Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

Jumping’s great at the minute, with such as Vautour edging home from a determined P’tit Zig at Ascot; and Cue Card, Silviniano Conti and Dynaste battling out the Betfair Chase at Haydock yesterday.

For good measure we also had a Harry Fry treble at Ascot featuring a 12th career victory for the 10-year-old former Champion Hurdler Rock on Ruby. His tale is a remarkable one, winning his title under the banner of Paul Nicholls even though the actual training was carried out more than a few miles from Ditcheat by Fry, who was designated only as assistant. He took out a licence for the following 2012-13 season.

For me and the boss it will quicken up again tomorrow at Kempton when Cousin Khee, aged eight rising nine and with 10 career wins from 43 appearances in a range of disciplines behind him, breaks new ground in a novice chase at Kempton.

It was just over four years ago now that Hughie Morrison called to ask if Raymond Tooth might be interested in buying him. He’d run three times in bumpers, winning first time at Exeter in Hughie’s junior “benefit” and then twice unplaced at Cheltenham, although eighth of 24 in the Festival bumper represented a good effort for a four-year-old.

A deal was quickly struck and since then he has won further races over hurdles (three), jumpers’ bumpers (two), all-weather Flat (two) and Turf Flat, also two.

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Of his 23 rivals in that Cheltenham bumper, only 21st home Felix Yonger has done markedly better. A 66-1 shot that day for the Wylies and previous trainer Howard Johnson, he has since moved to Willie Mullins and has a tally of ten wins in 21 starts with a rating of 160. Six of the wins have come in 12 chases.

All the contestants in that Festival bumper won at least one race and the next best tally is the eight from 34 of Dark Glacier. He was 11th of the 24 that day and is the winner of four races each for original trainer Chris Grant and present handler Peter Bowen.

It’s fair to say that Cousin Khee enjoyed the good fortune of winning a couple of jumpers’ bumpers when bad winter weather caused multiple abandonments of jumps cards a couple of seasons ago. Equally Morrison was sharp enough to take advantage where others didn’t. Critics, especially among the media, regard him as inconsistent and Mark Winstanley offered that opinion when I bumped into him at Ascot yesterday.

On consideration, I think it’s a fair assessment. Over time Hughie and the jockeys have worked out that he doesn’t like being crowded and that tendency contributed to his poor position turning for home in the November Handicap at Doncaster last time. When he got clear, miles behind, on the wide outside turning for home, he rallied past 12 horses. If he’d had another furlong to go, he’d have been close to the frame, although nowhere near brilliant winner Litigant.

It’s interesting to look at the figures for the Betfair Chase, in which four of the five runners were aged nine and Holywell a year younger. Cue Card, who also announced his arrival in a Festival Bumper – he won it as a four-year-old the year before Cousin Khee’s run - is now winner of 12 of his 27 starts, eight of 20 since going chasing. Silviniano Conti has been even more productive with 15 wins from 28 – ten of 20 in chases. Five of Dynaste’s seven victories have come over fences in a career spanning 26 starts, while Holywell has seven from 23 (five chases) and Ballynagour, badly outrun yesterday, has three chase wins in his tally of five wins in 23.

Nicholls went close with P’tit Zig – overall eight from 20 – behind Vautour, won collected his ninth win from 12 runs and these highly-progressive six-year-olds have time to get near the Silviniano Conti and Cue Card heights.

But if Cousin Khee shows the same liking for fences as he has schooling under Tom O’Brien at home, who’s to say what he can eventually do? At time of writing the declarations for Kempton are unknown, but lurking among the 14 entries lie a number of dangerous-looking opponents with Dan Skelton particularly liking the chance of his mare Stephanie Frances.

When Cousin Khee ran in the November, Emily Weber, one of the most experienced of their form experts pointed out he had recorded his best Racing Post Rating (RPR) for each of all-weather Flat (sixth, beaten less than three lengths) in Lingfield’s All-Weather Marathon Championship race, Flat turf and Hurdles this year. Hughie, whose Alcazar won a French Group 1 aged ten, thinks he might have a squeak in next year’s Cesarewitch!

We had a great trip up to Shropshire on Monday, principally for Ray to see his three home-bred yearlings before they departed to their trainers later in the week. Rachael and Richard Kempster and all at Kinsale Farm got full marks for preparation when Hughie, Hugo Palmer and our new man George Scott (until now Lady Cecil’s assistant) took charge of yearlings respectively by Stormy River, Mount Nelson (filly) and Equiano.

Quite a few of Ray’s under-performers have found new owners with my long-time friend Wilf Storey in darkest Co. Durham. Two of his home-breds, Nelson’s Bay and Nonagon, have been among Wilf’s seven winners in 2015.

Sadly, Wilf recently slipped on a wet concrete slope collecting two footballers’ injuries in one go, rupturing the tendons behind each knee. He’s been on his back since but with daughter Stella now doing the work of six men instead of five, the show goes on as Wilf recovers in hospital.

[Get well soon, Wilf – Ed.]

Their best season since 2000 in number of winners and 1997 for prizemoney has come from just seven horses and 203rd in the trainers’ table – 499 listed – represented dizzy heights for the old boy. He’ll have three more to work on (well Stella will anyway) next year and he’s hoping that his daughter’s super-human efforts over many years – riding, box-driving, feeding, mucking out and leading up at the races – might get her one of the Godolphin awards this winter. I hope so, too.


Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

A week’s travel around the nation encompassed visits to four of its eminently-varied racecourses. Doncaster, Huntingdon, Cheltenham and Uttoxeter provide a decent example of that variety and, in my case, attending on behalf of the boss Raymond Tooth, a batch of creditable runs, one from each of his jumping strength.

Cousin Khee, as you and indeed Keith Dawes will have noted last week – it always amazes me when complete strangers have managed to find these ramblings – was unplaced in the November Handicap at Doncaster. That eighth place still represented a decent effort as he ran past around a dozen or so up the straight.

I bumped into Hughie Morrison at Cheltenham on Friday in the record crowd for the meeting and he reported that the old boy didn’t allow himself to have a hard race after getting narked with the initial crowding that the younger whipper-snappers involved him in during the first half of the contest. Much more to his liking was the untrammelled wide course that Oisin Murphy managed to secure for him late on.

So rather than need days to recover, he was put to good use back jumping hurdles, an exercise which clearly kick-started his career in recent months, partnering a young novice on his initial steps. “Then it’ll be schooling over fences on Monday,” said Hughie, who, like owner and retinue cannot wait to see whether his jumping ability, liking for soft ground, and an above-average turn of foot make him a decent prospect as he embarks on yet another discipline after ten wins already.

Tuesday and Huntingdon was the next stop for the caravan. The rains might have relented a bit but the ground was still on the soft side, so not ideal for the four-year-old Notnowsam as he made his third attempt over fences after a win and second.

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For much of the way, following a fast pace, he looked the likeliest winner, but was stung by the better speed and overall greater experience of Raven’s Tower, who picked him up at the last and bolted up as Sam made his one mistake at that point.

Dan Skelton was happy enough as was Ben Pauling, trainer of the winner, who is getting going after a steady start following his departure from a job as joint assistant trainer to Nicky Henderson, along with Tom Symonds.

In the Punjabi days, Ben was always something of a rival to Tom, who championed Punjabi, when much of the stable, including the trainer and Corky Brown were in the Binocular camp. Indeed the pictures I saw from home – in detached retina recovery mode – saw the triumph on Tom’s face while Nicky looked like he’d dropped a £50 note and picked up a tanner, until he realised he’d actually trained the winner of another Champion Hurdle!

As we waited in the paddock on Friday while the officials decided whether to turn the novice handicap hurdle – Dan’s ambitious target for Adrakhan since last winter – into a glorified Flat race, which they eventually did, I moved across to Ben.

I asked him whether he was going to serve it up to us again, to which he replied with a nervous laugh. No wonder. Raven’s Tower had been a well-backed 20-1 shot on the Tuesday and now he was waiting for A Hare’s Breath, off for 600-plus days but with good runs behind Irving and Josses’s Hill on his scabbard for a former trainer. On Thursday he was 25-1. Now he was down to 6’s and despite having to beat a Tony Martin-trained, Ruby Walsh-ridden special, it never looked in the race that he could be beaten and he wasn’t.

We were delighted with Adrakhan’s staying on sixth, Dan still doubting he hadn’t been strong enough to get up the Cheltenham hill, but rider Harry disagreeing with his elder brother saying: “He stayed well. There’s a good one in him.” Harry was more concerned with the effect of the setting sun on this race reckoning “it was downright dangerous. All the way up the straight you couldn’t see anything, and I was standing up to try to see over the top.” What with that and the narrowing of the track at various points to go around the eliminated jumps, it was certainly a rough race and sixth of 20 represented another forward step for the inexperienced four-year-old.

I travelled up on Friday with a team of friends, Steve, Kevin and Phil from Billericay, and when they realised Raymond’s April Dusk was making his seasonal return to action at Uttoxeter, they happily switched away from day two at Cheltenham as this was one of the tracks they’d never visited.

As soon as we got there, the rain set in, but the overnight stop at Worcester was fortuitous as it reduced the travel time to just over one and a half hours. Warren Greatrex had found a nice race – the opposition melted away rather than face a 125-rated hurdler in a maiden. The event was uneventful and brought a satisfactory victory as, Derek Thompson – on the mic all day long, why do we keep finding him? – must have said: “as an odds-on favourite should.”

The key was his jumping, combining scope with accuracy, but Warren and Gavin Sheehan have sights on bigger and better exploits over fences. “Gavin thought it would be a good idea to get him a win before going over fences, and he was actually a bit short for this – he’s a big horse. He’s had plenty of schooling over fences and will now go straight to chasing.” A time note, this apparently uncompetitive affair was run in 13 seconds faster for the two and a half miles than the later hotly-contested handicap.

So from four runs, we had one win and three good performances. Already this season it’s five wins from ten appearances, with three places. This represents Ray’s numerically best jumps tally since the 1991-2 season when he had six wins, but obviously we’re nowhere near matching 2008-9 when Punjabi won that epic Champion Hurdle from Celestial Halo and Binocular.

We’ll be seeing the 12-year-old Punjabi tomorrow morning at Kinsale Farm and from pictures I’ve seen of his galloping around his paddock, there’s plenty of the old zest left. Their summer spells there didn’t do much harm for Notnowsam, Adrakhan and April Dusk, and we’re hoping Dutch Law’s break will be just as beneficial when he returns to Hughie in the New Year.

Ray is particularly keep to run the eye over the three home-bred yearlings – by Mount Nelson, Equiano and (in France) Stormy River – before they join their trainers later in the week, the Equiano colt bound for  new trainer George Scott, who had been Lady Cecil’s assistant until her recent retirement.


Then there’s Ray’s six home-bred foals and eight in-foal mares to inspect. His busy work schedule does not allow many such excursions, but this one is coming at a perfect time. Just can’t wait to get on the Chester train with Ray and Steve Gilbey in the morning.

