York last week was great. Yorkshire’s eagerly-awaited four days was again the canvass to the peerless quality of Enable and Stradivarius; the delayed crowning of Battaash as champion sprinter and the emergence of Japan as perhaps the best middle-distance male racehorse in Europe, writes Tony Stafford.
It also, on the seventh anniversary of Frankel’s only run at the meeting, when he made the Juddmonte International the 13th win of his unblemished 14-race career, was host to that horse’s constant accomplice. Tom Queally drove up from Newmarket for a single mount at the four-day extravaganza and rode 25-1 shot Ropey Guest, a maiden, into a creditable third place in the Group 3 Acomb Stakes for George Margarson.
People often say a single good horse can make a jockey or trainer. For Queally, still only 34, his association with the greatest horse of any of our experience might almost be described as a curse. It was a single beautiful unfussy ride on another Margarson trainee, Protected Guest at Yarmouth the day after York ended, that jolted me from vague “what happened to Queally?” mode to “how could it have gone wrong?”, such is the obvious talent of the jockey.
On Protected Guest, a 16-1 outsider for all that his Yarmouth record is little short of spectacular, he sat last of the six, set him down hands and heels to close up two from home and, without picking up his stick, eased him into the lead barely 30 yards out. The winner never knew he had had a race and was back on the bridle by the line.
That single ride at Yarmouth followed what must have been the busiest 24 hours of his season with nine rides (five Friday evening, four Saturday) back at the July course at Newmarket where Frankel started his career nine years ago. The last of the nine, Han Solo Berger, was recipient of another master-class from Queally and at 6-1 was the shortest-priced of his 21 rides over the past fortnight. His trainer, Chris Wall, was fulsome in his praise of the ride after the race.
When you’re in you’re in as a jockey but when you’re out, you’re Queally. Only four of the above-quoted 21 started in single figures, two at 7-1 and another at 9-1 the closest to the Chris Wall-trained Han Solo Berger.
As I’ve written them down in the course of my early-morning Bank Holiday research I’ll pass them on. There were two 12-1 shots; seven at 16-1, including a third winner, Set Point Charlie for Seamus Durack on Thursday at Chepstow; two at 20’s, four at 25-1 and one each at 40-1 and 50-1.
I owe an acknowledgment to Chris Cook of the Guardian, who wrote back in May when Queally was turning up for a single Windsor ride for his fellow Irishman John Butler that he had gone 60 mounts without a single winner at that point of the campaign. In the back of my mind I knew, or thought I did, that he had been in a long drought, but quite that long I hadn’t been aware.
By last Thursday, the intervening three months had yielded only two wins from his next 120 or so canters to the start of races. Three wins in four days have probably cheered this unfailingly polite, undemonstrative and far from publicity-seeking young man but I think it’s worth going into a little more detail.
The 189 rides Queally has collected in this calendar year have brought five wins and overall prize money of £110,000. Even in 2009, the year before Frankel’s emergence, when he was already stable jockey to Sir Henry Cecil, his best-ever tally of 109 winners brought win and place returns of £2.1 million. In the three Frankel years, 101, 100 and 76 winners yielded successively £2.7million, £2.5million and £2.7million again.
Understandably both numbers post-Frankel were starkly diminished. In 2014 81 wins brought £853k, then after Sir Henry Cecil’s death and Lady Cecil’s taking over at Warren Place, the numbers quickly declined. Sixty-four, then 49, 29 and 31 were his scores until this latest tougher-than-tough year.
Obviously he owed a lot to Frankel, but as Cook pointed out back in May, less than half of Queally’s tally of 23 Group 1 wins was accounted for by the great horse, who accounted for ten of them. The last two were on the James Fanshawe-trained The Tin Man, from whom in the summer of 2018, almost exactly a year ago, he was unceremoniously dumped in favour of Oisin Murphy.
Queally initially got the ride on the Fanshawe sprinter after an unplaced debut run under Jim Crowley. Their first association brought a win at Doncaster and from that point they were inseparable. They won eight of their 18 races together, including the Qipco British Champions Sprint in October 2016 and the Diamond Jubilee the following June, both Group 1 contests.
But then his staying on fourth behind Merchant Navy in his follow up attempt in last year’s Diamond Jubilee and then a following third place at Deauville, again nearest at the finish, prompted a change. Murphy stepped in and on ideal heavy ground at Haydock in the six-furlong Sprint Cup, the new team was an instant success. Queally might feel justified if he were to observe that in four runs together since then, three of them as favourite, The Tin Man has failed to win.
Queally has provided his services to 55 different trainers in getting to the 189-ride, five-winner mark and pointedly Fanshawe is not among them. The six most helpful Newmarket-based employers to his cause have been Durack, with 22 mounts including that winner at Chepstow, Richard Spencer (16), Margarson (14) and Ed Dunlop with 12 rides; while Alan King (12) and Gary Moore (10) have also been welcome providers.
The man who rode Frankel presumably gets a breeding right as a thank you for that long, unblemished partnership and therefore should be considerably more financially secure than many of the jockeys that struggle ceaselessly for rides and winners. If he does I think he deserves it as I’ve long believed that his ride in the 2,000 Guineas when he sent his overwhelmingly superior partner 20 lengths clear at halfway was as inspired as it was brave.
Midday, with four, Twice Over with three, Timepiece, Fleeting Sprit, Art Connoisseur and Chachamaidee were the other horses that completed his Group 1 tally. I’m hoping that maybe some trainers and owners who might have looked away for a few minutes from Ben Stokes’ extraordinary innings at Headingley will now be tempted to employ him. There are many less talented horsemen enjoying far better seasons than Tom Queally.