket for a single mount at the four-day extravaganza and rode 25-1 shot Ropey Guest, a maiden, into a creditable third place in the Group 3 Acomb Stakes for George Margarson.

People often say a single good horse can make a jockey or trainer. For Queally, still only 34, his association with the greatest horse of any of our experience might almost be described as a curse. It was a single beautiful unfussy ride on another Margarson trainee, Protected Guest at Yarmouth the day after York ended, that jolted me from vague “what happened to Queally?” mode to “how could it have gone wrong?”, such is the obvious talent of the jockey.

On Protected Guest, a 16-1 outsider for all that his Yarmouth record is little short of spectacular, he sat last of the six, set him down hands and heels to close up two from home and, without picking up his stick, eased him into the lead barely 30 yards out. The winner never knew he had had a race and was back on the bridle by the line.

That single ride at Yarmouth followed what must have been the busiest 24 hours of his season with nine rides (five Friday evening, four Saturday) back at the July course at Newmarket where Frankel started his career nine years ago. The last of the nine, Han Solo Berger, was recipient of another master-class from Queally and at 6-1 was the shortest-priced of his 21 rides over the past fortnight. His trainer, Chris Wall, was fulsome in his praise of the ride after the race.

When you’re in you’re in as a jockey but when you’re out, you’re Queally. Only four of the above-quoted 21 started in single figures, two at 7-1 and another at 9-1 the closest to the Chris Wall-trained Han Solo Berger.

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As I’ve written them down in the course of my early-morning Bank Holiday research I’ll pass them on.  There were two 12-1 shots; seven at 16-1, including a third winner, Set Point Charlie for Seamus Durack on Thursday at Chepstow;  two at 20’s, four at 25-1 and one each at 40-1 and 50-1.

I owe an acknowledgment to Chris Cook of the Guardian, who wrote back in May when Queally was turning up for a single Windsor ride for his fellow Irishman John Butler that he had gone 60 mounts without a single winner at that point of the campaign. In the back of my mind I knew, or thought I did, that he had been in a long drought, but quite that long I hadn’t been aware.

By last Thursday, the intervening three months had yielded only two wins from his next 120 or so canters to the start of races. Three wins in four days have probably cheered this unfailingly polite, undemonstrative and far from publicity-seeking young man but I think it’s worth going into a little more detail.

The 189 rides Queally has collected in this calendar year have brought five wins and overall prize money of £110,000. Even in 2009, the year before Frankel’s emergence, when he was already stable jockey to Sir Henry Cecil, his best-ever tally of 109 winners brought win and place returns of £2.1 million. In the three Frankel years, 101, 100 and 76 winners yielded successively £2.7million, £2.5million and £2.7million again.

Understandably both numbers post-Frankel were starkly diminished. In 2014 81 wins brought £853k, then after Sir Henry Cecil’s death and Lady Cecil’s taking over at Warren Place, the numbers quickly declined. Sixty-four, then 49, 29 and 31 were his scores until this latest tougher-than-tough year.

Obviously he owed a lot to Frankel, but as Cook pointed out back in May, less than half of Queally’s tally of 23 Group 1 wins was accounted for by the great horse, who accounted for ten of them. The last two were on the James Fanshawe-trained The Tin Man, from whom in the summer of 2018, almost exactly a year ago, he was unceremoniously dumped in favour of Oisin Murphy.

Queally initially got the ride on the Fanshawe sprinter after an unplaced debut run under Jim Crowley. Their first association brought a win at Doncaster and from that point they were inseparable. They won eight of their 18 races together, including the Qipco British Champions Sprint in October 2016 and the Diamond Jubilee the following June, both Group 1 contests.

But then his staying on fourth behind Merchant Navy in his follow up attempt in last year’s Diamond Jubilee and then a following third place at Deauville, again nearest at the finish, prompted a change. Murphy stepped in and on ideal heavy ground at Haydock in the six-furlong Sprint Cup, the new team was an instant success. Queally might feel justified if he were to observe that in four runs together since then, three of them as favourite, The Tin Man has failed to win.

Queally has provided his services to 55 different trainers in getting to the 189-ride, five-winner mark and pointedly Fanshawe is not among them. The six most helpful Newmarket-based employers to his cause have been Durack, with 22 mounts including that winner at Chepstow, Richard Spencer (16), Margarson (14) and Ed Dunlop with 12 rides; while Alan King (12) and Gary Moore (10) have also been welcome providers.

The man who rode Frankel presumably gets a breeding right as a thank you for that long, unblemished partnership and therefore should be considerably more financially secure than many of the jockeys that struggle ceaselessly for rides and winners. If he does I think he deserves it as I’ve long believed that his ride in the 2,000 Guineas when he sent his overwhelmingly superior partner 20 lengths clear at halfway was as inspired as it was brave.

Midday, with four, Twice Over with three, Timepiece,  Fleeting Sprit, Art Connoisseur and Chachamaidee were the other horses that completed his Group 1 tally. I’m hoping that maybe some trainers and owners who might have looked away for a few minutes from Ben Stokes’ extraordinary innings at Headingley will now be tempted to employ him. There are many less talented horsemen enjoying far better seasons than Tom Queally.

- TS

Monday Musings: York, August’s Saviour

Let me declare an interest. Much as I love it when May comes around, I consciously detest August, writes Tony Stafford. So you have York as a racing oasis in a domestic desert and in reality you need to cast your glance across the Channel to Deauville for any meaningful action leading up to the Knavesmire’s four epic days.

When you stay up for the week you have the novelty of nights newly drawing in after the excessively long days of May to July. Chillier evenings and God forbid wet weather, especially when it affects the ground, often turns anticipated championship clashes into hollow damp squibs.

Not that York’s management can be accused of not trying hard. I hope my arithmetic hasn’t imploded when adding the four days’ total prizemoney on offer, but I make it the grand sum of £5,275,000. There are two £1 milllion races, the Juddmonte International on Day 1 (Wednesday) and the Saturday climax, the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap for which available spaces, revealed later today, could even in time have a market place of their own, so urgently will owners wish to participate.

I am sure that Lew Day, owner of Raheen House, now a five-year-old and moved at the start of this year from Brian Meehan to William Haggas, would not swap his one-time St Leger hopeful for any of the other 21 horses guaranteed a run if connections decide to exercise that option.

With a single-mindedness that few trainers can boast, Haggas clearly set himself – of maybe Lew did the setting – a simple three-race strategy. The first two were a Listed and then a Group 3 over the Ebor distance of a mile and threequarters on the track, and each resulted in a satisfactory outcome, two placed efforts, one behind ex-Hong Kong trained Gold Mount in the Listed and then a close third behind Red Verdon and Gold Mount in the Group 3. Those were all the practice he was deemed to need for phase three, the Ebor itself.

Actually, rises in his mark from 106 to 108 and a final 111 might not seem ideal, but are still below his peak of 113 from last year with Meehan and at least there has been no anxiety that he would not make the cut. Had he remained on 106 he simply wouldn’t have got in.

Ground seems of no account to him, good to firm and then good to soft were the conditions in the two York reconnoitres, and his 12-1 price shows just how seriously the bookmakers view his (or probably Haggas’s) chance of pulling it off.

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Refreshingly, for those of us destined never to get within a stone of 108-rated horses, the mark for the 23rd on the list – the stalls can accommodate 22 – there is no monopoly of access in the way of Gordon Elliott’s monopolising the top Irish staying chases. Or indeed ours:  take the Grand National where as if having Tiger Roll wasn’t enough, Elliott had another ten denying runs to other owners.

No trainer will be able to run more than the three each by Messrs Johnston, Mullins and Gosden. That’s just how the run-down lines up. This afternoon’s acceptors will make interesting reading indeed.

The other £1 million pop, the Juddmonte on the opening day, seems likely to go ahead without its highest profile acceptor Enable who is waiting for the Yorkshire Oaks and a third joust with Magical, who has twice got within three-quarters of a length of the champion.

Oddly, as is the way with handicapping, Enable doesn’t have the highest rating among the acceptors – again the line-up will be revealed today – that distinction going to Crystal Ocean after his near miss against her in last month’s King George at Ascot when conceding 3lb, the allowance for females.

For a while after the Eclipse, Aidan O’Brien seemed to be disregarding York for Magical. There is no question though that when there is a champion around, he is always keen to unseat it. You only need to think back to Sea The Stars’ Classic year when, having been unable to match John Oxx’s colt in the 2,000 Guineas, in the Derby and henceforth he pitted variously Fame and Glory, Mastercraftsman and Rip Van Winkle in attempts to dent the star’s reputation, without ever quite managing it.