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Sunday supplement
By Tony Stafford
There are many good trainers out there, most of whom haven’t had the chance to prove it. I’ve had two brief words with one of them, asking Joseph (seems he prefers that to Joe) Tuite at Nottingham on Wednesday if Litigant runs in the November Handicap on Saturday, and again after the race suggesting he might be better even than Group class to which he gave me a funny look.
Joseph looks quite a serious type, as befits a family man and businessman who is either approaching or just past 50 years of age. I owe that degree of accuracy to Marcus Armytage, my one-time colleague on the Daily Telegraph, in whose diary column in June 2010 he told of Tuite’s quest for gaining his trainer’s licence aged 44.
Joseph was then in the middle of his required modules at the Northern Racing College, up the Bawtry Road near Doncaster while still in his six-year role as assistant trainer to Mick Channon. That followed spells with the Irishman’s riding as a jumps conditional jockey for John White and Jenny Pitman then acting as travelling head lad for the formidable Mrs P.
Marcus’s article suggested Joseph Tuite always felt he deserved a chance to train, and although he has only had the care of the brittle-legged Litigant for just over a year, he has collected two of the Calendar’s best-known handicaps from just three starts.
The trainer will admit he had decent material to work with. The one-time Andre Fabre-trained Sheikh Mohammed-bred colt had won two of his three races in France before being acquired on behalf of Alan Byrne by Seamus Durack, also an Irish-born but English-based former jump jockey for a modest 18,500gns, considering his ability.
Durack allowed him more than a year off, presumably to enable him to recover from training problems, and he quickly went through the ranks on the all-weather, running an eye-opening second at Kempton before clocking up a rapid hat-trick culminating in victory in the first All-Weather Championships Marathon race at Lingfield in April last year.
By the publication date of the Horses in Training volume for 2015 – comes out in time for Cheltenham each year, I know because I left my much-valued copy in a box for five minutes and found it missing when I got back there this year! – Litigant was down as in the care of Joseph Tuite at East Ilsley. Actually his yard a dozen miles away at Lambourn, but Litigant, off the track since April 2014, was being patiently and skilfully primed for a magum opus.
I remember noting Litigant’s name in the list of runners for the Betfred Ebor, Simply because he’d won the Lingfield race and Hughie Morrison had expended a fair bit of Cousin Khee’s winter training in trying to get Ray Tooth’s Cousin Khee into this year’s version of that race. He finished a creditable close fifth under Richard Hughes. Several of the 2014 field had pretty much disappeared from view and I had a lingering worry that Cousin Khee might also fall victim of a similar fate.
Despite his 400-plus day lay-off, Litigant was fit and fancied for York and under a fine ride from Oisin Murphy, came away for an emphatic 33-1 victory. As they say in racing, things didn’t go right for him in Ascot’s Stayers’ Championship race, but they certainly did on Saturday.
Suggesting that the racing establishment is a small church might be simplistic, but within a few minutes yesterday, lots of evidence to the contrary came my way. Having spoken for a few minutes with Hughie – yes Cousin Khee was in yesterday’s race – he went off to find some shelter from the renewed rain, another talented trainer Ian Williams came over to talk to me.
Oisin Murphy missed out on “his” ride this time, being claimed for the favourite Argus, who then scoped badly and was taken out of the race. Meanwhile George Baker got on, resuming his connection from the Durack days, and gave him a peach of a ride, winning by four and a half lengths giving 20lb to the retiring Hayley Turner and Buonarotti. Oisin’s availability was noted by Huighie and he came in late for the ride, but he got bogged down in traffic and only ran on into eighth, passing a dozen in the last two furlongs, when allowed a clear run down the outside.
Ian Williams mentioned Hughie and the fact that now he will have unconditional use of the famed Compton gallops he’ll clean up – no doubt reference to the fact that he’s leased them from new owner James Dyson. As such conversations go, he likened the utility of Compton to the old days at Lambourn when they use to gallop all the way round the famed Bowl and then up the hill.
Ian recalled one instance in his Pitman days when three Irish lads mistook Jenny P’s instructions and continued galloping either side of her ignoring her waving arms rather than stop. A similar episode is attributed by Marcus – funnily enough whom I first met at his father Roddy’s yard, in East Ilsley, where Hughie also trains. Joseph Tuite was a player in Marcus’s version of the Jenny gallop. Round in circles?
I only knew Lambourn when I had interests in horses with Rod Simpson in the early 1980’s and can still picture in my mind Tangognat coming round the Bowl. I can also still see Tangognat and Peter Scudamore jumping the last at Cheltenham on the way to one of their two from two wins together – on the wall in my office.
Rod took up two of my suggestions, employing first Simon Whitworth – now an important cog in the Charlie/Barry Hills stables – and also Dean Gallagher, whose father Tom was at the time travelling head lad to Jim Bolger, where Dean, not to mention Aidan O’Brien and Tony McCoy, started his career.
Ian Williams’ next titbit was of Dean’s eventual departure from Mrs P’s employ. After enduring yet another bollocking from the formidable lady, Dean said: “I’m ….ing fed up with preparing horses for your son to win on” – fair enough as he was easily the better jockey – and promptly got off his horse, handing over the reins before setting off to trudge back to the yard. Unfortunately, the grand gesture was somewhat spoiled when Dean realised his own saddle was still on the horse and he had to go back and take it off before leaving Weathercock House.
I told Ian that Dean often accompanies Aidan, for whom he is a key work rider, on trips to the UK, and he was with him for Alice Springs’ win in the sales race at Newmarket last month.
Litigant will go up at least 10lb for that brilliant win off 106, itself 7lb more than his 99 at the Ebor. If Joseph can keep the legs right, he’ll have too much pace for most of the rivals he tackles in the top stayers’ races next year. A great day for the small man, and it wasn’t too bad for Hughie and Raymond Tooth either, as Cousin Khee will now embark on his career over fences. He’s already won ten times on Flat, all-weather and hurdles, so maybe another four before the end of the season? What else to do but dream?
By way of a post-script, it was good to see the ever-cheerful Frankie McDonald, who rode a lot for the late Julia Tooth and then Paul Fitzsimons on several of Raymond’s horses coming into the track yesterday as I left it. I asked him what he’s doing and he said riding out at Barry Hills and driving George Baker. That would have been a nice ride back down south.

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

Time telescopes in the memory. Peter Chapple-Hyam at 52, has for almost half his life so far been a licenced trainer, from 1991 to the end of the millennium at Manton, and 2004 onwards in Newmarket. In between he had four character-building if not totally successful years in Hong Kong.

Yesterday at Doncaster he returned to the big time with a third Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster courtesy of the 33-1 chance Marcel, in the process denting the reputation of John Gosden’s previously unbeaten Foundation, who finished third, admittedly with a troubled run.

Marcel gave Andrea Atzeni a third successive win in the race and was the middle leg of a Town Moor treble. I know one leading trainer told a friend he didn’t regard Atzeni as a top jockey. The way he steered Marcel clear of trouble round the outside as his countryman Frankie Dettori got stuck behind a wall (small wall in a seven-runner race!) made that comment look silly.

Throughout his lengthy career, Chapple-Hyam has had the knack of winning big races, often at long prices. For instance his 2008 Derby winner Authorized stepped up from a debut third in maiden company to win the same Group 1 juvenile (switched to Newbury) race at 25-1. He also won it years before with Commander Collins.

Chapple-Hyam does not regard Marcel, a son of Lawman out of the Marju mare Mauresmo – presumably named after Andy Murray’s French coach – as a potential Derby winner, hoping he might be competitive in the shorter French Derby – Prix du Jockey Club.

Marcel does not hold the Derby entry, but neither did Golden Horn, and if in his early three-year-old races Paul Hancock’s colt, who cost the princely sum of 26,000gns as a yearling, shows hitherto unexpected stamina, do not be surprised if he turns up at Epsom.

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When the Barry Hills assistant took over from his mentor as Robert Sangster’s private trainer – Barry went back to his original stables in Lambourn – the success was immediate. Rodrigo de Triano and Dr Devious both collected a string of juvenile wins before even bigger success in their Classic year of 1992.

It probably helped his cause that while the son of a Birmingham greengrocer and West Brom fan was making his way up the ranks at Manton, he paired up with Jane Peacock, Sangster’s daughter-in-law. I doubt if even the demanding Mr Sangster could have expected him to make such a success right from the start.

Sangster’s purchase of Manton in 1988 was meant to be the showcase both of the owner’s wonderful home-bred stock and the undoubted training talents of Michael Dickinson, switching to the Flat after his amazing jumping exploits. His Famous Five Gold Cup, when he saddled the first five home, and a dozen wins on a single Boxing Day gave him legendary status.

Obviously Sangster’s biggest successes had already come in the Vincent O’Brien days a decade or more earlier, with the influence and great success of the Northern Dancer line which still dominates racing in Europe.

But Dickinson, whose re-modelling of the old Wiltshire gallops earned universal approval, had just four sparse wins in his only season there. This prompted a Sangster re-think and Dickinson’s departure for the US where he won a couple of Breeders’ Cups and later developed his Tapeta racing surface.

Barry Hills moved across for a short time before returning home, having done a solid job in upping the success rate, but it was during the Chapple-Hyam years when Manton was at its height.

Dr Devious won three races before changing hands during his juvenile season, Pete’s first in charge, and ended with a clear win in the Dewhurst for his new owner Luciano Gaucci. By the time he ran and won the 1992 Derby – from St Jovite – he was in the colours of Sidney Craig, whose wife Jenny ran the foremost diet business in the States, which she sold to Nestle in 2006 for $600 million.

St Jovite turned the tables emphatically in the Irish Derby, but it was Dr Devious again in a desperate conclusion to the Irish Champion Stakes when he had St Jovite, who easily won the King George in between, inches behind in second.

Dr Devious was a yearling buy for Sangster, but Rodrigo de Triano was a home-bred who won all five races at two and then after losing the unbeaten record in his trial, had 55-year-old Lester Piggott on his back for the first time when winning the 2,000 Guineas with Dr Devious back in fourth.

Piggott then kept the mount for the rest of the colt’s career, collecting the Irish 2,000, the Juddmonte International and Champion Stakes, but finishing unplaced when his stamina ran out behind his stablemate at Epsom. Rodrigo de Triano was sold to stand in Japan as a stallion.

When the big wins eventually dwindled down to a relative trickle, Pete decided on a try at Hong Kong, but it is fair to say that his temperament probably did suit him too much to sitting down with local owners intent on landing gambles.

So back he came to a new life in Newmarket. Within a couple of years he was guiding Authorized to his Derby and Juddmonte triumphs for Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar and then attracting Qatar Racing’s Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani to his methods.

This year Arod has done very well for the Skeikh, but the much-hyped Hydrogen, bought for 2.5 million guineas, proved a flop. However with owners like Jim and Fitri Hay, for whom Chapple-Hyam sent out Buckstay for a big handicap win at Ascot, as well as Homeizi, Sagar and Sheikh Fahad, his career should take another upward turn. Certainly if talent has any bearing, there’ll be plenty of big days to come.

I haven’t been at a Breeders’ Cup for a few years, and I’ll be watching at home again on Friday and Saturday, with Legatissimo my idea of a banker for the Aidan O’Brien- Coolmore team in the Filly and Mare Turf race. The other race I can’t wait to see is the clash between American Pharoah, Bob Baffert-trained but Ashford Stud bound, and Gleneagles in the Classic on Dirt.

Wednesday offers my boss Ray Tooth the chance of keeping his good recent run going with Cousin Khee back on the level at Nottingham, while the football world will be wondering what further sanction awaits Jose Mourinho after yesterday’s Chelsea meltdown.

It seems to me that he spends far too much time worrying about Arsene Wenger. I’d hate to think what will happen to Jose’s mental state if his favourite “failure” wins the Premier League title this season.

