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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- TS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 - TS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This needs to be addressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- TS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- TS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- TS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- TS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I can’t stop thinking about Visinari!

- TS

Three championship races defined Epsom’s 2019 Derby meeting, writes Tony Stafford. Three times Ryan Moore struck the front in Classic Lester Piggott mode at around the two-furlong pole, the first twice on horses just shaded for favouritism but with outstanding claims and finally on the clear Derby favourite. All three times he was usurped in what in time might come to be regarded historically as a one-off Golden Highway up the far rail.

Traditionally Epsom’s camber takes hold of tiring horses, especially at the end of the mile and a half Group 1 trio of Investec Derby, Oaks and Coronation Cup. Routinely it deposits them struggling for balance on the rail where any recent rain, especially when combined with excessive watering (very rare with Andrew Cooper in charge), would slow the ground compared with higher up the camber and interfere with faltering stride patterns.

This time, fast conditions and, particularly on Saturday afternoon, hot weather and a drying breeze more than countered the three millilitres Cooper decided to put on the track on Friday night. First Defoe in the Coronation Cup, then Anapurna in the Oaks, and finally Anthony Van Dyck in the Derby came late and fast to deny Ryan in turn on Kew Gardens, Pink Dogwood and Sir Dragonet in the Derby.

It was easy to criticize Moore (as many did) and I went home on Friday having imagined seeing him go clear on both Kew Gardens and Pink Dogwood, but the reality was that neither ever got far ahead of their eventual nemeses.

Equally, it was unusual in the extreme just how Andrea Atzeni aboard Defoe, Frankie Dettori on Anapurna and above all Seamie Heffernan, the Peter Pan-like 46-year-old rider (really?) of Anthony Van Dyck found a clear course along the rail. In Heffernan’s case he was actually wider than Moore as the Coolmore number one rider launched his mount to the lead.

A right-hand tap on a horse clearly going very well, took him left and as he stayed on strongly, the same leftward course found the rail. In the same moment, four rivals on his outside contrived almost to manufacture a quadruple dead-heat, AvD’s stamina kicking in to pass them all 100 yards from home for a half-length victory.

For the record, the only interloper in an O’Brien multi-coloured justification of his block entry of seven in a 13-horse field, Madhmoon, rallied late to pinch second back with on the outside Japan and Broome staying on strongly, all three catching Sir Dragonet and relegating him to fifth in a miasma of a nose and two short heads.

You could understand Ryan cursing his luck. Not only had he ridden Anthony Van Dyck to victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial when O’Brien believed the Galileo colt to be well short of peak fitness, he had been in the saddle on five of his eight previous races including when unplaced behind Line of Duty – never sighted on Saturday – at the Breeders’ Cup last backend.

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Had the decision to supplement Sir Dragonet at a cost of £85,000 not been made – at a time when there was an expectation of imminent rain – Ryan almost certainly would have been on the winner. But would he have won if he had taken the same up-the-middle course?

So quickly did the picture change in the Derby that if it were run multiple times, who could say which of the O’Brien four in their respective pink (Magnier second colours), purple (Derryck Smith), blue and orange (Michael Tabor) or dark blue (Magnier) – or the Prendergast one – would have prevailed.

The tendency in any close finish is to condemn the whole lot as ordinary. That could be a very dangerous assumption. Sir Dragonet showed class and speed enough to win the race and failed by less than a length. He did wonderfully well to make light of his inexperience – the first race of his life was only 37 days previously – and he was also in his first contested finish on an alien track and under novel fast conditions.

Japan and Broome flew home on the outside, Japan finding at least 14lb on his Dante run when acknowledged as well short of peak fitness by his trainer before and after the fact, while Broome continued to show the kind of stamina that could make him the number one St Leger candidate come the autumn.

But what O’Brien manages to a degree that no other trainer can – and of course he has the raw material, not just in quality but numerically – is to identify the right horse for the right target.