It was Magical that has provided the only serious opposition to Enable both in the Breeders’ Cup Turf race last year and the Eclipse. Japan is surely the most significant Ballydoyle challenger for the Juddmonte after his nice win in the Grand Prix de Paris, and Gosden has a feasible deputy for Enable. He relies on the St James’s Palace runner-up King Of Comedy, unraced since finishing a neck second to O’Brien’s Circus Maximus at the Royal meeting.

*

I think we saw some very decent animals in Deauville yesterday. The going was declared to be heavy, but times suggested maybe soft was closer to accurate. Pride of place has to go to the unbeaten Earthlight who recorded a rare home win in the Prix Morny for the Godolphin colours.

Andre Fabre trains the son of Shamardal, one of the star stallions of 2019 and this was the first French-trained Morny winner since Dabirsim eight years ago and only the second since Divine Proportions in 2004. That filly truly was a champion, the Morny being her fourth of five unbeaten runs at two for the Niarchos family and Pascal Bary. She won another five at three before losing her unbeaten record in her final race, the Jacques le Marois, when as an odds-on shot she was fourth to Dubawi. Heard of him?

It took Earthlight all his time to see off one of three Royal Ascot juvenile winners in the field. Frankie Dettori had jumped off one, A’Ali, the Norfolk and subsequent Robert Papin winner, trained by Simon Crisford in favour of Mark Johnston’s filly Raffle Prize who had followed her Queen Mary success with another emphatic victory in the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes.

The leading pair came clear with Raffle Prize showing great resolution, only just failing to match the now four-time winning colt. A’Ali was only fifth, behind Richmond Stakes winner Golden Horde and Arizona who could not improve on his Coventry Stakes victory. Apart from doubts about the various beaten horses being suited by the ground, this was a race that probably took a fair bit of potential juice from the Gimcrack and Lowther later this week at York.

After spending much of her time acting almost as a lady-in-waiting to her more celebrated stable-companion Enable in various major races, Coronet is starting to earn her own headlines and it was a typically workmanlike effort that earned her a second Group 1 in the Prix Jean Romanet. She will be a priceless broodmare for Prince Faisal Salman’s Denford Stud.

Earlier in the summer Hughie Morrison seemed to be intent on forging a mile and a half career for his Melbourne Cup runner-up Marmelo, but that seems to have been if not abandoned, put to one side. After an agonising and even more irritating nose second last time at Longchamp a month ago when he should have been awarded the race, he was in France again for the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay yesterday and, under Christophe Soumillon, was back in his comfort zone.

That was Marmelo’s twelfth run in France and apart from a fifth to Coronet in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud over a mile and a half (her first Group 1) in late June, he has only once more finished out of the first two and that was a third three years ago.

 - TS

Monday Musings: Of Missed Opportunity

The portents were not good on Saturday morning for the trip to meet a couple of pals at Ascot for the Shergar Cup, writes Tony Stafford. There are three routes I can take: through town, around the North Circular Road or, if the tank is full, around the northern portion of the M25.

The phone didn’t help, best route through town avoiding accident on the M25. I ignored it – not telling my wife who when in the car insists on my sticking to what it tells even when I know every wrinkle between here, Ascot and pretty much every other course in the south-east.

So I set off down the A12 past the Olympic Velodrome and on to Redbridge roundabout, a name which more often than not reminds me that Jessie J, the singer, started out in that borough as Jessica Cornish. Honestly, it does!

This Saturday, the signs told us, but not until we were almost on the big roundabout that joins the North Circular and M11 (leads to M25), that road works were starting that morning and lasting for more than two weeks. Cheers, that and accidents. Without the wrinkles I’d never get there in time for the early start.

With the local knowledge, past the new development of the former Denham Film Studios – must look at a show flat if I’ve the time one day – I just about made it. As soon as I arrived, it was obvious that Shergar Cup day still draws in the crowds. Just as evident was how many young people were there. Possibly most were attracted by the post-racing concert with its trio of attractions (more later) but as the first of the six contests with horses running in four team colours and in distinguishing caps got under way the excitement was palpable. You can talk about the potential ills of gambling but when people not accustomed to being in a betting environment have the chance to have a wager on a live horse race with all the motion and colours, and maybe collect, a switch seems to be turned on.

For me, though, there was one great wrong. John Gosden has been mopping up the Group 1 races for fun this summer, almost without exception with Frankie Dettori’s rekindled genius assisting. The winners would not have garnered anything like the publicity for the trainer and their owners without the Italian’s part in events.

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How then, bearing in mind the trainer’s obvious love of publicity, did he not manage to understand what a difference it would have made to the Shergar Cup if in this year of all years Dettori was allowed off games at Haydock or wherever to bolster this always-quirky day on the greatest of all UK stages?

Frankie is the uncrowned King of Ascot, from the seven in a day more than 20 years ago to the four-timer that had the bookies panic-stricken at the Royal meeting in June, to Enable’s consecutive epic King Georges.

But Gosden had much more important matters in his mind. On Saturday morning Dettori was booked for a single mount at Haydock, where the ground was already very testing. He was to ride Cambridgeshire winner Wissahickon in the Group 3 Rose of Lancaster Stakes, a decent race but one hardly of earth-shattering importance.

Wissahickon was a 5-1 morning-price second favourite behind even-money Addeybb, a mudlark who duly won comfortably for William Haggas. What happened to Wissahickon? Nothing. He was taken out because of unsuitable ground – hardly a shock that it was going to be unsuitable.

Instead, Frankie turned up at Chelmsford City, again for a single ride on the Gosden-trained Lady Lawyer, a 90-rated, thrice-raced and dual previous winner who collected £30k for getting home first in a 0-105 handicap, presumably to the joy of the throng at what Derek Thompson always describes as “Essex’s Premier Racecourse”. Hope he was there doing his routine day-long broadcast for the fans. He undoubtedly will have got a few words out of the great jockey.

But what a publicity opportunity wasted. The cheering crowds back at Ascot who celebrated Hayley Turner’s second successive Silver Saddle triumph by coming out top on points among the 12 riders in four teams, would have been ecstatic at seeing the elusive Mr D.

He won’t be around for much longer and John Gosden should have been instrumental in letting him off for the day. He’s happy to use Rab Havlin, Nicky Mackay and Kieran O’Neill on top-class horses on many occasions. What was so different this weekend? Certainly in terms of top-class racing, there was nothing to stand in the way, save Big Johnny G.

The Ascot fans were happy enough even in the wind and the occasional sudden squalls of drenching rain which caused gaggles of dressed-for-summer young ladies dashing for cover. As ever they were accoutred for Royal Ascot, mostly minus hats of course, the track perennially magnetic thanks to its reputation for style and class.

After Saturday, though, I fear there will be more than a few of that particular gathering that will have gone home less than satisfied at the return of 50% of their admittance fee because the windy weather caused the abandonment of the concert. Coincidentally, top billing among three featured stars was none other than Jessie J, latterly a judge on one of the best-known talent shows on television and a big recording star in her own right.

Apparently the setting up of the stage at the site of the Old Paddock, now a verdant open space and wide open to the elements once the temporary extra Royal meeting stands are taken away, was much too dangerous to be used.

In earlier years I recall that the stage had been nearer the bandstand, scene of the post-racing “Hits from the First World War” sing-along that always has its share of enthusiastic and youthful devotees, often belting out the wrong words, not that it matters. Had the concert been based there, it might have been less exposed, but it certainly was windy on Saturday!

If the concert had gone ahead I might have stopped by to try to have a word with Ms J to tell her that if she planned to visit her family over the next couple of weeks to use the Central Line. Every rush hour, morning and night, that junction is a nightmare. I’ll have to tie a knot in a handkerchief – who uses handkerchiefs these days? Not me! I’ll need to because, true to form, my mental automatic pilot kicked in and at 6 p.m. there I was at the same spot, swearing at the delay!

Monday evening will be a rare occurrence for the Raymond Tooth team with TWO runners – unfortunately in the same race at Wolverhampton. Say Nothing and Waterproof are in a field of 11. What can I tell you? Not a lot.

Monday Musings: Poet-ic Justice

When the seven-year-old gelding One Cool Poet approached the finish of his second-ever steeplechase at Tipperary on July 21 it is unlikely that his owners, the DRFG Partnership, or trainer Matthew J Smith, who operates from Kilmessan, Co Meath, would have envisaged what the next two weeks might bring, writes Tony Stafford.

After the final fence at Tipperary, the seven-year-old, contesting his 29th career race (one win first time as a three-year-old in 2015) looked sure to double that score. Then the J P McManus colours, sported by the Gordon Elliott-trained and Davy Russell-ridden Touch Base loomed up, caught him close home and beat him half a length.

With nine runs over hurdles and a fair number of places from them, some imminent further Summer jumping looked the order of the day, but Smith and the owners chose a different tack and by Saturday evening had collected three first prizes, all in handicaps, to light up the Galway Festival.