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

As I tried to edge out of slumber early this morning to frame the path of this week’s offering, the phrase “bring me your tired, your weak, your huddled masses”, came into mind. As you all know – if like me you’ve just checked where you knew it from on Google– it is part of a poem by the American writer Emma Lazarus and adorns the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour.

As the tired, weak and huddled masses gather in Calais trying new ways to get into the UK, maybe they should invoke that sentiment, not that they’ll get much of a response. As ever I’m beginning to mire myself in inconsequential thoughts. All I wanted to say was: “What can an owner do when his horses are tired from a hard season, poor (at least showing the effects of that hard season in a physical way) and ready for a break?”

Trainers often say after a less than expected performance, that the horse could do with a break. In the case of Raymond Tooth’s ‘huddled masses’, step forward Rachael and Richard Kempster of Kinsale stud in Shropshire.

Their 300-plus acres of choice, former dairy farmland near Oswestry, offers solitude and nutrition for the mares, young stock and resting out-of-training thoroughbreds, quite a number of which belong to Mr T. Any trainer can tell you the trick is to be able to move from field to field as they get shorn of quality grass, but as Rachael said the other day: “After the nice weather of the past couple of weeks, the grass is still growing!”

Good news indeed for Dutch Law as he came back after two straight years with Hughie Morrison, where he developed into a lightly-raced 85-ish performer, winning a nice handicap at Newmarket, then second at Ascot before a slight down-turn in form persuaded Hughie that maybe a break was what he wanted.

So there he was in midweek, a little wired after the long box ride north with a fellow traveller, but happy to be back at the place where he spent the first 18 months of his life. He was led to his stall, checked where he knew the food was supposed to be, and shouted for it. When that dissatisfaction was put right, he duly cleaned up and promptly went to sleep!

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Until you have such decisions to make, in conjunction with a trainer, you probably do not think of the possible consequences of getting it wrong. Just chucking them in a field with minimal supervision is much worse an idea than just keeping them in a quiet regime within the trainer’s ambit.

But given the right balance, as we know they have at Kinsale, and of course many other excellent farms around the country, a horse can come back refreshed, bigger and stronger giving the trainer plenty to work on. And if additionally it’s back to a place he knows and trusts, like Dutch Law, he can get straight on with the relaxation.

In the summer so stealthily but emphatically taken away from us by the sudden change in temperatures over the past week, I remember going out to see three holidaying jumpers enjoying their time at grass.

Promising stayer and Irish point winner, April Dusk, had just been gelded since taking his break from his first session with Warren Greatrex, while the Dan Skelton pair, Notnowsam and Adrakhan, were also refuelling, the former after a win over hurdles for Noel Quinlan before he handed in his licence over Easter, and a chase for Skelton at Warwick. Adrakhan came in a while before his stablemate after three runs, including a nice second to Chatez at Warwick.

All three thrived and got a universal thumbs-up from their trainers on their return. April Dusk will probably be off and running next month, but the other pair were in action for the first time over the past five days and they both showed the benefits of that interruption of their training with impressive returns.

First, Notnowsam, off 122 for that chase debut win, tackled Class 3 company at Wetherby and jumping superbly for such a young horse, only gave best to a more experienced and hard-fit rival in the last 150 yards.

Then yesterday, Adrakhan, bought by Ray’s shrewd French trainer Nicolas Clement – he handled French Fifteen for us – as a yearling, paid back Nicolas’ original patient handling of a big, raw horse. He ran out a promising winner at Market Rasen, with your correspondent showing a dereliction of duty by watching the stars of Flat racing at Ascot the best part of 180 miles away.

They’d already run three of the six races there, including the sprint won so convincingly by Muhaarar, trained by the admirable Charlie Hills, when Adrakhan stepped out with the trainer telling us to expect a good run, but that there would be more to come.

The way he and Harry Skelton got to work after the last to hold on to their advantage was a happy augury of what might be to come for both of them. If there’s a more improved jumps jockey riding than Harry I’ve yet to see him.

Both horses had returned to Lodge Hill brimming with health and without too much flab to have to work off before getting going. That’s the benefit of an establishment like Kinsale, which is run basically like a training yard except they are not in training, save the odd go on the walker.

The Kempsters are readying three of Ray’s homebred yearlings, colts by Stormy River and Equiano and a Mount Nelson filly to go into training, a trio supplemented by fillies by Acclamation (for Mark Johnston), Delegator (Hugo Palmer) and Foxwedge (the great Micky Quinn). That will be our biggest team of juveniles since the Hannon, Elsworth, Meehan et al days.

The six foals, though, are what particularly make Richard smile every morning, and his eyes keep going back to I Say and her colt foal by Mount Nelson. Mum was runner-up on debut in a big field of Newbury maidens behind Secret Gesture, and look what happened to her. If the foal is eventually a decent runner, we won’t be able to contain expectations of the next one – she’s in foal to Nathanial.

The early finish at Ascot which was absolutely mobbed by a very happy, albeit mostly non-racing crowd, meant I could keep abreast of events at Vicarage Road, which turned out fine. What’s not quite so fine is the situation with vendors at the yearling sale. Tattersall’s last half of Book 3 on Friday, had at least three – we hope – pearls, but for the most part, yearlings bringing generally loss-making situations for their breeders.

One of them, Julian Wilson, who with his wife runs a small, but successful in terms of on-course results, operation near Newmarket revealed he had taken home two of three horses he’d consigned. He told me: “Julian Richmond-Watson <Chairman TBS> says we need 1,000 more horses to go into training. Fair enough, but where are the owners to pay for them to be trained?” Keep plugging away, Julians both.


Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

At this stage of the 2014 season, we’d had the Arc and all the major domestic two-year-old action including the Dewhurst, won by Belardo – whatever happened to him? Golden Horn, the best of the three-year-olds hadn’t even been sighted at that stage apart from on the gallops, his Nottingham debut win coming this week a year ago.

Gleneagles, harshly demoted from the Lagardere, has done nothing wrong since, winning a 2,000 Guineas that might have translated into even more than the Irish 2,000 and St James’s Palace. He, though, has been as unlucky with the ground conditions for his later possible objectives as Golden Horn has been favoured with the elements and by the Leopardstown stewards.

That said, Golden Horn’s catalogue of wins and John Gosden’s handling of them makes impressive reading – enough to deserve Horse of the Year status. If Gleneagles wins on Saturday at Ascot then maybe the perceived margin between the pair might be narrowed for purposes of historic record.

As you all know, I like a lengthy preamble, and often it disguises the actual tenor of what I’m saying. I’m just glad I waited till Monday for the Arc stuff, as events over the past two days at Newmarket, and before that three days of Book 1 of the Tattersall’s October yearling sales, have been a reaffirmation of the established order.

On Friday Minding (by Galileo), who previously beat Ballydoyle and Alice Springs, both also by the king of sires, in the Moyglare (Group 1) at the Curragh, romped away with the Fillies’ Mile prompting Ryan Moore, not only to smile, but afford Lydia Hislop a walking post-race interview which gave away his excitement of what he’d just experienced.

Whisper it, but it seems Ryan thinks Minding the best filly he’d ever ridden. Twenty-four hours later, watching from Chepstow where Cousin Khee’s troublesome feet spoiled the day, Ryan was again to the fore, this time on Air Force Blue. Later, trainer Aidan O’Brien suggested the War Front colt was the best two-year-old they’d ever had after this Dewhurst explosion.

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Meanwhile Emotionless, trying to track the winner from the back half of the select field, trailed home last. Two cantering lower-grade wins did not really match up to Air Force Blue’s dual Group 1 credentials, and while one horse sprinted through the final furlong, the other tamely ebbed away.

It’s often best to allow horses a single defeat, but this looked almost capitulation, and it’s difficult to see how he can come back, especially with the high expectations held before the race. The obvious conclusion is that it will be hard to stop another Guineas double for Ireland next spring, and while David Wachman and Legatissimo were needed to step up to secure the 1,000 in Michael Tabor’s colours this time round, Aiden looks to have his name back on the trophies again.

It’s more than 40 years now since the youthful John Magnier accompanied his father-in-law, the late great Vincent O’Brien and the Ballydoyle stable’s biggest owner Robert Sangster as they tried to corner the market in prime examples of the wonderful, but albeit unfashionably small – 15.2hh - Northern Dancer from the Keeneland sales in Kentucky.

Among those that ended up in Europe were Lyphard, who raced for the Head family, and Nureyev, for Greek ship owner Stavros Niarchos, both in France, and the Ballydoyle trio Nijinsky, Storm Bird and Sadler’s Wells.

Of the quintet, Nijinsky, the last Triple Crown winner before Golden Horn this year, was the best and possibly in terms of racecourse ability, Sadler’s Wells the least talented, but as the sire who won a record 14 British sire championships, he has had the most influence on the breed as father above all of Galileo among many others.

Galileo in turn produced Teofilo, New Approach and Frankel and as usual dominated events at Park Paddocks during the week, although the unbeaten Frankel’s first crop took plenty of attention. The up and down nature of the prices paid for his sons and daughters indicated less than 100 per cent approval from the always-vigilant insiders.

Danzig, another son of Northern Dancer, is right up there as a top-class producer of stallions. His son Danehill started out with the expectation of being a potential provider of sprinter/milers, but the inspired buying into him by Coolmore during the 1990’s took him into the elite Derby-winning sire club when mated with smart stamina-laden Coolmore mares.

Recently-deceased Green Desert is another towering example of Danzig sires influencing the breed with such as Oasis Dream. But it was from what I believe was Danzig’s final crop that the horse who will possibly become best of all his many sons at stud was born.

Step up War Front. Like his sire soundness problems limited his achievements, although he did win four times in a 12-race career including at Grade 2. Danzig won all three of his races for Henryk de Kwiatkowski without running outside allowance company before knee problems ended his track career.

It was in the November before his first crop took to the track that I uttered the fateful words “I don’t have one”. This reply was to the suggestion by Henryk, who was at Keeneland buying mares to mate with his Horse of the Year Conquistador Cielo, a flop as a stallion: “I have another stallion, Danzig. If you have a mare, you can send her to him for free!” It was probably the silliest answer I’ve ever provided in a long life of might-have-beens.

As with Danehill, John Magnier and presumably his ever more influential son MV – no naming accident there – identified War Front’s potential and got in just about on the ground floor. Already twice sire of a Dewhurst winner – War Command preceded Air Force Blue two years ago - he now has two sons on the Coolmore roster, War Command and Declaration of War. They help provide an extra element in that farm’s “all-kinds-of-stallion-for-all-kinds-of-people” policy, even if they haven’t quite expressed it that way in their promotional literature.

Until Air Force Blue, the sons of War Front had been characterised as needing fast ground, but both at The Curragh when he collected the National Stakes, possibly to Aidan’s slight surprise, and at Newmarket, he has consigned the going issue to history, albeit with the expectation of better to come on fast ground.

Now we have to consider where the potential threats will come next spring. Godolphin are the perennial adversaries, and their aggressive buying last week shows they are still fighting valiantly to stem the Ballydoyle hordes. But John Ferguson will have been shocked when Coolmore stepped in to pinch from under their noses the daughter of their prime stallion Dubawi out of the unraced Sadler’s Wells mare Loveisallyouneed for 2.1 million guineas.

No Dubawi produce was listed in the 2015 Horses in Training schedule of Aiden O’Brien horses and it’s possible he’s never handled one. But he certainly trained Loveisallyouneed’s sisters Yesterday and Quarter Moon, the latter mother of Diamonsandrubies among many in the wonderful extended family. Who’s to say she won’t be rubbing the noses of some of the girls in blue and their management team come the 2017 Classics?