The Derby comes early in the season, just nine weeks since the start and we’re already 80 per cent through the English Classic races. This year it was the earliest possible, so these staying horses are still in a semi-embryonic stage. Which of them will go to the Irish Derby? By late July will any be ready to take on the older generation, and that possibly means Enable in the King George?

And then there’s the Eclipse, the Grand Prix de Paris, as zealously sought as the remodelled (some time ago now, but we live in the past!) French Derby which yesterday had its normal token Ballydoyle attention: Epsom Derby Trial winner Cape of Good Hope, first string of three at 24-1, was guided to a creditable fourth by that man Moore behind the impressive winner, Sottsass.

Moore suffered a frustrating weekend. That Derby slide from second to fifth in the last 20 yards was costly indeed. Second spot was worth £350,000 and fifth £43,000. Eight per cent or thereabouts of the 300k he forfeited will be hard to stomach.

I happened to be walking through along the side of the weighing room as Chris Hayes came out wheeling his little case and still sporting the “I got Ryan’s money!” grin. I couldn’t help remembering that his first trip to the UK came when I booked him to ride my filly Ekaterina, named after Mrs Stafford, but of widely differing abilities as a 16-year-old when he looked about ten.

“I thought I had it!” he said without a glimmer of regret. It’s great when nice people do well and as one of the Irish jockeys young enough and with no weight problems to have multiple chances in the future, I’d be amazed if he didn’t win the race one day.

I felt truly sorry for Hughie Morrison and the brother and sister team of Mark Weinfeld and Helena Ellingsen that Telecaster found Derby Day all too much. The most obvious sweater in the paddock, he was also the least compliant as they went out for the parade, possibly exacerbated by being last of the 13 to go out.

There was concern that number two draw had been a guarantee of failure in the past, but watching the initial stages, it could only be a mathematical anomaly rather than a physical negative. What was not arguable was that he was the first of the leading bunch to be beaten and, along with his Doncaster conqueror Bangkok, never looked like denting the Irish hegemony.

At least the Weinfeld family had the Oaks win to cheer them and soften the blow of the blown 85 grand. Anapurna is a direct descendant of Egon Weinfeld’s 1979 1,000 Guineas winner One In A Million. No such luck for Morrison, whose father James was owner of the other 1979 Classic winning filly, Scintillate.

The Queen unveiled a bronze statue of Lester Piggott, nine-time Derby- winning jockey, on Saturday. Aidan O’Brien, in equalling that number, also equalled the record for training the winner and surely as night follows day, will beat it sooner rather than later.

Galileo, the 2001 hero, is now responsible for four Derby winners. John Magnier and Michael Tabor have been associated with all five horses and three other Derby winners, so are one ahead of O’Brien in the official records, although one report suggested Magnier had reached number ten, presumably as a minor partner in Robert Sangster winners.

Whatever the accuracy of that account, the astonishing fact is that six of the winners of the years between 2011 and 2019 have been in their ownership, all with Derrick Smith, a late entry into the team. Only Pour Moi, trained by Andre Fabre, did not hone his Epsom credentials on the Ballydoyle gallops.

Some wonderful trainers based in England have massive strings of expensively-bought or home-bred colts with Classic pedigrees. Gosden, Haggas, Varian, Charlie Appleby and the like you would think, might be feared but every year the one to beat is Aidan O’Brien. It’s not very often that he is.

You read it here first, folks. Hermosa runs in the Investec Oaks on Friday. No I wasn’t in Ireland yesterday. I haven’t spoken to Aidan, to any of the owners – or even Harry! But one thing I do know, it’s been done more than once before, writes Tony Stafford.

Then again I’ve just seen (8.30 p.m. Sunday, that’s right I couldn’t wait!) that the Racing Post is talking about Hermosa’s going for the Prix de Diane. Now I can understand the appeal in terms of timing, and also the fact it’s worth considerably more than the Oaks, but it’s a race Aidan has never won.