For many years the clash between Goodwood and Galway has been an irritation for me. Until around ten years ago, work compelled me to attend Goodwood and while it’s something of a habit nowadays, I still go. Not that a disappointing drowning first day on Tuesday, dovetailing with other newer requirements caused me to question whether I might be better served trying a couple of days for the first time at Galway in 2020. If I can see my way clear!

Before detailing last week, it might be interesting to see how One Cool Poet arrived at where he was as Galway approached. Unconventionally, he started life on the Flat in Arthur Moore’s predominantly jumps yard, running three times at two, starting 66-1 on all three occasions with the same owners as now.

It’s a pity I didn’t listen to Fran Berry’s comments on Racing TV as it was he that rode him first time out and then again on his three-year-old bow when he started only 8-1 and won nicely. The rest of that year brought very little, one second place in five runs, and there was a gap of 839 days before he showed up with Matthew J for a couple of outings early in 2018.

The interesting part came later in the year when from August 9th to November 6th he ran ten times in 110 days, busy enough, switching competently (apart from winning) between Flat, including once on the all-weather at Dundalk, and hurdles and collecting six places. That established his Flat mark at 62 and hurdles 40lb higher.

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Between October 13th and 29th he ran in three Flat handicaps, earning good places in big fields the last twice, almost serving an audition for the following year’s hyper-activity.

November 6th 2018, a two and a half mile handicap hurdle, was the date of his final run and another 218 days elapsed before he returned, lined up for an initial chase over 2m5f at Punchestown. Two more decent Flat runs followed, places at Leopardstown and Limerick, before the near miss at Tipperary.

Then came Galway. There was plenty of money for him as he lined up on Tuesday for a surely- inadequate eight and a half furlong 0-70 handicap under Billy Lee, but he brought him fast and late to beat Emphatic by a neck. Two days later, under 6lb extra (72) he was delivered by Lee to similar effect this time over a mile and a half and with, if I can say so, a more emphatic margin of one and a half lengths.

So to Saturday, now with 12lb more than the first win, which would surely anchor him, especially with Aidan and Joseph O’Brien both having fancied runners. The highly unlikely hat-trick proved almost routine as he romped to by far the easiest win of the three. This time it was five lengths and after coursing the field into the straight, he bounded away and was back on the bridle, easing up before the finish.

Now he can expect a rise in his mark to around 84, but maybe connections might not be too worried, as he stands as a maiden over hurdles and fences on a mark of 102, when an 84 rating might normally equate to 130. So just the two stone in hand!

I hadn’t heard much about Matthew J Smith, except to understand that anyone clever enough to plan such a feat would know the time of day as so many under-patronised trainers do, especially in Ireland.

Even with the three wins last week, Smith has only four successes from his 19 runs on the Flat and two from 22 over jumps in the present season. Nine wins in the previous jumps campaign was his best, and he’s never sent out more than four Flat winners in a year. Just watching that race on Saturday was the biggest pleasure of the week for me.

*

The best part of Goodwood, contrastingly, was the performance of Charlie Hills. I couldn’t add up the number of times that otherwise knowledgeable racing people have told me he couldn’t train. Where did that come from?

Starting in 2012 and taking over from his legendary father Barry, he knocked out a first Classic winner the following spring when Just the Judge won the Irish 1,000 Guineas and if he doesn’t quite have the bite and sharpness of Barry, he is constantly courteous and helpful to the media, while the results speak volumes.

His handling of the former handful that is Battaash was shown to have been a battle overwhelmingly won when that reformed character won a third King George Stakes without a semblance of worry last week. Further cracks at the Nunthorpe and Abbaye loom with Blue Point safely out the way.

A nice winner for Prince Khalid Abdullah followed on Thursday with a maiden filly, Vividly, but Saturday was his; first with a dominant performance by Khaadem in the Hamdan colours making a mockery of the Stewards’ Cup’s reputation as an “impossible” handicap and then perhaps a more interesting result with another juvenile winner.

This time it was first-time-out scorer Persuasion in the purple silks of Mrs Susan Roy. He won the always-competitive seven-furlong maiden with a strong finish. Persuasion is the second juvenile colt following Fleeting Prince that has won since being sent from Jeremy Noseda’s stable upon the sudden retirement of the former trainer.

One thing Paul and Susan Roy might not have expected was the starting price of the son of Acclamation, which returned – like Vividly – 16/1. In the Noseda days, any well-regarded first-time juvenile inevitably had that expectation reflected in the market. The Lambourn secret service is not quite so effective it would seem as Newmarket’s and especially Shalfleet’s.

As to Khaadem, he was paying a very big compliment to the German five-year-old Waldpfad, who beat him in the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury. His connections have the option of the Hungerford over seven furlongs at Newbury on Saturday week or the 32 Red Sprint Cup over six at Haydock next month. - TS

Monday Musings: The Have’s and Have Not’s

We all know horse racing is about the haves and the have nots, writes Tony Stafford. Saturday’s epic King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (sponsored by Qipco) was not so much the ultimate day out for the haves but also a contest after which everyone lucky enough to see it in the flesh, or even I would imagine on television, would have their enthusiasm for the sport at its purest rekindled.

Sir Mark Prescott came out in print recently saying that when riders transgress the whip rules, the horse they ride should be disqualified. That’s an opinion I share.

Often it’s in the most valuable races that those excesses proliferate, where two horses are going head to head as Crystal Ocean and his conqueror Enable did throughout the last couple of furlongs at Ascot on Saturday.

It is in such circumstances, the apologists for non-disqualification aver, that it is almost inevitable said jockeys would need to exceed the permitted levels, whatever they might be at the time.

I can’t really vouch for James Doyle who, on the rail with the whip in his right hand certainly made a number of such motions, pretty much hidden from the camera, but the impression was that it was in no way excessive.

Meanwhile Frankie Dettori on Enable was in full view from the stands and the cameras and held the whip in his left hand throughout. Technically, the “whip in wrong hand” accusation which was generally used in times gone by to indicate and possibly determine blame in the event of movement to left or right, applied to both jockeys in this case.

The fact that no question cropped up is because the brave Crystal Ocean and impossibly brave, talented, brilliant and durable Enable never deviated from the straight.

In a year where Dettori has been clocking up Group 1 wins for fun all around Europe for most of the summer, I wish to commend this as the ride of the season. Not for his strength in a long-drawn-out battle, but for his sympathetic steering. Enable was given a single – that’s right, just one – firm back-hander early in the tussle and then the Italian was content to use the whip solely as an agent for rhythm. Perfection!

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There was also an admirable performance in third by the Andre Fabre-trained Waldgeist who plugged on gallantly clear of the rest to be less than two lengths behind the principals, once again showing his quality for owners Gestut Ammerland and Newsells Park stud.

On this showing Messrs Gosden and Dettori, and Sir Michael Stoute and Doyle, offered nothing short of the ultimate in top-class competition.

Early last week, though, the Ayr stewards showed the one rule for the rich (the haves) and another for the poor (have-nots) is alive and well in less glamorous circles. After a lowly 46-65 mile handicap, the stewards investigated the riding of winning jockey Paul Hanagan on Rosemay and 7lb claimer Rhona Pindar on the neck runner-up Betty Grable.

Unfortunately, on the day there was a fault from the course which prevented any of the races being broadcast live either in betting shops or on Racing TV. They were shown later in the replay that evening and the following morning, but are still unavailable on the internet.

There was (and still is) little indication from either the post-race comments or analysis in Racing Post that anything was amiss, the winner  being  asked to make an effort two furlongs out and being driven out to win. The second led over one out, was headed, rallied and held close home.

But the stewards, in their wisdom, found that Ms Pindar, a veteran of just over one hundred career rides and nine wins, had not taken sufficient action to prevent her mount, a five-year-old mare, from drifting into another runner in the straight, awarding her a three-day ban, which Betty Grable’s trainer Wilf Storey described as excessive and somewhat petty.

For Hanagan’s part, he also picked up a ban, in his case only two days. Yet the reason for his ban was  that he had struck his horse throughout the final furlong from above the permitted height, possibly to my (and Wilf’s point of view) a more heinous crime even than numerical excess.

Hanagan, twice a champion jockey, has ridden 1,966 domestic winners. It seems there is a cosy assumption that the best-known are allowed plenty of leeway while those starting out on the difficult path of trying to emulate their heroes can expect to be treated with a lack of sympathy.

This needs to be addressed.

I think whenever young riders start out they should be shown the film of the finish to Saturday’s big race. Of course very few horses develop the willingness to battle as demonstrated so graphically by Enable.

Some questioned whether the race will have “bottomed” her but no outside agent will have contributed to any energy drain. The way she instantly quickened to join the leaders at the start of the straight having been left somewhat out on a limb after a sluggish start from a wide draw certainly got Simon Holt excited.