Sunday supplement on a Monday

By Tony Stafford

When Frankie Dettori rode all those years for Godolphin, the one place which seemed to bring out the best of his abilities was Longchamp. Yesterday in a potentially pressure-cooker atmosphere, he produced a ride on Golden Horn which showed that when fully motivated, he remains one of the best jockeys of all time.

The build-up to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 2015 was all about Treve, winner the last twice and now going for a record third win in France’s greatest race. Dettori, who, once signed by Al Shaqab in the late summer of 2013, would have been on the Criquette Head-trained heroine in the big race that October but for an untimely fall going out to ride in a mickey mouse race at Nottingham a couple of weeks earlier.

He’d already been on Treve when she won the Prix Vermeille on her fourth career start, taking over from Thierry Jarnet. Fit again the next spring, Frankie was on board for defeats at odds on, first narrowly behind the warrior Cirrus des Aigles in the Ganay and then when third to John Gosden’s filly The Fugue in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The fast ground at Ascot that day was the major factor attributed to her defeat, but it also gave Criquette wriggle room to engineer the replacement of Dettori in favour of the filly’s original partner.

So when the Arc came around last autumn, Frankie was a gloomy-looking figure on Coolmore’s Ruler of the World in the ruck as Jarnet (in whom Al Shaqab had just bought a controlling stake) and France’s two top racing stars, Treve and Criquette, secured a spectacular second win, by two lengths from Flintshire.

That success happened more than a week before Golden Horn’s narrow debut win at Nottingham over Storm the Stars, overcoming inexperience against his once-raced rival who was to figure well among this season’s major middle-distance races and win the Great Voltigeur from Bondi Beach.

In one of those quirks of good fortune which have usually accompanied Dettori, his relative inaction before the new season when it was decided he would not be on the Al Shaqab French horses came in his favour. It meant he could ride work regularly for John Gosden, his main employer two decades ago before Godolphin came calling. Ironically, the Gosden opening happened because William Buick, the stable jockey at Clarehaven since the end of his apprentice days with Andrew Balding, was signing for Godolphin, along with James Doyle.

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Buick, buoyed by a massive financial deal, a spectacular winter in Dubai for his new bosses and the daily domestic requirements of Charlie Appleby’s stable, was never going to be as readily available to Gosden as had previously been the case.

So Frankie got the ride and I remember a friend coming back to me at the Craven meeting, saying: “Frankie likes this horse” without its registering too much before the colt’s nice win in the Feilden Stakes. The perception quickly changed after the Dante, which brought an emphatic defeat of better-fancied stable-mate Jack Hobbs, with Buick back on as Dettori partnered the Epsom-bound favourite.

Dettori would never again doubt Golden Horn. Before almost every one of the embryo champion’s subsequent races, there were delicate questions which, without the cool-headed approach of the trainer and the pioneering spirit passed down through generations of diamond and gold prospectors since those days in South Africa to Anthony Oppenheimer, could easily have been answered differently.

In an earlier era, in my formative years following racing, there was a horse called Vaguely Noble, a three-year-old who in ability terms was right up there, not far behind the likes of Sea-Bird, the 1965 winner of the Arc from the best international field ever assembled for the great race.

Vaguely Noble was foaled in the same year as Sea-Bird’s Derby and Arc wins, but unlike that brilliant horse was never entered for any Classic races. His breeder, Major Lionel Holliday, had died in the year of his foaling. Until this morning I was under the misapprehension it was the fact of the major’s death that disqualified the horse from running in the Derby as had been the case in the 19th Century at any rate. But further research (looked at Google!) suggests it was the son’s lack of confidence in Vaguely Noble’s sire Vienna, a decent racehorse but ordinary stallion, that made the Derby an unlikely target.

In the event, Brook Holliday won two nice juvenile races with him, the Sandwich Stakes at Ascot by 12 lengths and then the Observer Gold Cup (now Racing Post Trophy), by seven lengths both in soft going. With the Derby already closed and death duties to pay on his late father’s estate, Holliday reluctantly decided to sell and was rewarded with a then world record 136,000gns from the American owner and breast-enhancer, Dr Robert Franklin.

In the spirit of “two are always better than one”, the scalpel-brandisher sold a half to Nelson Bunker Hunt, the man who tried to corner the silver bullion market and almost went skint. Vaguely Noble raced in Nelson’s colours and they sent him to Sea-Bird’s trainer, Etienne Pollet, who prepared the colt to win four of the his remaining five races.

After successes in the Prix de Guiche and Prix du Lys, it was quite a shock when he was only third in the Grand Prix du Saint-Cloud, but he won his prep for the Arc and in the big race did a Sea-Bird demolition job on another stellar field beating the Vincent O’Brien-trained and Lester Piggott-ridden Sir Ivor, who had been so impressive in that year’s Derby.

As a stallion Vaguely Noble produced one of the best mares in history in Dahlia and from the same crop, Nobiliary, the only filly since 1916 to be placed in the Derby in which she was a three-length second to Grundy. In the final race of her career she had Dahlia well back as she won the Washington DC International. Dahlia stayed in training for two more seasons and collected many big races.

Derby winner Empery and top class colt Gay Mecene were also products of Vaguely Noble.

I digress into that history merely to illustrate how good fortune can shape a horse’s career. Golden Horn came along at a time when horses could be supplemented for many major races. Both in the Derby and the Arc a tight decision had to be made. In the case of Epsom, it was primarily whether the colt would get a mile and a half. Many called it a no-brainer, but had Golden Horn not coped with the gradients or failed to stay, the no-brainer would have been anything but.

Then when the Arc came along, the main worry would have been the fear of soft ground or worse but as Longchamp bathed in warm autumn sunshine over the past week, Gosden and Oppenheimer were again in no-brainer territory and Gosden had the happy situation of being able to reserve Jack Hobbs for other ambitions.

The Derby winner had already coped with the drop back to ten furlongs for the Eclipse, which he won with a front-running master-class from Dettori, but his sole defeat, by the filly Arabian Queen in the Juddmonte, took away the “unbeaten” tag and its accompanying implications where a stud career is concerned. Then there was the Curragh bumping episode when once again the fates (stewards) intervened on the right side for Golden Horn.

Yesterday, Flintshire again finished a two-length second. New Bay, like Flintshire trained by Andre Fabre and the French Derby winner, was third with Treve only fourth. She was warm before the start, pretty hot in the race and very probably inconvenienced by the fast ground.

Treve is truly a wonderful filly, but it is interesting that only once did she stray further away than the twenty miles to Paris in an eleven-race career – for that Ascot flop which ended Frankie’s brief association. Golden Horn has been on a series of longish lorry rides to races in the UK, and then to Ireland and France, usually coming out smiling and on top of the pile.

Frankie’s amazing initial wide trajectory from the high draw in the stalls set the pattern. His prominent position left little doubt that by now the stamina question was long gone. This was one of racing’s great days and performances, and reminiscent in many ways of Sea the Stars (also by Cape Cross). Knowing Mr Oppenheimer (actually I don’t), I reckon it’s a certainty that he and his great horse will be on the plane to Keeneland for the Turf to conclude a truly great career, masterfully handled by Big John. Then it’s stud under the Darley management. Watch out Coolmore!


Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

In those seemingly far-off days when I used to help David Loder place his horses in the early phase of his career, my favourite homily to the great man used to be “never be happy with one win when you can make it two” or words to that effect.

The skilled author Jamie Reid unwittingly adapted that thought process when making two brilliant books out of an original idea. Not too long ago he published the engaging “Doped”, an excellent reminder of the days in the post-World War II era when doping gangs roamed the stables of Great Britain to enable unscrupulous gamblers and bookmakers to profit from horses’ mistreatment.

But as he reveals in Blown, published recently in hardback by Racing Post, £20, and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year winner,  some of the Doped research led him to the largely-unknown story of John Goldsmith, a prominent trainer in the same Post War era, but more notably one of the true heroes of that same war.

Goldsmith, who was born in Paris of English stock, and was the son of a horse dealer, became an amateur jockey and then trainer in the land of his birth. In 1933 he was enticed to England to set up a small stable at Sparsholt, near Wantage. He was soon turning out the winners, a Wolverhampton treble later that year advertising his talent.

When war broke out six years later, Goldsmith wanted to serve his country, but opportunities for 31-year-olds were limited, the services being the natural preserve of the generation of late teens and early 20’s. Instead he found his way into Special Operations Executive (SOE), one of the more obscure secret groups viewed sceptically by MI5 and MI6.

After training under the auspices of Major Roger de Wesselow, a former Guards officer and later the founder of The Racehorse weekly paper, of which for several years in the 1970’s I was lucky enough to be Editor, Goldsmith undertook extremely dangerous missions in France, emerging unscathed before resuming the training with great success after the ending of hostilities.

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Few authors, given the compelling material that Jamie Reid unearthed via Goldsmith’s autobiography, completed shortly before his death in 1972, and also in consultation with daughters Gaie Johnson Houghton, wife of Fulke and mother of Eve, and Gisele Steele, would manage to sustain the tension as he has.

Any further comment on the detail of the book would spoil the impact, so please buy it and be transported back to the war – I was born the year after it ended – and also to the period after it when the country, stuck in the rigours of rationing, was ironically overflowing with black market cash, much of which turned up on the racecourse.

Goldsmith was a brilliant gamble-lander of a trainer, in contrast to his son-in-law Fulke Johnson Houghton, whose list of best horses, many handled before his mid-30’s, would satisfy any aspiring trainer.

Before the death of his father-in-law, Fulke had already trained such as Habitat, the brothers Ribocco and Ribero, while later came such as Hot Grove, King George winner Ile de Bourbon and sprint filly Parsimony – pronounced Paris Money by my former Daily Telegraph colleague, the late Noel Blunt.

Fulke trained notably for Charles Engelhard, owner of Nijinsky, last winner of the English Triple Crown 45 years ago. That great horse’s trainer was Vincent O’Brien and the only handler to get close since was another O’Brien, Aidan: no relation, but operating from the same Ballydoyle stables in Ireland. The younger O’Brien just missed with Camelot, foiled only by Encke in the St Leger after winning the 2,000 Guineas and Derby three years ago.

Encke was one of the Godolphin horses later caught up in the Jockey Club Security swoop on Godolphin which led to the embarrassing dismissal of Mohammed al Zarooni in the aftermath of traces of steroids being detected in the Leger winner among others.

al Zarooni has disappeared into the ether, but his then assistant, Charlie Appleby, is going ever onward and upward as Godolphin shows no sign of decline; while Simon Crisford, the long-time racing manager for Sheikh Mohammed has shown a sure touch in his first year as a trainer outside the immediate ambit of the sprawling Darley operation.

Encke’s story didn’t go quite as far. Unraced throughout 2013 by which time the ban on the horses found to have been steroid-users had ended, he came back for three unsuccessful runs last year, but the Racing Post states baldly that he “died as a five-year-old”.

Coolmore might have made more of the fact that the horse that denied Camelot his Triple Crown right was of besmirched character, even if his test after the 2012 St Leger must have been clear. Whatever, he was an almost unconsidered outsider on the day.

Three years later, the St Leger again caused disappointment to Coolmore. After the appeal in London this week, which restored the original result - overturning the on-course stewards’ verdict to disqualify Simple Verse in favour of Bondi Beach - Coolmore were characteristically sporting.