He has won the Oaks though – seven times in fact, so even if I’m wrong, I’m not going to waste the fruits of my research and if it’s to go to waste well nobody will have died. So here goes!

Admittedly none of Aidan’s seven Epsom Oaks winners has needed to overcome as short a gap as five days.  But by the same token none has won the Irish 1,000 Guineas by anything like yesterday’s four lengths. Or indeed having already won the English 1,000 on her return to action.

Four of O’Brien’s seven winners ran in the Irish race. Of the other three, Was finished only third in a Naas Group 3; Qualify was last of 13 in the Newmarket 1,000 before her 50-1 shock and, in May last year, Forever Together prepped in the Cheshire Oaks. There she was an eye-catching runner-up to stable-companion Magic Wand and comprehensively reversed the form at Epsom.

Aidan’s second winner, Imagine (by Sadler’s Wells), won the 2001 Irish 1,000 Guineas by a couple of lengths before her comfortable success as the 3-1 favourite at Epsom. She never ran again. There is a parallel in her case with Hermosa. Imagine raced six times as a two-year-old, all between August 20 and October 14. The admirably-resilient Hermosa had seven runs as a juvenile, the last five also between August and October and all at Group level, mostly Group 1.

The first O’Brien winner had been Shahtoush, in 1998, owned by David and Diane Nagle, who bred the Alzao filly (in association with Ron Con Ltd) and they raced her in partnership with John Magnier.

It might be slightly shocking to know that of the Magnificent seven, only three are by Galileo, predictably the sire of Hermosa. Alexandrova, the 2006 heroine, was also a daughter of Sadler’s Wells, Galileo’s dad, and her renewal coincided with Galileo’s first year with three-year-olds.

There were two in the Oaks field from that first crop, and I’m sure Rae Guest must often hark back to the fact that he trained a filly bought by Emma O’Gorman as a yearling for just 20,000gns at Tattersalls. She was called Guilia and came to the Oaks with an 81 rating. Despite this she started only 8-1 and finished fifth behind Alexandrova, one place behind the 1,000 Guineas winner Speciosa. She was straight up to 100 after that! Mick Channon also had a Galileo filly in that line-up, namely Kassiopeia who was seventh home as a 66-1 shot.

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The following day Sixties Icon became the first Galileo colt to run in the Derby. Trained by Jeremy Noseda, he was also 66-1 despite having won a Windsor maiden on his second start. He finished seventh, not much more than four lengths behind Sir Percy in a 17-runner scrum that included five sons of Sadler’s Wells and three by the other Coolmore Derby winner-producing staple, Montjeu.

By that September, the Classic die was cast. True, two each by Sadler’s Wells and Montjeu populated an 11-horse field for that year’s St Leger, run at York while Doncaster was being tidied up. An astonishing five by Galileo dominated the race, starting with the first three, Sixties Icon, maintaining his pioneering role, winning from The Last Drop (Barry Hills) and Red Rocks (Brian Meehan).

When Red Rocks went on to beat a field containing Better Talk Now, English Channel, Scorpion and Hurricane Run – the last two trained by O’Brien – In the Breeders’ Cup Turf race at Churchill Downs at the end of that season the last vestiges of doubt were expunged. Here was the one. Here remains the one!

Of the last four Oaks winners, only the unconsidered Qualify, a bit of a maverick as she was sourced by John Murrell from Anne-Marie O’Brien’s breeding stock, is not by Galileo. This Fastnet Rock filly caught Legatissimo near the line for the blood-bath. Was (2012), Minding three years ago, and Forever Together last year are all daughters of the King.

The outstanding Minding did run in both races, but with a 12-day gap. It was probably a matter of putting the record straight in her case as she’d been beaten as a 4-11 shot at The Curragh having previously won at Newmarket.