The now-veteran, a racecourse rather than TV commentator these days after his long stint on Channel Four, got more entranced by the contest as the line approached. “She’ll win her second King George. What a race! That was a horse race!” Holt said, his voice breaking with emotion.

Many recalled (mostly by repute) the Grundy/Bustino clash and their uncannily-similar King George epic from 1975. Holt remembers it and so did John Sexton, given leave of absence from the North Lancashire coast where he does some presenting work at Cartmel, for yesterday’s final stage of the extended Go Racing in Yorkshire week that ended at Pontefract.

Big John, one time President of the Horserace Writers and Photographers Association retains his love of the sport and he shared it with, among others, John Dyson, a close friend of Robin O’Ryan (brother of late lamented Tom) and a supporter of the Richard Fahey stable which won yesterday’s opener with Pop Dancer.

Dyson had been chatting with me before the first race and when the conversation on the table where we were having a coffee turned to football, he said his brother used to play for Spurs in their double year of 1960-61.

I resisted: “Still waiting”, instead learning that his brother, now 84 and living in Stevenage, is former winger Terry Dyson. The Dysons came from Malton and Terry, he told me, is one of only four surviving members of the double team and the only Spurs player ever to score a hat-trick against Arsenal in a League match.

- TS

Monday Musings: (No) Luck on Saturday

As you will know, regular reader, I love a hard-luck story, especially when I’ve participated in any way in such sorry tale, writes Tony Stafford. One happened on Saturday, at Newbury racecourse, 135 miles from my vantage point in the owners’ room on the July Course at Newmarket.

I think of both tracks as somewhat “local”, East London being a few miles nearer the latter than the former, and much less tricky to get to if the M11 behaves, as it did last week.

I’d had a good look at the day’s umpteen meetings beforehand and settled on a single prime prospect, a five-year-old mare trained by Ian Williams, called Pure Shores. She’d been transported to France the previous time in the quest for some Listed black type, but came up short. Earlier she was very unlucky in a race at Newmarket and looked pretty well in off 79 (actually had to run off 80) at Newbury.

In the event, she was to go through seven furlongs and 218 yards of the one mile race looking sure to win only to fall foul of a twice-exhibited Saturday Newbury phenomenon, the Rod Millman effect, in the last stride.

Just over an hour earlier, Millman’s family-owned three grand yearling buy, Bettys Hope, fulfilled the original intention of the Weatherbys Super Sprint, which was designed to give cheap auction purchases the chance to joust for a big-money prize. She needed to get everything right to overcome 23 rivals, the next three home all trained by race expert Richard Fahey (won three of the previous six).

Silvestre De Sousa and his ability to ride light, 8st4lb in this case, were the right ingredients and the reigning champion delivered her fast and late to beat Fahey’s Showcasing filly, Show Me Show Me, by a head. The favourite, Venture Rebel, runner-up in the Norfolk Stakes, was only fourth.

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For some of the afternoon I chewed the fat with a couple of very nice Irish ladies, Caragh Burns-Sharma and her mother Patricia Burns, there to watch Patricia’s filly Skill Set run in the fillies’ Listed Aphrodite Stakes from Henry Candy’s stable.

Caragh is the grand-daughter of Paddy Burns, legendary owner of Lodge Park Stud and, never shy of related ancient history, I told them I’d had a minor part to play – in the days before my inevitable fall-out (my fault) with Jim Bolger – when I suggested John Reid as a suitable replacement jockey when the ride on the family’s Park Express became available. Declan Gillespie had ridden her in her two-year-old days but I cannot recollect the exact circumstances when she was going over to Haydock for the Lancashire Oaks in 1986 why the vacancy had occurred.

Patricia told me that Paddy and her then husband Seamus came from the same area as John Reid, so once he got on the filly he retained the ride and the partnership was so successful that at the end of her three-year-old season she was the highest-rated Irish-trained horse of either sex on 123.

More fame was to follow as at Lodge Park Stud she produced many high-class racehorses, none more brilliant than the 2008 Derby winner New Approach, which not-too-coincidentally is the name of Caragh’s career planning business, started in 2007, the year of New Approach’s spectacular unbeaten two-year-old season.

By the time she produced New Approach, Park Express had become totally blind and he was equipped with a bell so his mother could find him in the paddock. Park Express has another distinction, being the dam of Alluring Park, mother of the five million guineas world record-breaking 2012 Tattersalls book 1 yearling filly Al Naamah, as well as four other million-plus sales including  that year’s Oaks winner, Was, the principal reason for that record buy for Al Shaqab .

The Burns’s didn’t have any luck at Newmarket, and neither at Newbury did Fergus Anstock, owner-breeder of Pure Shores, who was nosed out of victory in the British EBF Premier Fillies’ Handicap over a mile, denied by Jimmy Quinn’s persistence on Sufficient – but only just: well named, you might say.

As with Bettys Hope, Rod Millman had found another jockey to ride at 8st4lb and it was the weight-for-age allowance that denied the runner-up and caused my rapid departure to the car to catch up with events at Royal Portrush.

So poor old Fergus, but then, it’s not all bad. Fergus, once a senior lawyer at the Bank of East Asia Group in Hong Kong, honed his interest in racing in the former colony. He relocated to Buckinghamshire where he founded the Kathryn Stud, with an official start date of July 13th 2007, two days before New Approach’s eye-opening winning debut on The Curragh.

Four years ago, he consigned a filly by Dubawi out of the 105-rated Listed winner Polly’s Mark to Tatts Book 1 and she realised 700,000 guineas. After four disappointing runs for Godolphin she was back in the same ring 21 months later and Fergus re-acquired her for 30 grand! Since then Ian Williams has guided her to three wins. I make it Fergus is a few quid in front.

On a more prosaic note, Sod’s Law got back to action with a staying-on third at Nottingham in a first try at a mile and  a quarter and might even get a bit further in time, according to Dane O’Neill. Hughie Morrison, his ever-patient trainer, said: “Like the rest of the family, he’s thick. He’s four and still doesn’t really know how to race.” Hopefully he’s getting there and if we get some nice late summer and autumn rain, maybe he’ll be adding to last year’s two wins.

Say Nothing is on target for Newmarket on Friday night, but the 0-75 three-year-old only race looks to be infested with a number of winners that hardly seem to have been over-burdened whereas she, a maiden, probably is. With Apres Le Deluge having a year off up at Hedgeholm stud, it’s likely going to be a quiet winter for Ray Tooth, but you never know. Ask Fergus!

Monday Musings: Of Tens and Sovereigns

Aidan O’Brien wins July Cup again, writes Tony Stafford. Of course he does, and we know what the process is, don’t we? Ten Sovereigns on Saturday became number five, 20 years on from the first – Stravinsky – in 1999 and once again it was the case of another near miss in the 2,000 Guineas, drop back to sprinting and there you go!

Except it wasn’t. Indeed Ten Sovereigns is actually the only one of the winning quintet to have run in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Last year’s hero US Navy Flag contested both the French (Poulains) and Irish 2,000 before his triumph and The Curragh was also Mozart’s path in 2001, second prior to winning the Jersey Stakes at Ascot before the July Cup and Nunthorpe wins ensured the sprint championship.

The Jersey (fourth place) was also Stravinsky’s route to the top, and that race was Saturday’s creditable fifth So Perfect’s Royal assignment too. She was possibly one of the worse sufferers of interference at the entire meeting when well back last month, but showed again on Saturday that further success awaits her.

That is equally true of third-placed Fairyland who had filled the same position in the 1,000 Guineas and was latterly only three lengths fifth behind the now retired Blue Point in the King’s Stand over five furlongs at Ascot.

Those four O’Brien July Cup winners were all three-year-olds, whereas Starspangledbanner (2010) was a Southern Hemisphere-bred four-year-old sent to Ballydoyle with the specific aim of adding European Group One success to his Down Under achievements in the same way as Merchant Navy did last year in the Diamond Jubilee.

Of the quintet, you have to say Ten Sovereigns was probably the best of the bunch as he needed to be to claw back two and a half lengths on Advertise on their running together in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot. Advertise was Saturday’s favourite, under Frankie Dettori, but this time Ryan Moore had his revenge, sending Ten Sovereigns to the front from the start and seeing off his rival with a telling burst up the hill.

The margin of almost three lengths had the trainer setting his sights on the Nunthorpe rather than Haydock’s six furlong Group 1 later in the season and I’d much rather see that course being taken. Haydock in September is liable to offer soft ground and Ten Sovereigns clearly bounced off the July Course’s fast ground on Saturday.

Aidan had been talking earlier in the week of a piece of work when Ten Sovereigns managed four consecutive furlongs under 11 seconds. How does he know? Well, a timer-tracking system accompanies every Ballydoyle inmate throughout their work schedule. No wonder he thought the colt might be winning.