That seemed to contrast with both the tenor of the protests by winning connections at the time, and the fulsome public celebration of the renewed verdict in Qatar Racing and Ralph Beckett’s favour after what must always be a panel’s opinion rather than hard fact.

The three verdicts of the St Leger, before it the Great Voltigeur which also went against Bondi Beach, and the Irish Champion Stakes, in which I still believe Golden Horn should have been demoted, show just how much of a lottery the machinations of groups of three people can be.

I must say, I much prefer the “you win some, you lose some”, attitude of Messrs Magnier, Tabor, Smith and Aidan O’Brien. By the way, word is that Camelot’s foals are pretty special. If I can dig up 50k from somewhere – he can’t, Ed – I’ll take a look at December sales.

Glad that’s finished, now I can go back and read “Blown” again, and hopefully a little more of Jamie Reid’s outstanding work will stick in this increasingly feeble brain.

Blown is available on Amazon for £13.60. You can read more about it here.

Richard Fahey: plenty to smile about

Richard Fahey: plenty to smile about

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

Richard Fahey’s is the busiest stable right now, the Yorkshire-based trainer having sent out a total of 276 horses for upwards of 1,300 races in 2015 <the imprecision is because the Flat trainers’ Championship runs from November to November>.

Amazingly, he operates on an even higher level numerically than either Richard Hannon or Mark Johnston, and the usual weekend glut of winners has pushed him almost to the 200 mark for the season.

I guess in the interests of accuracy, I should have slobbered around the late 2014 results to check on how many of the 192 he was credited with on Saturday morning had been on the all-weather in the period between Nov 9 and Dec 31, but if the referee at Stamford Bridge couldn’t be bothered to get it right, why should I? [Ed – it was five winners from 67 runners]

Anyway what I can be sure of is that Fahey won six races on the day and hardly easy ones either. Ayr’s Western Meeting is one of the most competitive of the season but Fahey had a winner on Thursday’s opening day and three on Friday.

Yesterday he added another four, collecting almost 10 grand for a Class 3 handicap, 12 plus for the opening Class 2 nursery, and both the Ayr Silver and Ayr Gold Cups. Talitsu collected 31k for winning the Silver from stablemate George Bowen (another 9) while unbeaten Don’t Touch earned his lucky owner £112,000 to go with the 60k his first four wins yielded.

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You have to wonder what more he can do? That nominal 192 wins already matched his 2013 best, and exceeded by five last year’s tally. But in reply to that rhetorical question, you’d have to say plenty, or rather in a single word – Godolphin.

Because away from his beloved north – he also collected a little prize for a Catterick nursery – he was spreading his wings further south. Two Frankie Dettori favourites at HQ might not have added to Nimr’s near 10 grand for fourth in the Tatts sales race at HQ, but it was a different story at Newbury.

There the recently-acquired Ribchester, previously a twice-raced maiden for David W Armstrong, for whom Fahey won £122,000 when taking the Weatherbys Super Sprint there with Lathom, had his first run for the Boys in Blue. Ridden by James Doyle he comfortably beat another of their mid-term buys Log Out Island in the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef (Group 2). Having also sourced and done well with Armstrong’s Birkdale, there will almost certainly be a few more shopping trips, and copping days from and for the Fahey team.

The £232,410 (that’s right, I think) earned yesterday, will put R Fahey, Malton on to the £3 million mark, domestically – never mind his highly-acceptable £118,000 from two wins from 11 Irish runs – again his best for ages and many potential winners still to go.

John Gosden will still be fairly sanguine – more than when making his one-race Newmarket guest commentator stint, along with Haggas, Fellowes, Palmer, Simcock, Wadham and Sir Michael Stoute - with a clear £1 million advantage, but I doubt whether the Hannons will like the thought of dropping down to number three, which must be a possibility.

It was a nice, untroubling afternoon at Newmarket where the afore-mentioned Hugo Palmer barely resisted the temptation to throw in a Henry Blofeld cricket weather, bird-spotting and bus report during the two miles of the Cesarewitch Trial, while Sir Michael took the imaginative and wholly illegal, morally, course of action to bring in Ryan Moore for some guest comments during the next longest race, the fillies’ maiden over a mile and a half.

Ryan as ever showed more than a hint of the understated humour that the press’s intrusive natures make sure he suppresses. On the theme of press intrusion, I wonder what’s in store for Mr Corbyn over the weeks and months. Wonder what he’ll do at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day, for example?

Moving swiftly on, many of Newmarket’s top yards will be open to the public today and Hugo gave me the office to slip in for a quick visit in the morning to see Ray Tooth’s Harry Champion before setting off for Uttoxeter. Harry’s had a break since Windsor in midsummer, but is coming along nicely he says.

Cousin Khee, an easy winner on his return from more than two and a half years since his last jumps run, flipped fluently around Stratford on Monday and needs to run off a penalty as the handicapper may well take exception to that performance. Only five take him on and we’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t follow up.

His stablemate, Dutch Law, Ray’s home-bred three-year-old, has had more than two months since a good second at Ascot following success at Newmarket. He goes to Kempton the following day and by all accounts has thrived during his break. If they both win it’ll have been a nice week. Big if.

One element of Newmarket’s sidebar attractions – a food fair and several demonstrations – left a bit of a sour taste, certainly for me and even more so for the couple I was with, both horse lovers who have kept their former racehorse for the past five years simply for once-a-week riding near Newmarket and at considerable cost to themselves.

The source of their irritation was the commentary by “horse whisperer” Gary Witheford which accompanied his and his son’s demonstration, understandably rudimentary, of the skills needed to persuade a horse to enter and depart from stalls.

Gary has long been admired for his skills – even though about seven years ago a horse of the boss’s he had re-schooled refused to enter the stalls at Bath – and as a result has had plenty of favourable attention, including a feature piece on Racing UK in recent weeks.

But here, when calling for a volunteer to illustrate a point, he singled out a young woman – first checking “is your boyfriend here” and going on from there. There was a comment about “if you were blonde” and then he asked whether she would allow him to lead her around on a rope as though she was a horse. After getting her agreement and parading her around, he twice saw fit to comment favourably on her prospects of finding a husband.

Some of the few dozen people sitting on the bales of sawdust around the arena might have found it funny, but honestly Gary, if that’s your idea of entertainment, stick to the day job. For me and my friends it was one of the most embarrassing things we’ve seen in years.


Rueful: Ralph's filly was 'taken down'

Rueful: Ralph's filly was 'taken down'

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

You have to be careful what you wish for. For example, do you want Jose Mourinho to get the sack? If you were to take a rational view of his recent performances in front of the unforgiving, indeed crowing, media after his team’s recent lapses and factor in his latest unkempt rag and bone man appearance, you’d have to deduce he wants out.

But then, that’s the style in the 2015 world of instant gratification when the fact of winning rather than the manner and style of success is the be all and end all.

For instance Manchester United won and their new man, Tony Marshall (Anthony Martial to everyone else), did his fair instant impression of Terry (Thierry to everyone else) Henry as they all predicted he would to trump Christian Benteke’s outrageous overhead kick.

Manchester City got a last-gasp winner from an unknown 18-year-old Nigerian who had been on the pitch for two minutes to maintain their 100 per cent start, while Arsenal kept (almost) in touch and raised their percentage of goals scored by their strikers (as against two own goals) to three from just short of 90 attempts.

But those three won; Liverpool and Chelsea lost and that’s all that matters and the media have a field day whoever wins. Alone among observers I said during the summer that Wenger would not buy anyone after he got Cech to save shots. Nice to be right about something, but if I’ve altered what was going to be the theme of this piece, I’m sorry – it was just too good a chance to gloat at Mourinho’s predicament.

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There was also a small voice somewhere wanting to get out as Ralph (Rafe to you) Beckett celebrated the immediate aftermath of Simple Verse’s narrow defeat of Bondi Beach in the Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster. “She was easily the best”, he declared in that euphoric moment we have when hyperbole rules.

Unfortunately, as she was prepared for her final run by Andrea Atzeni, she collided with Bondi Beach inside the last two furlongs as the pair got to Fields Of Athenry and set off to chase new leader, Storm the Stars. They continued their joint attack, passing the weakening Storm the Stars together before Simple Verse gave the eventual runner-up another bump in the closing stages.

There is no question that in relation to what happens every day on British racecourses, Simple Verse was unlucky to lose the race. What must have been even more galling for Rafe and owner Sheikh (slim-look) Fahad, testing the latter’s oft-stated love of British racing, was the identical fate of the same connections’ Secret Gesture after coming home first in the Beverley D (Grade 1) at Arlington Park, Chicago last month.

That day some prime US jockey-acting by third-placed Stephanie’s Kitten’s rider, Irad Ortiz Jnr., got the comfortable five-year-old winner thrown out and placed third behind her alleged interfered-with victim. That was a far more contentious verdict, but US, and for that matter French, rules on interference allow for such apparent injustice.

You have to wonder whether Doncaster’s stewarding panel, and their supervising stipe, Paul Barton, had in mind the fact that just three weeks earlier, Bondi Beach got the wrong end of another inquiry in Yorkshire involving Storm the Stars in the Great Voltigeur at York.

That day I thought disqualification of the William Haggas horse had to be inevitable as he had twice bumped Bondi Beach while carrying him left almost the whole way across the Knavesmire in the closing stages while Pat Cosgrave continued to use the whip in the right (therefore incorrect) hand. Many others disagreed and they were proved right – Haggas losing a race in Yorkshire, God forbid! Was there an element of “we can’t do this to them again” about yesterday’s verdict, which once more proved my expectation of the likely outcome to be mistaken?

I was just as perplexed by the attitude of Jason Weaver on Attheraces as he suggested Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle had contributed to the almighty right-handed smack he got from Derby winner Golden Horn in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown by edging a little left into his rival’s path.

Well, the Derby winner’s swerve was as abrupt as it was unexpected and the head on showed Golden Horn continued on in the same direction so that the pair (who did not touch again) finished close to the stands rail. Yet nobody seemed to think there was much chance of a change and the announcement of “placings remain unaltered” came soon enough. Apparently the Irish rules on interference are pretty inflexible and the prospect of giving the race to runner-up Found, and thereby two Coolmore Group 1 promoted winners on the same day, was a step too far to entertain given those rules.

But to bring a challenging horse almost to a dead stop by such an abrupt change of direction surely deserved disqualification? Wrong again. Meanwhile Gleneagles sat out one more dance leaving many of us to think back to the small nudge which cost him victory in last year’s Lagardere on Arc Day, allowing an undeserving second to step up. Will there be another chance for him?

I started, after the football, with the St Leger and Rafe. That taking down (as the Americans say) of Simple Verse could not disguise the skill in developing fillies and mares that Beckett has exhibited in what is still a relatively short career.

The Racing Post lists big race winners for trainers and Beckett’s roll of honour takes in 15 races – should have been 16 – and 13 have gone to his fillies or mares. He’s won four Fred Darlings, two Investec Oaks (Look Here and Talent, with Secret Verse also second to the latter in 2013) while the staying theme continues with Cubanita’s successive wins in the 2013 St Simon and last year’s John Porter at Newbury.

Simple Verse, bred by one of Coolmore’s most productive nurseries, David and Diane Nagel’s Barronstown Stud, is a daughter of Duke of Marmalade, a multiple Group 1 winner who has now been sold to the Drakenstein stud in South Africa. Simple Verse cost 240,000gns as a yearling, one of the highest prices for a Duke of Marmalade, and benefited from Rafe’s style of steady progression in a stayer’s career.