Hermosa has the chance – if she is allowed to take it as I believe she still could be – to improve on the Minding record. Certainly I cannot remember any winner of both mile filly Classics, trained by anyone, winning both after making all the running. I thought Ryan Moore’s judgment of pace yesterday was outstanding. And if you are worried that she’ll get the extra half-mile being out of a Pivotal mare you only have to go back two years to find her full-sister Hydrangea winning the Group1 Qipco British Champions Filly and Mare Stakes at Ascot over the trip.

That year O’Brien not only had Hydrangea and Rhododendron, but also Winter, re-located from the retired David Wachman, as a triumvirate that comprised three of the best three-year-old fillies in Europe. Glancing down the list of Friday’s Epsom acceptors, Ballydoyle seems to be reliant on recent Listed winner Pink Dogwood, who clearly must have shown plenty of ability at home but nothing in public to put her in the Classic-potential bracket to date.

Otherwise it’s a case of bit-players that might step forward, so the temptation must be in there somewhere to bring a fast-improving dual Classic winner to tackle the two John Gosden hopes, Anapurna and Mehdaayih.

All eyes this morning will be on the five-day declarations for the Investec Derby to see whether Sir Dragonet or Telecaster or both is supplemented following varying elements of doubt from both the O’Brien and Hughie Morrison camps.

Hughie grew up around racing – his father James owned three Classic winners, among them Scintillate, the 1979 Oaks winner. Coincidentally, the 1,000 Guineas that year was won by One In A Million, with Reprocolor one of the foundation mares of Egon Weinfeld, whose Meon Valley Stud bred both their direct descendants, respectively Anapurna and Telecaster.

It is easy to believe that the trainer would be itching to have the chance of emulating his father and win a Classic. As stated here more than once recently, Castle Down Racing, in whose name Telecaster runs, is the racing name for Meon Valley colts retained having not made their reserve – in his case at 180,000gns. Anapurna meanwhile sports the far better-known black and white of Helena Springfield Ltd, and brother and sister Mark Weinfeld and Helena Ellingsen will be delighted not to have to worry about any supplementary entry fees in the easy Lingfield Oaks Trial winner’s case.

It has been wonderful to see Barry Hills in such great form lately. Years ago we all feared he’d be leaving us. He’s looking and sounding great just now and clearly returned to health, so it was heart-warming that his son Charlie could collect the Irish 2,000 Guineas on Saturday with Phoenix of Spain, three-length winner over Too Darn Hot with Magna Grecia, apparently unhappy on the ground, further behind. Having seen the ease of that win and the quality of the defeated opposition, it might be surprising to note that the winning time was almost a second and a half slower than Hermosa’s.

Barry still has plenty of input into the family business, while it was good to see Simon Whitworth in the winning picture from the Curragh. I’ve still got a framed photo in my office of Simon coming back to scale at Beverley 37 years ago on Charlie Kilgour, the first winner in my old red and white colours, now being put to far better use!

Simon’s dad contacted me out of the blue a couple of years before to ask if I could find an opportunity for his son, who’d broken his leg while at Michael Stoute’s. It was sad to hear that Eric Whitworth, a solicitor from Rochdale, died recently.

Of course we were all looking back at the result of the Vertem Futurity at Doncaster, Phoenix of Spain’s previous run back in October, and earlier form with Too Darn Hot, concluding that he had been over-priced. Didn’t think to look beforehand! Did anyone?

I think Battaash’s win at Haydock in the Amstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes, Charlie’s second big win within half an hour on Saturday, was smoothly achieved. It would have been something of a shock if this Group 1 winner had not been able to cope with the sponsors’ Group 1 winner Mabs Cross in receipt of weight. She also had to concede the same 2lb to Alpha Delphini, who had pipped her in the Nunthorpe last year. In the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot, the Michael Dods filly will be 5lb better with both, giving her a decent chance of revenge on a track which will better suit her strong-running style.

- TS

The Temple Stakes at Haydock, like all the races on next Saturday’s card sponsored by Armstrong Aggregates and Amix Concrete, the Bolton-based businesses run by David and Emma Armstrong, is building up to being a very warm affair, writes Tony Stafford.