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Ten Sovereigns’ return to top-level success was another triumph for sire No Nay Never, a son of Scat Daddy and now the potential successor and indeed effective replacement for that ill-fated stallion.

His early success is bound to polarise his progeny more into the Coolmore set-up in much the way that Galileo’s initial achievements priced his later offerings out of reach of the work-a-day trainers and their owners. Gleneagles’ son Royal Lytham’s battling success in Thursday’s Tattersalls July Stakes probably ensures a similar process might already be under way for that 2,000 Guineas-winning son of the great sire.

When Dettori unleashed the odds-on Visinari into the lead on the outside of his field after halfway, I was expecting a triumphal march up the hill. Anyone who read my comments after his debut win on the same course last month will realise that as well as the Mark Johnston team, and a horde of clock-watchers, I would not have countenanced defeat.

Hopefully that initial excellence might be revealed again at Goodwood over seven furlongs, but here a dual pincer move by Royal Lytham (far side) and Platinum Star (Saeed Bin Suroor) denied the favourite by a short head and a head.

Ten Sovereigns had been the principal Ballydoyle 2000 Guineas hope over the winter and Japan held a similar position in Derby betting. Stamina fears were always evident with Ten Sovereigns. The problem for Japan was an interrupted preparation and that was palpably obvious when he made the last possible return with a running-on, never in contention five lengths fourth to Telecaster in the Dante Stakes.

Epsom probably came a week too soon, for despite a brave late run, he could do no better than third to stable-mate Anthony Van Dyck in the five-horse (four O’Brien) battle across the line.

His King Edward VII romp at Ascot, generally regarded as one of the outstanding performances of the week, probably manoeuvred him to the top of the stable’s middle-distance team, and yesterday’s slightly-underwhelming but never-in-doubt win in the Grand Prix de Paris kept him there.

Anthony Van Dyck and his shock Irish Derby-conquering stablemate, Sovereign, are due to do battle with Enable in the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday week when another possible re-alignment might become apparent. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Sovereign were to maintain his advantage over the Epsom champion, while it will be tough for either to unseat Enable.

At a lower level, I continue to believe that sometimes things happen around me out of proportion to their mathematical likelihood. Take for example an incident in the owners’ dining room at Newmarket on Friday.

A chap I’d seen many times but had never troubled anyone to identify, came up to me and asked if he could borrow my Racing Post. Naturally I was happy to concur and when he returned it a few minutes later, as Damon Runyon might have said, “A story comes with it”.

The man, beginning by identifying himself as Michael O’Hagan – “I work for Al Basti Equiworld, who sponsor the owners’ room”. I said I knew that and he went on. “Mr Al Basti owns only one stallion, Intrinsic.” Again I interrupted and said: “I know, his picture is on the wall behind us <a good-looking horse, too> and I saw him earlier in the year at Hedgeholm Stud”.

Michael went on. “Well a few minutes ago I found a ten pound note on the floor and asked around but nobody claimed it so it was suggested to me I had a bet with it. I asked them for a number, somebody said number four, I backed it – and drew £81.

“Then blow me down if that wasn’t Veracious, winner of the Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes, and she’s a half-sister to Intrinsic, who won the Stewards’ Cup!” Intrinsic’s first runners are due to arrive on the track fairly soon and Andrew Spalding, boss of Hedgeholm, likes what he’s seen.

Peter Ashworth was with me during both conversations and on the way home told his sister Jacqueline about the story. She said: “I lost a £10 note right by the Tote” and the following day when I saw Michael O’Hagan again, related that to him.

In his skilled way he went across to the table where Ms Ashmore and her mother Elizabeth were sitting and asked if he could join them. He quickly offered to show them a magic trick and between the pages of his racecard, produced a tenner! Nice touch, Michael.

Monday Musings: The Magician of Muggleswick

How easy is it to buy a winner? More specifically, how easy is it to go to a yearling sale, outbid all the other potential owners and their agents and have the satisfaction of winning a race with that horse long before most of the others in that sale have made the track?, asks Tony Stafford.

Maybe you need to prioritise? There’s Tattersall’s with its four volumes of the October sale; there’s Goff’s in Ireland and Doncaster, there’s Arqana and many more. Like finding if not a needle in a haystack, a gem in a bucket full of plain glass.

So let’s say we’re quite busy, we have a few quid to spend but as everyone will tell you, the cost of bloodstock especially in the UK, considering the low level of prize money - about to go even lower – is astronomical.

One owner who did choose to specialise last year was a certain A D Spence, still reasonably flush after the deal which took his top sprinter Profitable to Godolphin a few years ago. Alan restricted his yearling buying to the first two books of the Tatts October. Before the inevitable erosion in the build-up to last year’s sale, 517 yearlings were listed in Book 1 and 804 in Book 2. Alan, having as ever done his own sleuthing, ended up with a perfectly-symmetrical result, a colt and a filly each from both auctions.

The quartet was entrusted with his three principal Flat-race trainers; two with Profitable’s handler Clive Cox, and one each with Mark Johnston and Roger Varian. He retained 100% of two and is joined in the other pair by son Michael.

In a year when the average price for any of 392 eventually sold from Book 1 was just over 270,000gns, Alan went to 78,000gns for a son of first crop stallion and former sprint champion Muhaarar and then possibly “stole” an Australia colt from the family of Alexandra Goldrun for 37,000gns, which considering Coolmore’s fee for a cover this year is Euro 35k suggests value in extreme.

From Book 2, where the average for the eventual 631 sales was just under 77k, Alan’s two buys, a Dutch Art colt for 55k and a filly from the first crop of Golden Horn (95k) meant he spent roughly on par for that sale, averaging out the two.

In no way, though, were purchase prices on a par with the stallion averages. More than 20 of the Golden Horn’s realised more than 100k with a maximum half a million plus.

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What stands out, though, is that when West End Girl, trained by Johnston and owned in partnership by father and son, went to Haydock last week, she became her sire’s first winner. That workmanlike display, suggesting elements of Golden Horn’s own style of racing, immediately upgraded the stallion. The ability to get winning two-year-olds will increase his appeal at the next round of sales in the autumn.

Dutch Art has long been a horse capable of siring winners, but Cheveley Park Stud was having problems with his fertility earlier in the year. In Positive, though, the stallion has a young horse which could go to the top, if his debut run and trainer’s opinion have any relevance.

Touted before his Salisbury debut last month, Positive got messed about in his race, being carted almost the width of the track by a hanging rival before extricating himself. Once clear of trouble he galloped to a five-length win after which Cox suggested he was up there with the best of his.

The two Book 1 buys have yet to win: indeed Establish, by Australia, will not appear before August according to Roger Varian. Star In The Making, though, could be just that. The Muhaarar filly was an eye-catching second to a Godolphin newcomer at Windsor, in a race where a King Power runner who cost 600k as a yearling finished third.

It’s not as though Alan Spence got them for nothing, but for an investment of less than half the cost of King Power’s Kodiac filly, he could easily have acquired at least one horse capable of keeping him in competition at the top level.

Who’d have thought when I bought my first horse, Charlie Kilgour, from him 37 years ago – cost £1,000 and won and was sold two runs later! - he would have still been around. Clever man, is A D Spence and a very nice one.

Talking of nice men, I’ve yet to meet a better one than Wilf Storey, who I first encountered a year or two after the Charlie Kilgour episode.
I’ve related in this feature a time or two about his and my frustrations that the Racing Club we planned never got off the ground. Despite the help of this website’s owner, the aim to sell 20 shares in six horses at what even now looks a ridiculously cheap price proved impossible.

Two of the six were quickly passed on to Tony Carroll, who won three races (two hurdles) and collected a Triumph Hurdle fourth with Nelson River, while French Kiss also showed promise. Adrakhan was sold and Climax has had to be put down because of injury, but in deepest Durham something stirred.

Betty Grable, always thought to be decent by Stella Storey, has clicked this year with three wins and two second places, the last of them at Carlisle on Saturday night when Rhona Pindar told Wilf she didn’t enjoy the fast ground.

Down and out with owners near-enough impossible to attract – he even tried giving away half shares in Betty for FREE after her first win this year with no response – the gallop either washed away or under inches of snow, Wilf feared for the worst, especially when Stella, his right hand, needed hospital treatment.

It was a long slow road back. We’d advertised the sextet in the wake of Wilf’s best ever year after 40 years with a licence in terms of wins (11) and prize money. Last year it was down to two and half the money, seemingly a terminal decline.
But then came a mild winter, unlike last year when he and his older daughter Fiona were having daily to collect dead lambs with the ewes unable to cope with the extreme conditions. The gallop was still intermittently unusable, but by dancing delicately around it, and Stella restored to full health, the winners have started again.
Betty set the pace and then geegeez.co.uk deservedly enjoyed a nice win with the still-developing Nearly There, not one of the Racing Club team. Maybe the most significant upturn of all came also at Carlisle on Saturday, in the shape of one of the most spectacular wins I’ve seen this year. If you don’t believe me look at the film.