She won at the third time of asking, as recently as April this year, her Lingfield maiden success earning her a modest rating of 72, lenient enough when you consider she had the 67-rated Yorkindredspirit 15 lengths back in third.

A near miss at Goodwood was followed by a hard-fought Salisbury handicap win off 82, and she was only on 88 when tackling the Group 3 Lillie Langtry over a mile and a half at Glorious Goodwood. She won with a determined finish which brought another 20lb hike and a St Leger challenge.  Beckett was so confident of his filly’s progress in the month since Goodwood that he persuaded Sheikh Fahad to stump up the £50,000 supplementary fee, and that looked a fair decision as the new mark gave her only 5lb and 4lb to find with the Voltigeur principals.

That she could go past the post in front was ample justification of his decision. Beckett’s immediate response that he will appeal was understandable and I think he must have a fair chance of being successful, but as I pointed out above, I rarely get it right where stewards’ are concerned.



Sunday Supplement

By Tony Stafford

In a week when two major racing figures announced their imminent retirement for reasons not solely to do with advancing age – Hayley Turner, 32 and Clive Brittain, 81 – another giant of the Turf could well be winding down.

In the 2004 edition of Directory of the Turf, the great Christiane (Criquette to all in racing) Head-Maarek , 66, was listed as having 180 horses at her stables in Chantilly. Eleven years on, according to France Galop, there are just 67 in her care.

Meanwhile Mick Quinn, who in his Coventry days scored a hat-trick against Arsenal and ate all the pies, has morphed into a Talk Sport legend and, for a good deal longer, a racehorse trainer in conjunction with his wife, Karen.

So far in 2015, Criquette has won five races with 42 horses from 96 runs and Quinny has won six with five. Khalid Abdullah (19), the Head family’s Haras du Quesnay (17) and Al Shaqab, Treve’s owners with eight, are the major patrons of the first named. Many in the stables are home-breds and well-connected too.

Micky’s five horses include just one not to have won this year – Anfield, named for his home town football club’s ground and rated just 40 before her much-improved run in second which brought a latest rise to 48. Otherwise he has won with World Record and also Refuse Colette, the mare adding to five Yarmouth wins last year with a six-furlong Nottingham victory last month. “She’s been waiting for Yarmouth to get going,” says Mick, “We’ll be looking to get her there ASAP”, he says.

Colette is a six-year-old mare owned by the YNWA Partnership, who in company with Juddmonte and Haras du Quesnay clearly believe in the efficacy of families. They also have two of Refuse Colette’s younger siblings, the four-year-old Rockie Road and Racing Angel, who is three. Both have won twice since switching to Quinn, and have made Brighton their preferred battle ground in that other seaside venue’s inactivity.

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When the season started, Criquette must have anticipated a better return than the five paltry wins, even if Treve’s two were at Group 2 and then Group 1 level, entertaining hopes that she can complete the unprecedented Arc hat-trick next month. Her wins were in the Prix Corrida (May 28, against females) and on June 29th in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, both over one and a half miles on the Paris track named-dropped in that latter contest.

In her second run, she easily held the challenge of Flintshire and when Andre Fabre sent him over to Saratoga last weekend for the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, worth £342,000 to the winner, he made the Americans look pedestrian, paying Treve an extravagant compliment.

But there could be a snag. The Grand Prix in late June was Criquette’s last winner. One other older horse, the four-year-old Greenstreet, won a minor race In February and the three-year-olds Clariden and Queen Winner are the only representatives from the Classic age group to win. Greenstreet scored at Longchamp in May, while the filly won in Dieppe the following month. So far four juveniles (of 29) have run, of which one was placed.

While the Racing Post does not include results from the smaller tracks, it does list runners over the past fortnight for French trainers on those courses. For instance, our (Raymond Tooth’s) French trainer, Nicolas Clement, has run quite a few on the major tracks recently, but, as the Post reveals, also one in the provinces at Saint-Malo in that period. Criquette has had no runner anywhere in the past fortnight, but she has declared Fontanelice to run in the Listed Prix de la Cochere over a mile at Longchamp today (Sunday) and has left in three including the unraced juvenile Pyretos at home course Chantilly on Tuesday.

No doubt the French racing public will be watching closely to detect whether there are grounds for concern in regard to Treve’s prospects.  It cannot help confidence that Full Mast, the beneficiary of Gleneagles’ disqualification in the Group 1 Prix Jean Lagardere last Arc Day, has raced just twice since, second in a Group 3 and then finishing only seventh in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat, a too-bad-to-be-true 19 lengths behind Territories.

Epicuris, like Full Mast a Group 1 winner at two for Khalid Abdullah, has been placed in two domestic Group races below the top level, either side of his 12-length fifth behind Golden Horn when a tongue-tied 20-1 shot in the Derby. He has been the trainer’s sole English runner this year, and Treve, when unsuited by the going at Royal Ascot last year, was her only other UK runner over the past five seasons.

This indicates, as does the fall-off in numbers, much less activity than hitherto at the top level for the supreme handler, especially of fillies. Her record with such as Three Troikas, Sigy, Ma Biche, Maximova and the great Ravinella, as well as top colts Bering and Anabaa, places her as the unrivalled female trainer, arguably, in the history of racing. UK Group 1 races, especially the 1,000 Guineas and Cheveley Park, were apparently hers for the taking in those days in the 80’s and 90’s, but that history will mean nothing if there’s anything amiss at Longchamp in early October. I hope there isn’t, but 7-4 looks too skinny and risky enough.

It is always good news when a small stable does well, especially when it has struggled to attract owners. Peter Charalambous is a hard-working example of that type of trainer, always finding bargains that punch well above their weight.

Over the years since moving to Newmarket, he has been frustrated by the lack of support from mainstream owners, so had to own and train them almost entirely by himself with the help mainly of his partner Trudie and some owners generally taking small shares with him.

Now the stable has a “proper” horse, as Theydon Grey, a two-year-old son of Champs Elysees (an Abdullah-raced and –owned stallion)  bolted up, well backed, in the Chelmsford maiden on Thursday, clocking a track record one and a half seconds inside the previous best figure.

Pete’s canny eye spotted him at the sales and he paid what now looks the truly ridiculous figure of 9,000gns from Tattersalls Book 3. Peter shares the horse with Eamonn O’Riordan, a resident of Theydon Bois who knew the late Roy Street, subject of last week’s article. This could be the horse that puts Peter up to the next tier among trainers, making all the work and sacrifice for the sport he loves more viable financially.

Peter always liked the colt, but as he says “when he came up the gallops well clear giving two stone to Boonga Roogeta <6yo mare rated 81 after 11 wins> I knew he was special”.  Do I detect a Godolphin or a Qatari on the horizon? Guaranteed!


The same ever-acquisitive interests were immediately circling the next afternoon when my mate Alan Spence enjoyed a wide-margin Haydock success with the previously-unraced Priceless. The Clive Cox-trained daughter of Exceed and Excel clocked a time 1.3 seconds faster than an Al Shaqab newcomer trained by Richard Hannon in the first division of the same maiden race. It was also a tick faster than eight-year-old 83-rated Gramercy’s time in a hard-fought win in the following handicap.

I’ve known Alan a long time, and I still have a picture in my lounge of my first winner Charlie Kilgour, for whom I paid Alan £1,000, coming back to unsaddle at my lucky track Beverley 31 years ago! To look at him now, you’d have thought Alan must have been in his teens then, but he wasn’t.

We were talking the day before the race when he had just touched down at Baden-Baden in advance of a buying trip at the yearling sales. He told me that he thought he had a big chance with his first-time filly at Haydock and two of his five runners around the country on Saturday. Once I forgot the first, I could hardly worry about the ones at Thirsk and Wolverhampton, could I?

Alan was mainly interested in the first-crop yearlings of his multiple Group-winning stayer Jukebox Jury, who dead-heated for the 2011 Irish St Leger with Duncan – Fame and Glory 8-13 fourth – and more importantly for German breeders, the 2009 Preis von Europa. He now stands in Germany for Euro 5,500 and Mark Johnston, the grey’s trainer, bought two for Alan, both at Euro 34,000.

As to Priceless, the would-be purchasers would find that Alan neither needs nor wishes to sell. So if Chelsea, where he is Vice-President, has a crap season, he’ll still have at least one thing to smile about over the winter.

M11 carnage

M11 carnage

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

Travelling around the country’s motorways nowadays can be as frustrating a pastime as one could imagine. Living as I do within minutes of Redbridge roundabout, an easy access point for the M11, I’m almost exactly one hour from Newmarket, a few minutes less if it’s the July Course rather than the Rowley Mile or Warren Hill gallops.

Yesterday it took more than three hours, thanks to some heavy roadworks at Redbridge which will prevent any northbound access to the motorway for the next three weeks. I get on the A12 going down to Redbridge, near the Olympic Velodrome, and the first notification of the imminent difficulty was cleverly delayed by the road authorities until just after I’d passed the final possible avoiding point at Leytonstone’s Green Man.

Fifty minutes later, I was on said roundabout with no option but to continue east rather than north. OK, so what? you might say, but I’ll continue, because once again I had a similar eerie instance of uncanny coincidence awaiting me.

My revised route took me to Barkingside and on to Chigwell, where Harry Taylor lives, past Theydon Bois, home of Roy Street, up Epping High Street and through to the M11 at Harlow. Five miles later I came to another virtual dead stop and after limping to the Stansted Airport turn, went east again into rural Essex, turning at Dunmow, then collecting Thaxted, Saffron Walden and Linton, passing the entrance to the Zoo there , before getting back on track at Four Went Ways.

Another so what? Well I’ll tell you what. It was just after Saffron Walden that Harry Taylor called. He said: “Roy died yesterday. His wife just phoned to tell me. The poor man’s heart just gave out”.

Since Harry moved from Loughton last year, I’ve often picked him up from home, frequently then collecting Roy after he strode purposefully along to the green at Theydon Bois. Roy knew everyone there, and also at Newmarket, where one of his greatest friends Alan Bailey was shocked to hear the news, relayed from another mate Roger Hales, whom I’d told a few minutes before I got to the track.

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Alan’s shock was followed by “you never know when it’s your time to go”, to which Roger replied: “my uncle did. He knew the day and exact time that he would leave this world, and that’s exactly when they hanged him!” Rather irreverent, but Roger was probably still elated that Yarmouth, his local track and another well-known to Roy, resumes operation today after almost a year off the roster.

It’s probably against all the rules of writing a news item to talk about Roy in this rambling way. He should have been the subject in the first sentence, and despite myself I know the rule is still “who, what, when, where and why”.  To those who knew his story, he was one of those rare people who had a tale, or rather many tales to tell of his days as a film stunt man, with the emphasis on his great skill and knowledge of riding horses.

This started more than 70 years ago in the rustic setting of Theydon Bois, developing after serving in the forces into competing in point-to-points, where his enthusiasm and hard work got him rides on horses from the field while wealthier young men would get on the potential winners.

But there was no hint of bitterness as he reminisced about those days, still lauding the Bloom and Turner families that dominated the sport in East Anglia for all the post war era up until relatively recent times.

The stunt work – he was a stunt arranger and choreographer (officially co-ordinator) on many major films – also teaching stunt riding and demonstrating his own talent around the country in jousting events of which he was often part-promoter.