Yesterday Charlie Hills revealed that last year’s winner Battaash will begin his 2019 campaign, aimed in the short-term to the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, in the Haydock race. Last year he shrugged off a 5lb penalty, earned with his four-length demolition of Martha in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp the previous October at its temporary home of Chantilly while Longchamp was gaining some new stands and an extra two syllables turning it as if by magic to Parislongchamp. Do even the French bother to call it that?

Penalties, 3lb for a Group2, 5lb for a Group 1, only kick in from August 31 last year. Battaash escapes the extra burden this time as his final win as a four-year-old came in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood on August 3 where Take Cover respectfully followed him home, four lengths back.

His later odds-on fourth in the Nunthorpe to Alpha Delphini (40-1) and Mabs Cross and then fourth again as an 11-10 shot behind Mabs Cross in a bunched finish to the Abbaye, betrayed recurring hints of temperament issues which Charlie seems to believe he has overcome.

Apart from Blue Point, freshening up after dominating the massive sprint pots during Dubai’s Carnival over the winter, and also the conqueror of Battaash and Mabs Cross in last year’s King’s Stand, we can expect a field chock-full of potential King’s Stand contenders.

Mabs Cross, winner of half her 14 races in the Armstrong red and white colours which mimic the livery of their lorries and concrete mixers travelling around the country, particularly in the north-west, will be there as a standard-bearer once again.

Last year carrying 9st 1lb she stayed on strongly into fourth behind Battaash (9st 9lb), Washington DC (9st 4lb) and now a stallion with Terry Holdcraft, and Kachy (9st 4lb), a minor co-star in the Haydock race for the past three years but once again this winter the star of all-weather sprinting.

In 14 starts, Mabs Cross has won seven times and not since her debut has she ever been beaten more than two lengths in any of her other six appearances. She was two lengths back, as ever finishing fast in the 2018 King’s Stand and was a paper-thin second in the Nunthorpe, actually looking for all-the-world on the play-back that she’d won.

Earlier this month she repeated her 2018 Palace House Stakes victory, defying a 7lb penalty for the Longchamp win. This suggested, on her return, that she is continuing to improve as a five-year-old. What is not in question is that finishing burst, exhibited in every race. Whether she will be up to conceding 2lb to Battaash rather than, as last year, receiving 8lb and not being quite good enough that time will be the issue for the Michael Dods-trained filly.

Saturday’s Haydock card is the third sponsored by the Armstrongs Group. Up to 2016, when Profitable won the race for Alan Spence from another Dods-trained superstar filly in Mecca’s Angel, the Temple Stakes was the feature on the first of two Haydock late-May cards on successive Saturdays.

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Now there is only a single May Saturday with the latter date moving to early June and run this year the week after the Derby on June 8. The Pinnacle Stakes and John O’Gaunt, both Group 3, are now part of the June date, but the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes for three-year-olds over six furlongs has been added to this weekend’s card which also features the £80,000 added Amix Silver Bowl.

The Group 2 sprint has been a wonderful race for Spence. In Profitable’s year, it was the middle leg of a Palace House/Temple/King’s Stand hat-trick which brought a multi-million pound deal with Godolphin. Profitable is now a stallion with Darley Stud.

The following May, Alan’s filly Priceless, like Profitable trained by Clive Cox, beat off very strong opposition to win the Temple Stakes. Previous Palace House/King’s Stand winner Goldream, trained by Robert Cowell, was second ahead of Alpha Delphini, Final Venture (second at Naas yesterday), Kachy, Washington DC and Take Cover.

I saw Alan at Newbury on Saturday. He tells me he recently went to see his filly foal by Dubawi out of Priceless and is looking forward to the imminent arrival of a full-sibling. Profitable, Priceless – but Alan even YOU don’t always get what you wish for. He may even have to accept second best for Chelsea against Arsenal (in the Mabs Cross red) in the Europa Cup Final.