Of course the Racing Post had to preface its comments with the observation this “very modest handicap” even though some of the also-rans had marks in the high 60’s. There are plenty of 0-55’s you can point to, Racing Post.

What was remarkable was that Tarnhelm, forced, with two other out-of-training fillies to vegetate in a snow-bound paddock for the first few months of last year, finally got her act together more than two years after running a highly-promising second at Goodwood in Ray Tooth’s colours for Mark Johnston.

On Saturday, with injury problems finally behind her and dropping back to six furlongs, she was very slowly away. Tarnhelm was still last inside the final two furlongs from which point she and Ms Pindar sluiced through the field, winning by more than two lengths at 20/1.
Now Wilf has five for the season, can hope for another with Tarnhelm back unpenalised at Carlisle on Thursday, and has a number of others in his seven-horse team primed to win. Who says he won’t beat his best? Nice guys can come out on top, it’s just never easy!

- TS

Monday Musings: Ballydoyle Baffles via Beggy

When is a pacemaker not a pacemaker? Sound like a M&S food ad? Well, the analogy is fair enough. A pacemaker is not a pacemaker when it’s an Aidan O’Brien pacemaker in the Irish Derby, writes Tony Stafford.

In a year when no English stable even bothered to challenge for any of the €1.5 million available, it was left to five O’Brien colts and three others trained in Ireland, respectively by Messrs Bolger, Prendergast and Weld – combined age 234, average 78 – to pitch up for the prize.

When you consider the Investec Derby, with its seven O’Brien runners in a field of 13, contained only four representatives of the home team, maybe it’s not so surprising. Two, Bangkok and Telecaster, both backed to stem the Irish tide, finished in the last two places.

Telecaster, fast-tracked to the race after three spring runs, will be biding his time, but Bangkok reappeared quickly at Royal Ascot and chased home impressive winner Japan in the King Edward VII Stakes.

Japan had been the least “seasoned” among the Ballydoyle septet after a spring setback, but suggested firmly at York in Telecaster’s Dante that he would be getting there. His close up third at Epsom in a five-horse (four Aidan) finish that amounted in total to less than a length, and subsequent Ascot victory, suggests he might be the best of this particular bunch.

So why didn’t we see any of the other three English also-rans? Well Humanitarian, a 33-1 shot from the Gosden stable – does that tell us enough? –  went with Japan and Bangkok to Ascot but ran a regressive seventh.

Line of Duty, who had beaten Anthony Van Dyck, the Derby winner, when they met at the Breeders’ Cup last year, was a modest ninth at Epsom. He might go to the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday. Epsom fifth, and favourite, Sir Dragonet, and sixth-home Circus Maximus, who memorably reverted to a mile when winning the St James’ Palace Stakes at Ascot, are also liable to pitch up there as a sidebar to Enable’s return to action.

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The last UK-trained Derby runner was John Ryan’s Hiroshima, the outsider of the field. Even a mark of 93 (raised from 87 after his 11th at Epsom) was too severe as he ran tenth of 11 in the Magners Ulster Derby, a three-year-old handicap at Down Royal, next time.

I’ve asked the question before. Where have all the stamina-bred colts gone?  If you scour the pages of Horses in Training 2019 as I often do, there seems to be if not an abundance, certainly a quorum – enough for a debate at any rate.

So it’s left to Aidan. With its massive prize of €855,000 to Saturday’s winner, it is incumbent on someone to guarantee a decent pace and, as at Epsom, that fell to Padraig Beggy and Sovereign. An early scrimmage there meant they didn’t get to the front for a furlong and faded in the straight to tenth.

At The Curragh, with Norway (eighth at Epsom) they set a joint pace strong enough to take an immediate four lengths out of the field with Anthony Van Dyck in the next pair. By the five-furlong mark, that had stretched with Anthony Van Dyck now several lengths behind third-running Guaranteed.

Sovereign and Beggy, to everyone’s surprise kept up the gallop to such a degree that Norway was burnt off with two to run as the favourite and Madhmoon, just touched off in second at Epsom, and surely a last Derby hope for 87-year-old Kevin Prendergast, set off in pursuit.

It proved all in vain, Sovereign maintaining a six-length margin over the favourite and Norway just holding Madhmoon for third on the line. So routine have O’Brien Group 1 one-two-three finishes become that the commentators didn’t bother to record this one but the partners, who maybe had hoped that Anthony Van Dyck might embellish his record, still won the race and a cool €1.3million as consolation.

The day before the Derby, Joseph O’Brien sent out last year’s winner Latrobe for the Group 2 Curragh Cup and the four-year-old was just out-battled by the Jim Bolger-trained Twilight Payment. Previously he was only fourth in the Listed Wolferton Stakes, although that race is overdue Pattern status and possibly even Group 2 given the class of the participants.

Friday’s defeat made it eight unsuccessful runs for Latrobe since the Lloyd Williams-owned four-year-old’s day in the sun last June. That is by no means exceptional for recent Irish Derby heroes, although the manner of Sovereign’s eye-opening success suggests he might become an exception to that recent example.

Some of the earlier among Aidan’s 13 Derby winners were superstars in the manner of Galileo. But since Camelot in 2012 even his two intervening successes, Australia (2014) and Capri (2017) had their disappointments. Australia won at York in the first of only two runs after the Curragh; Capri’s St Leger win was one of two wins from nine runs and he was well beaten in sixth behind Stradivarius at Ascot last month. A career as a Coolmore jumps stallion beckons.

In all, the six winners of the Irish Derby since 2013 have won five of 36 races. Harzand did nothing in two; Jack Hobbs did best of the six, winning the Sheema Classic and September Stakes, but it took him seven races to do that, while ill-fated Trading Leather died as a four-year-old after failing to win in eight post-Derby outings.

So what of the 2019 Investec Derby? We’ve already seen important wins from also-rans Japan and Circus Maximus, and the winner Anthony Van Dyck has a second to Sovereign in another Derby. It’s better than many in recent memory, but Aidan just makes it all so confusing!

And what of Mr Beggy? Two years ago he swooped late on Wings of Eagles to complete a shock long-odds triumph in the Derby. A year ago on Rostropovitch, another rag (25-1), he would probably have caught Latrobe with another few yards to travel as again he went past the stable-preferred Saxon Warrior.

Last year in Ireland he had 24 rides and two wins. Saturday’s victory was his first in nine rides in his homeland in 2019. For someone with so little public exposure, his talent, obvious as a young apprentice, but less so as a result of self-professed inner demons, remains intact while his temperament is unaffected by big-race pressures. Maybe we’ll see a bit more of him from now on.

Monday Musings: Of Black Type and Newsprint

What is it about Frankie Dettori, Ascot racecourse and Magnificent Sevens?, writes Tony Stafford.  On September 28 1996, aged 25, he totally monopolised a single Champions Day (as it was to become) card by riding all seven winners. In the process he bankrupted a number of bookmakers – most vocally the larger-than-life Gary Wiltshire – and caused some extra work for your correspondent.

Between June 18 and 22, 2019, at the peak of the summer solstice and almost exactly twenty-two and a half years later and therefore at almost double the age, the master jockey compiled another seven wins during the five days of Royal Ascot. Thus Dettori gained his first championship at the meeting since 2004, in the days when he was still riding for Godolphin.

Fundamental to the latest extravaganza was Thursday’s opening four-timer, which for one member of a famous racing family, could have been the precursor to potential financial ruin.

Mylo Sangster, grandson of Robert and son of Guy, was part of a group of racing and gambling enthusiasts who started the company Black Type Bet three years ago. Their idealistic aims of providing a service whereby punters could actually get their bets on might well have become compromised in the meantime by the particular issues of the gambling industry, but until Thursday all seemed serene.

Then came Dettori’s 449-1 four-timer, but worse, tons of money running onto Turgenev, his mount in the following Britannia Stakes which caused his starting price to contract to 7-2 in the manner of Fujiyama Crest (2-1 from 12’s), Dettori’s last of seven winners all those years ago.

As Turgenev was sent to the front in the last two furlongs of the 28-runner handicap, the partners of Black Type were quaking in their boots, Sangster relating on Sunday that there had been the potential for a crippling £750k shortfall. As he drew three lengths clear they watched with bated breath, awaiting the coup de grace.

They needed a knight in shining armour, and in Harry Bentley they found one. Riding Biometric, appropriately a son of Bated Breath, in the Khalid Abdullah colours for the Ralph Beckett stable, Bentley brought the 28-1 shot (55-1 on Ascot’s Tote: I know, I backed him, only very small!) from way back to collar Dettori 100 yards from home.