He described some of the stunts, daring instances of great courage and almost foolhardy timing as he would somersault off the back off a galloping animal or run across a marauding vehicle or apparently-bolting horses, mini-seconds before being involved in the inevitable fatal crash, hoping the cameraman had got the shot.

He’d been off the main stunt circuit for the past few years as he entered his 70’s and lately Harry had shown his concerns, saying: “Roy’s not coming today, you know, I don’t think he’s right.” Yesterday he returned to that theme, almost sorry he’d voiced those thoughts.

That winding down did not prevent a couple of what must have been highly-taxing demands on his strength, something of which Roy was rightly proud, even if it led him to occasional difficulties as he’d never back down from a challenge. First he spent days careering down the centre of an escalator at an abandoned London Underground station in one of the latest Bond films and then he drove a truck incessantly back and forth through the Mersey Tunnel avoiding crashes every few yards for one of the Fast and Furious series.

He let me in on one movie-making secret. “It’s simple really. You think it’s all happening at 70 mph, but it’s more like 30 and they speed it up in the editing suite. That’s not to say it’s not dangerous enough.”

I’ll restrict myself to a couple of little reminisces of Roy, one involving a car journey back from Newmarket after no doubt chatting to Bailey and Jack Banks, another great pal and hosts of others that have enjoyed his company over many years; the other an example of his idiosyncratic attitude to racing and some of its major protagonists.

Roy loved his cars, usually was a Mercedes, and often after racing he would say: “I’ll drive back”. This day, having done a few taxing journeys up and down the country in the previous week, I took him up on the offer.

I generally doze off when in the passenger seat – ask Roger – but this time, underneath the serenity, I got the feeling that something was a little ‘off’. I looked across at the speedometer and said: “Roy, slow down, you’re doing nearly 110!” “Sorry, it felt more like 80,” to which figure he eased at once.

Minutes later we were back at 110 – didn’t know the VW Golf could go that fast – and neither did Roy, so another admonition was needed. Off the motorway down the little windy roads past David Sullivan’s house and the fields where he’d first developed his love and skill for and with horses, he was up to 70 in a 30 limit. Careering past a camera, he said: “Don’t worry, there’s no film in them.” That’s what Harry says, too, until he gets done in one of the new 20mph zones around London, but Roy was right that time anyway and he won’t be wrong ever again!

For someone with so much experience of racing, Roy had the betting shop punter mentality to the end, straight-facedly accusing runners in Group 1 races of being non-triers despite the contrary evidence of the fact that those will be the races where everyone’s ‘off’ for his life.

He was less than charitable to what he perceived (sometimes unfairly) as jockey error and my favourite concerns JP Magnier, son of John. He always referred to JP as “an amateur amateur”, not that he was too deficient in talent.

Anyway one day JP was on a Nicky Henderson short-priced favourite in the dark blue Magnier silks in the concluding bumper at Kempton. Roy backed it – putting all his winnings from what had been a successful afternoon, on the steed.

At the start, JP was manoeuvring towards a final circle when the starter let them go, JP turning off to the right, while the rest of them were going left onto the track. Master Magnier was unable to get back into the race, leaving Roy, and no doubt thousands of others fuming.

After venting his spleen to us, Roy said: “I’m going to tell him what I think of him” and as the riders came back to weigh in he called across to one young man, telling him with a fair bit of invective that he was an adjectival you know what.

The gentleman in question waited for the tirade to peter out and clearly distressed by the verbal assault, plaintively said: “I wasn’t riding it.” That was Roy, but there will be hundreds, among some of the biggest stars in the film industry, and horsemen in many countries around the world who’ll miss the tall, strong and totally independent man we knew.

Adam Kirby: Good with a wheel nut...

Adam Kirby: wheely good

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

Do you think you are generally a lucky or unlucky person? Most punters spend much of the time bemoaning their luck, with tales of near-misses at the races in the forefront of their recollections. I’ve probably told you here of the time when a fluky 66-1 winner achieved by a fellow press tipster cost me a fourth naps table victory a long time ago.

But on the plus side, both the gaining of my present employment and the starting point of a chance encounter thousands of miles from home which in the fullness of time concluded with my second marriage seven years ago were almost too unlikely even to consider possible.

Destiny is one word for it. Sheer ridiculous luck is a better description, and the ethereal powers that arrange such events were on hand again in the past few days to ease another of those problems.

For years I’ve usually travelled to the races with my good friend Harry, but since he changed his old Mercedes for a more comfortable, newer one, he’s been more inclined to drive himself and that was the case for York, going up on Tuesday, staying four nights in comparative luxury, and back after racing on Saturday night.

Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the flying finish of Mecca’s Angel in the Nunthorpe, foiling Acapulco and the stewards’ apparent Yorkshire bias towards Storm of the Stars in the Great Voltigeur, his week would have been highly profitable rather than irritating.

One of the more recent times Harry took the passenger role could easily have ended in a nasty outcome, his driver clipping a curb on his side causing an instant failure to the off-side tyre. It was quite close to our destination, and Harry knew there was a petrol station just up the hill, to which we limped with some difficulty.

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Now Harry’s as much use in the skills of car maintenance as me, but having ascertained there was nobody in the garage capable of changing a wheel for the mini-spare that VW’s have, it was with great difficulty because of his phone’s lack of reception in the Epping Forest area that we got through to the AA, with whom he is a member. Usually you get an “it’ll be no more than two hours” as far as my distant memory of the days when I subscribed to the service. This time, the voice in the service call-centre said: “he’s in the area. He’ll be along in a few minutes”. Almost before the phone had been disconnected, there he was.

I stayed over on Wednesday night after York, but in Durham rather than near the track, and when I set off on Thursday morning, I filled the tank while mentally checking that the front tyre on the driver’s side was not showing signs that the pressure was down. I’d had to put in a little the morning before.

So after racing I set off, and on the A14, just shy of Cambridge Services, 60 miles from home, I was sailing happily along when a thoughtful young man drew alongside, gesturing I should follow him into the imminent lay-by. He came out of the car and said: “Your front wheel’s almost flat,” adding that the nearest garage was “about a mile and a half down the road.”

Again I did the well-worn limping tactic, my many thousands of miles’ experience reminding me that the hazards should be employed. I made it just and having ascertained the location of the air facility and exchanged a pound coin for two 50 pence pieces, attempted the demanding task of transmitting life-breathing energy into the distressed rubber.

One of the 50p’s expired in five minutes with no discernible effect, and the second was mostly exhausted when I heard a voice whose pitch is unique among the many Irish lilts that have been in my experience.

Before even looking across the two pumps to the car involved, I called out “Paul!” and sure enough upon letting go of the device, saw that it was the same large person of that calling who was dealing with the fuelling of the car he drives to and from the races for Adam Kirby.

Just what star-commanding force told Big Paul to choose that precise garage (and as I said just short of the much posher Cambridge Services) only minutes before our paths would have been uncrossed when the A14 splits from the M11 south I can only wonder. Or that in the preceding 150 miles from York, the tyre had not chosen a more spectacular exit at 70-odd mph? (Who says you’re not a lucky face – Ed, or even God)?

Having ascertained my inability at self-changing, the pair of them went to work, Paul first and then a be-socked Kirby: “You’re lucky, he’s usually naked”, proudly asserted the driver. Adam’s nimble fingers were great for the manipulation of the relative bits and pieces, while Paul’s better than average size was great for raising the vehicle with the jack from the car’s kit and standing on the wheel wrench to loosen the nuts.

In minutes – as quickly as that AA man - they finished and were gone. What a man that Paul, and also the brilliant jockey and man that is Adam Kirby, who as the Racing Post said yesterday in their birthday section, is still only 27!

Saturday was to be York again after a day off, but chastened by the events of Thursday I went to Sandown for a quiet day after which the joys of BBC4 on Channel 116 could be fully appreciated. My 9pm foreign two-hour detective needs were pretty-much sated by Montalbano, but there was a late-night jewel in the shape of an hour-long Status Quo acoustic concert from the Round House.

At the start of my teens, I had a period when I collected train numbers, ended abruptly at 14 when I could join Eton Manor and fulfil my dad’s great ambition. Before though, I’d go to the end of station platforms collecting numbers, underlining them in the spotters’ books, with Kings Cross a magnet with the “streaks” including Mallard, 126 mph and all that, as steam was ending its glory era.

Where the Round House is now a theatre, it was an engine-cleaning and maintenance centre, gained access to, illegally, through a little door near Chalk Farm station, and I went there many times, although the people that I undoubtedly must have had with me on the various occasions have slipped from the memory.

The engines – when you got past the occasional stroppy British Rail employee - were ranged around the circular moving stand and were gleaming in their green liveries ready for the next journey up from Euston to Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.

Cutting to last night, Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt and co were joined in that same hall by some classical string players and two female backing singers, one of whom also chipped in with some violin.

I don’t know if it ever happened to you, but always when we used to go to shows, my roving eye (I wish) would tend to stray to the same non-essential member of the chorus, as when the first Mrs S joined me for one of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas at Sadler’s Wells (in Islington, not the sire of Galileo).

I had a quick look at the programme that night and saw that in the chorus was a certain Lyn Williamson, and after much scouring of the stage, picked out the likeliest-looking redhead. In the first year after leaving Central Foundation School, I had been invited back for the summer dance and met Ms Williamson, who was a temporary music/singing teacher from New Zealand.

We actually went out half a dozen times that summer, but then she contracted glandular fever and told me I’d better stay clear while she recovered. The next time I saw her was 20 years later in the Mikado! Couldn’t really have gone backstage afterwards.

Last night, my attention was straying from the first minute to the non-violin portion of the backing singers, whose identity was revealed when for once I concentrated on the closing credits. She’s called Amy Newhouse-Smith, is from Liverpool and as well as singing brilliantly, she plays piano, teaches singing, and the few internet examples of her craft revealed a wonderful voice of great variety. She certainly combined well with the more than decent efforts of Rossi and Parfitt.

The boys were good, but Amy was great. Now I’ve another obsession to attend to.

Tony Stafford in his Telegaph days...

Tony Stafford in his Hitman days...

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

I don’t have an iPad or iPhone, don’t do twitter or Facebook and when I’m on the tube get unnecessarily irritated by all those people opposite who sit riven with interest by their screens of varying sizes.

In mitigation to all those folks, though – see, the Telegraph style book still holds all those years on, don’t use “however”, it’s “though” – I must confess when mobile phones first came out I got one and ran up bills in the high hundreds every month.

If I were 50 years younger, no doubt I’d be at the forefront of all the innovations, but I still prefer to wade through information when I need to compile anything that someone else might want to read.

After a latish night watching most of round three of the USA PGA golf – Day leads Spieth by two with Rose third going into today – interrupted by the realisation that BBC4’s 9 pm offering The Young Montalbano was something I should be watching, but did not have the wit to do so until an hour after the start of part three of six – I set the alarm for 5.45 a.m., so I could be with you all this morning.

As usual, that innate sense which beats the alarm whatever time it’s set for, kicked in at 5.40 and I was up. Usually I’ve a clue or two what to write about, but the Aussies being tonked for almost 400 in a day by Northants, Man U’s second win in a row and the preparations for the Rugby World Cup seemed individually and jointly too lightweight.

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No, in the otherwise desert or tundra wastes of August – we used to call it the silly season in my day, now life and sport are silly all the time – the oasis of York stands out.