The wait for a decision on whether Sir Dragonet or Telecaster or both will be supplemented for the Investec Derby seems certain to be drawn out until next Monday, the date when the requisite £85,000 must be paid, five days before the great race.

On Sunday at Naas Aidan O’Brien, in between winning four races, put forward the possibility of instead supplementing the unbeaten colt to the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly. He has the significantly-backed pair of Broome and Anthony van Dyck to call on as well as Japan and Circus Maximus (and maybe others) at Epsom, so Sir Dragonet might not be needed.

Hughie Morrison and the Weinfeld family have no other colt to challenge for the Derby if the temptation to run Telecaster is resisted, although they do have the six-length Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Anapurna as a strong possibility for next week’s fillies’ Classic.

On my way to York on Thursday with Harry and Alan, the car featured a stream of calls to the former stressing that the Dante “was Too Darn Hot’s Derby” and that “Frankie says he’s unbeatable”, coming in from different people, but possibly, in the way of racing, emanating, via Chinese Whispers, from a single original source.

Again in the way of racing, the reaction to a first-ever defeat of the champion 2018 juvenile, was that “he didn’t stay” or “he wasn’t ready”. Maybe it was just a case of “he didn’t win”.

John Gosden reckoned he had been “too free” in the early part of the race, while various observers referred to a “muddling pace”. From my vantage point, I thought that the pace set by Too Darn Hot’s stable-companion Turgenev was anything but “muddling” and that while it was only Telecaster that went with him, the rest following five lengths or so behind, that horse as his trainer asserts “raced even more freely than Too Darn Hot”.

The favourite wasn’t ridden as though he was too under-cooked for the comeback, for all the fact that he’d missed important work in the build up to the 2,000 Guineas, Frankie being at least if not more vigorous than Oisin Murphy on the winner.

After looking sure to prevail, he was seen off late by Telecaster. What might be worth remembering is that this was the first time the Morrison colt had been asked to win in a contested finish. On debut behind Bangkok at Doncaster, he was looked after in the last furlong by Charlie Bennett but still put impressive distance between himself and the rest.

At Windsor, Murphy sent him into an immediate lead and he trounced 15 other maidens without coming off the bridle. York was his first proper examination. He obviously had a race-fitness edge over Too Darn Hot, but nothing like the experience drawn on from an unbeaten two-year-old campaign.

Further evidence that maybe Too Darn Hot was not too darn exhausted but simply bettered on the day by a superior animal came as the cameras stayed on the front two as they went away from the winning line.

Both Murphy and Dettori initially allowed their mounts to continue to roll along, but round the bend they both began to ask them to ease down. The camera stayed on Telecaster the entire time, briefly leaving Too Darn Hot. A few seconds later he came back into the frame, with the sight of Dettori having almost to strangle him to stop him, at which point the coverage returned to a recording of the finish.

At the time of the departure from the pulling-up coverage, I noted a 36-second interval after they had passed the post. I cannot believe that a horse that lost because of not staying, would take that long to pull up. Usually they would be all too happy to obey instructions and get a much-needed rest.

My conclusion is that Too Darn Hot was beaten by a bit of a freak. The rest of the field was four lengths and more behind. If Telecaster hadn’t been there, Too Darn Hot would have beaten Surfman by four lengths and been odds-on for the Derby. I doubt he’d have been going back to a mile in the St James’s Palace in that case!

Talk of a muddling pace would suggest horses were falling all over each other. Here soon after the turn for home all the rest after the front two were being ridden with various degrees of energy. Telecaster was still on the bridle until being asked to pass the pacesetter. In fact he took a while to realise what to do by which time the favourite was on his inside having quickly cut back the deficit.

He saw him off too and my belief is wherever he runs, be it Epsom or The Curragh, he’ll do some more seeing off. It certainly won’t hurt if Sir Dragonet is not in the line-up wherever he goes.  We probably won’t know any more about either of them until after this periodical appears next week.