If ever there was an appropriate winner this was it as Bentley is sponsored by, wait for it, Black Type Bet. Talk about earning your fee, I think Harry might well be in line for a nice bonus.

Apparently when seeking a jockey to sponsor, they contacted Johnno Spence, racing’s media fixer supreme and Donald Trump body double – almost! Spence initially suggested Oisin Murphy but when he had already been snapped up, turned to Gentleman Harry with Saturday’s spectacular business-saving result.

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I discovered the Black Type connection with the youthful Mylo – not that it hadn’t been in the public domain since the start – while chatting to his mum Fi at Ascot on Saturday. She put us promptly in touch, possibly as reward for having tipped her Cleonte to win the Queen Alexandra, after which she had no opportunity of doing back her winnings. Mylo revealed he was one of a team of six original start-up execs, a number that has expanded to around 14, of whom he is the main horseracing trader.

Like his older brother Ned, leading light in the Mull of Killough syndicate with Jane Chapple-Hyam a few years ago, he has the Sangster family heritage in racing and indeed punting in full measure. The third generation is carrying on the example of his own father and uncles Ben, Adam, boss of Swettenham stud in Australia, and Sam. His cousin Olli, Ben’s son, looks after the Wesley Ward horses at Manton, the family base now owned by Martin Meade.

At the top I mentioned that Dettori’s 1996 Ascot extravaganza caused me some extra work. I had been commissioned by Pete Burrell, Frankie’s business manager, to write an account of his year in racing in 1996. At the time as a complement to my newspaper responsibilities I was also doing some work with David Loder, then one of Frankie’s major supporters, so came across the jockey quite a lot.

The idea was to write Frankie Dettori – A Year in the Life – as ghost writer. There were some amusing incidents on the way. Often we’d settle down for an hour or so and while I was fresh enough after a normal start, it would nearly always be after a long morning on the gallops for him. It wouldn’t take long for him to look wistfully out the window onto the paddock and say:  “You know what I mean,” leaving it to me to finish the thought in question.

One incident I keep recalling was when early on, for some reason I asked him about his reading habits. He said: “I only ever read one book, Ten <20> Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” Jules Verne would have been horrified that Frankie had managed to navigate only half of it!

Anyway, as the fateful Saturday arrived, Frankie’s book was fully printed and ready to roll for the Christmas market. It had the benefit of a high-powered literary agent, Christopher Little, who went on to fill a similar role for the Harry Potter books. What a come-down!

So what to do? Publishing vintage 1996 had little bearing on the push-button era of today. But everyone agreed we had to do another chapter and duly managed it over the next couple of days. I think one or other of my three children, who all came to the launch of the book, has retained a copy, but I don’t have one and cannot tell you whether the extra words were at the front or back of the book.

Publishing had been part of my life ever since the Greyhound Express in the late 1960’s and one event which happened between that entrance into the business and the Dettori episode was brought back to life at Ascot last week.

I was introduced in the paddock to Peter Brant, and amazingly it was the first time I’d met the New York newsprint magnate and racehorse owner-breeder since November 1982. That was during my first visit to Kentucky.

David Hedges, the late founder of the still-active International Racing Bureau in Newmarket secured an invitation for me to go to Kentucky for the November Breeding stock sale, as a guest of celebrated owner-breeder Robin Scully at his famed Clovelly Farm in Lexington.

Apart from the novelty of seeing tobacco hanging out to dry in one of the Clovelly barns, I was taken around town and one of the first jaunts was to the Hyatt Hotel on the Sunday, the day before the sale in Keeneland started. Kentucky was “dry” on Sunday in those days, but the Hyatt was very busy with the sales in town and Robin introduced me to Henryk de Kwiatkowski, whom I would soon get to know much better, and Mr Brant.

Upon finding out my job, Peter said: “You know, if the big UK newspapers could sort out the union problems they would be one of the best investments anywhere in the world.”

At the time, the Berry family which owned it would have considered a bid and I suggested to Brant maybe he should buy it. I asked him at Ascot whether he recalled the conversation and amazingly he did.

In the meantime a couple of days later at that sale I discovered an exclusive that should have made a decent racing story on the Daily Telegraph pages. Danny Schwartz, one of the Sangster team of investors, revealed across the bar (and me) to Henryk that they had bought the top lot of the sale. I knew it had been knocked down to Sir Philip Payne-Gallwey, Stavros Niarchos’ legendary agent, so this had to be news of an alliance between Sangster and Niarchos.

I prepared the article, which I then transmitted over the phone to one of the telephonists back in Fleet Street. Imagine my frustration when not just that article but everything else I sent back never appeared in print. An ongoing dispute over a new printing machine developed into a full week’s strike by the printers, which only ended when management agreed to repay the boys all their lost money along with a few extra concessions.

As Peter Brant said, UK daily newspapers should have been a great investment, if only you could be sure that the unions would allow the papers to be printed!

- TS

Monday Musings: Royal Ascot Friends Reunited

It’s here, less than a week away from the longest day of the year, Royal Ascot begins tomorrow with a trio of Friends Reunited races, writes Tony Stafford. I can’t wait to see Battaash, Blue Point and Mabs Cross going at it again in the King’s Stand Stakes, and Phoenix Of Spain and Too Darn Hot dusting off their Irish 2,000 Guineas rivalry in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

But the most intriguing of all for me is the opener, the Queen Anne Stakes, featuring not just the one-two-three from the recent Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, that’s Mustashry, Laurens and Accidental Agent, but also five of the also-rans, in finishing order, Romanised (fourth), Le Brivido (fifth), Sharja Bridge, Beat The Bank, Mythical Magic and Lord Glitters.

It’s as if none of the seven beaten trainers could accept that the Sir Michael Stoute-trained and Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Mustashry had been a feasible winner. Yet here was a gelded six-year-old who has won eight of his 18 career starts and, since last summer when he beat Spark Plug half a length in a Sandown ten-furlong Listed race, has improved markedly winning twice at Group 2 level before Newbury.

Laurens, runner-up on that Newbury comeback, was the glamour element to that race having won four Group 1 races last year to add to her Fillies’ Mile win at the same level the previous autumn.

Then there’s Accidental Agent, 33-1 winner of this race a year ago, with all the attendant history of trainer Eve Johnson Houghton’s family. The horse was bred by Eve’s mother and named in honour of her maternal grandfather, John Goldsmith, a trainer either side of World War 2 in France and then after the War in England. He filled in nicely between the two parts of his equine career doing a little spying for MI5 behind enemy lines in Europe as Jamie Reid’s “Blown” so graphically describes.

I trust Jamie will not forget to send me a copy of his impending portrayal of Victor Chandler, whose intervention a decade and a half ago, asking me to go to Moscow and saying “this could change your life” had no idea just how right he was. As Eric Morecambe might have said, “not necessarily for the right reason!”

The Lockinge fifth, Le Brivido, earlier an eye-catcher on his debut for Ballydoyle after Michael Tabor bought a half-share from original owner Prince Faisal bin Khaled, is another interesting participant, given his 2017 Jersey Stakes win for the Andre Fabre stable. It’s a race of countless possibilities, but it’s equally likely that the Newbury form will be upheld as Mustashry did win it emphatically.

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When you have as much success and as many good horses in your stable as John Gosden, you could probably afford to describe your 2019 handling of Too Darn Hot as appalling, or whatever term he actually used.

So far the colt has been second, after a spring setback, in the Dante, trying out for a possible tilt at the Derby, and when that plan was aborted, switched to The Curragh and the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Another second place, creditable enough but maybe a shade embarrassing for the master trainer after the unblemished two-year-old campaign, resulted there, and the second of the big three re-matches, against that surprise winner Phoenix of Spain, comes in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

In fact the pair had some previous ‘previous’. They were one and two, in reverse Curragh order in the Champagne Stakes, with Too Darn Hot a length and threequarters to the good, in the third of his four juvenile wins, rounded out in the Dewhurst.

Between those two runs Phoenix of Spain was runner-up to subsequent Newmarket 2,000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia in the Vertem Futurity at Doncaster and the Irish 2,000 was his comeback run. Magna Grecia, only fifth when attempting the 2,000 Guineas double misses the race and Derby sixth Circus Maximus drops back to a mile as the principal sub for the O’Brien team.

The third re-match which brings at least as much anticipation as the other two is the King’s Stand. Last year Blue Point comfortably beat Battaash and a strong-finishing Mabs Cross. He went on to dominate the major sprints over the winter in Dubai and returns freshened up for his repeat attempt.