We might and probably will get Golden Horn versus Gleneagles on Wednesday and I’ll be with the speed of the latter rather than the Derby winner’s all-round excellence. But the opening day also features one race where there’s a little personal history as well as this year a most unlikely statistic.

Thirteen horses were confirmed at the six-day stage for the renowned St Leger trial, the Great Voltigeur Stakes, nine by Aidan O’Brien. So there are five individual trainers represented and none of them has won the race in the past ten years.

Last year Luca Cumani won it with Postponed who made the big time11 months later in the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. The other winning trainers in that period were Sir Michael Stoute (three); John Gosden, also three; Mohammed Al Zarooni, of whom we no longer refer, lost to the world like Betamax videos; Peter Chapple-Hyam; and, Mick Channon, the sole non-Newmarket handler.

In the old, and to some of us, not so old days, real stars would win it, like in 1987 when Reference Point, already winner of the Dante, the Derby and the King George, warmed up for his St Leger victory by collecting the race. He was the first of the late Henry (later Sir Henry) Cecil’s four Voltigeur successes.

Outside the last decade, Aidan O’Brien is the only trainer of Wednesday’s five contestants to win the race, with Milan in 2001 and Powerscourt two years later. Three weeks after the 2001 race, in the traumatic aftermath of 9/11 owner Michael Tabor managed to charter a plane from Lexington which also accommodated a number of trainers – I asked him too late to get on – just in time to witness Milan’s St Leger triumph.

Aidan came again in 2003, with Powerscourt, narrowly outpointing stable-companion Brian Boru. The winner was sent to the Curragh for the Irish St Leger and finished third in the third of Vinnie Roe’s four wins in the Irish Classic. Brian Boru travelled over again and duly won at Doncaster.

Some of racing’s greats or nearly greats have won the York race in the 60-odd years of its existence (it became the “Great” Voltigeur in its eighth renewal in 1957). They include Connaught, Bustino, Alleged and Rainbow Quest.

The race has a resonance for me. In 1998, I had a share in Hitman, a horse I’d bought at Tatts as a yearling then got a few soon-to-be pals involved. They liked the idea that Henry Cecil wanted to train him having seen him in his post-sale temporary home with Giles Bravery, who would have liked him too. He ran in the ownership name of the Paper Boys.

Hitman had been a reasonable third when favourite for the Gordon Stakes, but would have preferred the ground appreciably softer than the actual going when Sea Wave won the Dante in the fastest-ever time for the race. He was found to be lame afterwards and that was it for Henry – and me, I declined to stay in the horse when the other partners wanted Jenny Pitman to train him over jumps.

Hitman provided me with one of my best and worst days in racing. He set a track record for Newmarket’s July Course 10 furlongs in one of the valuable handicaps on the card. It was with some misgiving that I agreed to Brough Scott’s request for a post-race interview. Among the many watching, there was a work colleague of the then Mrs Stafford, a copper who was off duty that day. He was a regular at the races in those days and back at the cop shop, Mrs S, a civilian employee, heard the news that “Tony’s just been interviewed on the telly, his horse won a big race”. “What horse?””, she replied, “he hasn’t got any!”

A bit like 13 years before when the surging talent of Tangognat, 20-length maiden winner at Kempton second-time out and 15 length winner there of a nice conditions race four days later, was to run in the Chester Vase in my colours. Weighing up the options, it was “should I say I own this horse?” I did, we all (wife and father, in on it all along) trooped up to Chester and on newly-firm ground rather than the heavy of Kempton, he trailed home last and was out until the winter.

I related here a week ago that I had a nice time in 1962, playing for the first time at Lord’s. I was also well into the racing by then and in the August we went, mum and dad, with Auntie Elsie and Uncle Alf down to Bournemouth for a week, which included one visit to Salisbury.

On another afternoon, they all went off somewhere and I followed up my plan to play nine holes of pitch and putt at Tuckton Bridge in Christchurch, just along the coast. I didn’t look any older than 16, but I did manage to get into a betting shop in Bournemouth town centre where York was on the agenda. The 1962 Derby, won by Vincent O’Brien with Larkspur will be remembered for the fall among others of the Lionel Holliday-owned and -bred Hethersett.

Now quite why he had already bored into my consciousness so that he was already potentially an element of the long-term memory I cannot tell. One other factor from that race was that the future star jumper Spartan General, runner-up in the 1965 Champion Hurdle, and trained locally by Ron Smyth actually jumped over the prone Hethersett.

The Ebor was also on Voltigeur day and was won by Phil Bull’s Sostenuto, whom I fancied, while the race after St Leger hero Hethersett’s race was won by Persian Wonder, who would be trained by Dick Hern the following year when he deserted Major Holiday for Berkshire. I think they were 9-1, 15-2 (or was it 13-2?) and 4-1.

I still remember the look on my mother’s face when I pulled out the roll of notes I’d won when we convened for an evening meal in a café somewhere in Poole. Nothing in her expression suggested I should reveal my good fortune to my other much-loved relatives! The shape of things to come, maybe, but hardly character-forming!

Tony Stafford

Tony Stafford

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

You wouldn’t often meet more a more seemingly-contented type of chap than Mark Brisbourne. Former jobbing jump jockey – 1,000 odd rides, 60 or so winners in the days of Jonjo - and long-standing Shropshire trainer, once with 94 in his stable but now down to around 20. “The sort of people I used to train for just can’t afford it now”, he says.

On the days when he isn’t driving the box, you’d picture him cheerfully supping a pint in the bar at Wolverhampton or Chester. As he says, “we’re right in the middle, 35 miles from each of them”.

Mark has won three races so far with Ray Tooth’s useful stayer Two Jabs and on Thursday morning I was just about to go through the entrance at Lord’s with my pal Peter who’d been invited as a guest (with friend) to Spreadex’s box for the Royal London Cup one-day match between struggling Middlesex and leaders Notts when Mark called.

He’d made an optimistic entry for Ray’s horse in one of the Shergar Cup races at Ascot, and before leaving Peter’s house around the corner from the great cricket ground, I’d seen from the 48-hour provisional decs on the BHA site that he’d not made the cut by a number of horses.

Each of the six races for the Shergar Cup takes just ten runners and I think we were number 18, but two reserves are also nominated and the BHA had called him to ask if he’d bring Two Jabs along as second reserve. Mark checked with me, I asked if he knew what the deal was and he said he’d find out.

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They told him that if you turn up and do not get a run, you collect £500 appearance (or rather non-appearance) money, making it a small profit on the day after allowing for diesel for the trip. So we agreed to go ahead, with the back-up of an alternative at Ffos Las on Tuesday if he didn’t get a run.

At the 48-hour overnight stage, two of the definite ten, one trained by Ian Williams, the other by Richard Fahey, were also declared to run on Friday at Musselburgh in the Archerfield Cup, which carried almost identical prizemoney to the Ascot race.

Both missed Musselburgh, according to Mark, with the following explanations. “One was taken out because of the ‘unsuitable’ going, the other on a vet’s cert”. Mark added: “Today’s going is the same as yesterday, while the other horse must have made a miracle recovery!” Not quite so contented as usual.

Mark said: “he would have had a big chance, his speed figure was the best and he was well there on RPR ratings. It’s so annoying”.

I had been under the impression that horses withdrawn under a veterinary certificate needed to miss a few days before being allowed to run, but maybe that was never actually the rule, or it’s been relaxed, but as usual it’s the big stables who have all the benefits, with Fahey for example sending out 15 different horses far and wide for Saturday’s usual bean-feast. He won two elsewhere, but was at Ascot to enjoy the Silver Saddle success of his apprentice Sammy-Jo Bell, who won two races.

“What about Lord’s?” you might ask, or “I thought that the cricket was at Trent Bridge”, but I felt I had to digress for a change. On the way round to the box, I wanted to do a little half-a-century ago bragging so with play already going on and Notts two down for just a few, I guided Peter to the Library and got the nice chap who’s written a book about the year of the four England captains - “1988, Gatting, Emburey, Chris Cowdrey and Gooch, we lost 4-0 to the West Indies”.

He was quiet so despite the fact we were not MCC members – waiting list 40 years, might get in when I’m 110 – he was happy to dig out the three scorecards for MCC Young Professionals versus London Federation of Boys’ Clubs matches of 1962-64. Scores of 14, 29 and 8 were hardly earth-shattering, but as the nice lady on reception said: “My dad would have loved to have played here”. My dad watched all three!

The Library man also showed a little friendly envy and just as we gave him back the three slim folders with score cards of all the matches played on that hallowed turf in those three years, he called out, “Rogers is out, Broad, second ball of the match”.

Before we made it to the box, number 16 in the Grandstand, another was down, and by the time I’d caught up with the other more prompt box-inhabitants and scoffed a nice bacon bap and consumed a first of several coffees they were four down.

I – uniquely among the dozen or so lucky guests – had a Racing Post, and everyone seemed to love the articles explaining why Australia with their superior early batting would turn the screw after their inexplicable lapse at Edgbaston the previous week. I chose to take a seat outside and watch the classy recovery of Notts from their poor start, but there was to be no respite for the Australians, who slumped to 60 all out back in Nottingham, each wicket accompanied by a roar from the boxes which must have startled and amazed the players on the pitch in front of us.

Alex Hayles, Michael Lumb and James Taylor, England players all in various styles of the game, were back in the Pavilion in time to watch all the carnage at their home ground while Samit Patel did not linger long a little later. In the end they won comfortably to maintain their lead in the table, while their teammate Stuart Broad was collecting 8-15 back at home, a return beaten only twice in Ashes tests for England, Jim Laker’s nine and then ten wickets with off-spin in the 1956 demolition of the great foe on an Old Trafford “turner”. I can still remember the grainy black and white pictures as I watched – school holidays – the mesmerised visitors trail to and from the wicket.

Even that humbling on a wicket which exposed their inability to cope with proper spin in the days of uncovered pitches, was nowhere near as complete as this woeful effort in less than 19 overs. I’ve seen many things in cricket but nothing like this.

We were on our way to Ascot yesterday morning, taking the wrong even-money route option, staying with the M4 after the M25 turn, rather than going in the Royal Ascot insurance way off at the A30 past Wentworth.

No signs heralded the imminent frustration of one of those hold-ups where hundreds of people get out of their cars and in many instances coaches to look vainly ahead. I was lucky enough to get into the lane for the Langley turn, and onto the Datchet road which runs alongside the motorway from where the despair was fully evident. It was in the traffic limping into Datchet that the final Aussie wicket was taken for an innings win and unassailable 3-1 margin in the series.

Loads of people must have missed the start of the meeting, but sadly neither the Fahey nor Ian Williams box was stuck in the hold-up so we never got a run. Mark had his lunch and then turned back on the way to Great Ness. “Busy this week?” Peter asked as the trainer said he wouldn’t wait for Lulu, Rick Astley and Razorlight after racing, unlike most of the 30,000 crowd.

“Yes, Ffos Las, Tuesday; Beverley, Wednesday and Bath, Thursday and they’ve all got chances”. We didn’t stay either. I expect you know the football’s started again, so well done England for getting the Ashes done before the Man U and Spurs’ early kick-off. I was home just after the start of Chelsea – Swansea (nearest racetrack Ffos Las). Swansea had 18 shots, ten on target, the champions and team the experts reckon will win it all again, 11 and a miserable three on target in a 2-2 draw. Bit like the Aussies, really, false favourites from where my unbiased [ahem, Ed.] eyes are looking.