Charlie Hills, who did such a good job to win the Irish 2,000 with Phoenix of Spain without a prep run, can be equally proud of the way in which Battaash, often uneasy before his races in the past, seems to have been calmed down as a five-year-old. He took advantage of favourable weight conditions to beat Mabs Cross in the Temple Stakes, but I have a feeling in the recesses of my mind, that the filly will come good, appreciating the slightly deeper test with the ground possibly riding on the soft side after last week’s rain. I think 9-1 about Michael Dods and the Armstrong family’s star is value, but then I thought Justin Rose at 7-4 was a gift last night!

Ryan Moore must have breathed a sigh of relief when the 48-hour acceptors for the Coventry Stakes did not include Visinari, the Mark Johnston colt who made such a superb debut under the former champion on the opening day on the Newmarket July Course.

I joked here last week that he was probably advising Mark (via son Charlie on course) Johnston to give him more time after that exceptional performance – which apparently did not over-excite the Racing Post’s experts – judged on his RPR’s at the entry stage compared with the rest of the Coventry field. Do they still sell Fudge?

Now with Visinari’s non-acceptance, and indeed if he is to appear at all at the Royal meeting it would have to be in Saturday’s Chesham which closes later today, Ryan’s Coventry mount Arizona, a son of No Nay Never who won by eight lengths second time out at The Curragh, heads the market. My advice, if you want to back him, is not to take the 9-4. With a full field, surely those odds will lengthen as the boys on the boards react to the Betfair-led market.

A couple of weeks ago coming back on the coach after the Derby I was talking about the day-to-day betting market with Alan Newman and he was aghast at the way apparent manipulation is an everyday occurrence.

In the old days, in a match race, if one horse was 4-6, by definition the other would be automatically 6-4 but understandably bookmakers need a margin, so maybe 4-6 and 11-10 would be more like a fair return in such instances.

If Alan had been at Doncaster yesterday I guarantee he would have been on the phone to a long-ago partner at the defuct Wembley greyhounds. In the days several decades before Michael Tabor became a vital cog in Coolmore, he was a bookmaker, but I can imagine what he and Alan would have thought of the betting on the third race of the afternoon up there.

Three of the five runners were no-hopers and priced up accordingly. Also there was a guaranteed favourite, Sea of Faith, trained by William Haggas and a 10-1 on shot, who duly beat the second favourite Bullion Boss by nine lengths. No 10-1 against though or anything near it for Bullion Boss. Just before the off, that gelding trained by Michael Dods and ridden by Paul Mulrennan, was shortened up from 4-1 to 7-2! Who says the betting world hasn’t gone mad?

- TS

Monday Musings: A Visinari Visionary

Peter Ashmore and I stood hanging over the rail at the top end of the paddock adjacent to the saddling boxes before the opening race of Newmarket’s July Course season on Saturday, writes Tony Stafford. A big grey colt came by and we agreed: “It’s a giant! Surely he’s come in early before the following handicap!”

Further inspection revealed it was Visinari, a tall, leggy son of Dark Angel trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by an unusually-available Ryan Moore, taking some non-Coolmore mounts on home turf while Seamie and Donnacha shared a juvenile winner apiece at Navan.

A year before, Calyx – earlier in the week reported to have suffered an injury when losing for the first time at Doncaster which will put him out of Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup – won his debut in the corresponding six-furlong race by five lengths and six.

Thirty minutes later Gunmetal, rated 93, won the handicap in 1min 10.76sec, 1.80 sec faster than Calyx’s recording of 1min 12.56 sec on good to firm going. Gunmetal now has an official mark of 104. With the weight-for-age scale decreeing that in the first week of June, two-year-olds should receive 38lb from their elders, for Calyx to run within 1.80 sec (nine lengths) of a five-year-old was meritorious.

So how can one begin to explain what Visinari was about to show us after those few languid spins around the paddock? He was bought at Arqana as a yearling for €55,000, apparently breaking the mantra of Johnston buys requiring dams to be rated at least 90; but Visinada, a daughter of Derby winner Sinndar, has already produced two winning progeny exceeding that level.

It is so easy to forget. Sinndar dominated racing in 2000, winning all but one of his eight career races including the Derby, Irish Derby and Arc for his owner-breeder the Aga Khan. He brings to Visinari’s pedigree an obvious stamina influence, but his winning siblings both showed decent speed on the track.

Anyway, on debut and faced with a well-touted Godolphin colt with previous experience, the clearly well-schooled Visinari went off in front. Moore needed to push him out when Ottoman Court, a son of Shamardal tried to join him on the outside at around the two-furlong pole, and he responded to the tune of an always-extending three and a half lengths.

There were echoes of Calyx in the result as it was another ten back to the rest. Just to confirm what the eyes told us, half an hour later the four-year-old Flavius Titus, rated 95, won the all-aged handicap in a time 0.14 sec SLOWER than Visinari’s 1 min 10.41sec. Add the 32lb (four-year-olds get 6lb from their elders in the scale at this stage of the season) and Visinari has run to somewhere near 127! One can only surmise that with the official going both this year and last “good to firm” and a disparity of only 0.21 sec in the times of the two all-age handicaps, Visinari must be something special to be two seconds faster than Calyx.

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Maybe it’s a freak result but looking at Visinari before and listening to what Charlie Johnston was saying afterwards: “He’s all legs and because he’s so big we kept delaying running him until after one more impressive gallop” or words to that effect. The clock doesn’t lie as I could hear Phil Bull saying and those days of yore were imprinted again on my mind in the middle of the night as I prepared to begin this epistle.

George Hill, who one must remember is younger than me, sent me four pages from different editions of the Racehorse from 1965 when he would have been 18 and I had only just left school, almost a decade before I edited the same weekly.

He wrote a couple of columns talking in one about trainer Earl Jones – someone he got to know very well 50 and more years ago – and his horse Honey End, who later finished an unlucky second as the favourite in Foinavon’s notorious Grand National.

Thanks for that Georgie, when will you start coming racing again?

But I digress. So what now for the grey giant? You can imagine Ryan saying in the de-brief: “Well really, he’s so big I’d give Royal Ascot a miss, give him time to mature and bring him back here for the July meeting.” Maybe they will, but you’d have to be thinking Coventry and a clash with the best of Ballydoyle.

Whether that would mean the winning Navan debutant Royal Lytham, a son of first-season sire Gleneagles, who among others had an odds-on stable-companion (by War Front) well beaten in fourth when causing a mild surprise at 10-1 on Saturday.

Thus he became the third winner by Gleneagles and first in Ireland for the dual Guineas-winning son of Galileo. It was always the hope that the king of Coolmore would produce top milers to go with the middle-distance and staying champions, and Gleneagles is the first in a plentiful pipeline hoped to bring precocity to the breed.

Gleneagles has won with three of nine runners so far, and the non-winners include Daily Times, a John Gosden-trained half-sister to the 2018 juvenile champion Newspaperofrecord who incidentally suffered a second defeat of the year at odds of 3-20 (1.15 in Betfair parlance) at Belmont Park on Thursday. Daily Times, the 9-2 second favourite, was fourth behind Visinari, just edged out for third after being prominent for most of the race.

Charlie Johnston spoke about the yard’s Royal Ascot team “taking shape” and referred to a number about to run with the possibility of aiming at the Chesham. That seven-furlong race is not until Saturday week, opening up the fifth day and requires sire or dam to have won at ten furlongs or above.

That qualification lets in Romsey, a daughter of the Coral-Eclipse winner Mukhadram, who opened her account with a smooth success second time out at Chelmsford on Saturday. Unlike the top-end home-breds and sales buys, Romsey started her public life in unprepossessing fashion.

Entered in Tattersalls Book 3 last October from Lavington Stud, she didn’t attract a bid and was recorded as “Vendor 800gns”, the minimum. She ended up with Hughie Morrison. After a promising debut third over six furlongs at Windsor, she went on to Chelmsford and upped to seven, won by four and a half lengths.

When I asked Hughie about the sales debacle, he said. “I went to see her at the stud during Goodwood last year with a bloodstock agent and we both told Al <Alasdair Macdonald-Buchanan> that she’d struggle at the sale as she was so weak.

“I must say, though, I don’t think I’ve ever had a two-year-old improve so much so quickly. Even allowing for her weakness, you must have expected some interest as she’s half-sister to two two-year-winners including Indian Viceroy who won twice for us last year.

“The Chesham might be an option. The alternative, carrying a 7lb penalty running for three grand against horses from top stables, is most unattractive.”

Hughie cheered up the Raymond Tooth team when bringing out Say Nothing for a much-improved run under 9st10lb at Haydock last week and she might turn out again at Sandown on Friday. Stable-companion Sod’s Law will definitely run there, stepping up to a mile and a quarter with P J McDonald’s endorsement after his running-on fourth over a mile on the firm at Leicester. Wish us luck. We need it.

But I can’t stop thinking about Visinari!

- TS

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