By Tony Stafford
I left you all last week poised for a trip with the boss Ray Tooth, up to Newmarket to see the horses at Mick Quinn’s and Hugo Palmer’s. All was serene at Micky’s, the home-bred Equiano colt, Stanhope, shaping nicely behind a lead horse, with the bargain (we hope) Foxwedge filly, Circuit, following on as they came back up from the racecourse to the entrance to Hamilton Road.
Quinny likes it there, especially for the younger horses, but an hour later, on the other side of town, Tuesday was a hive of activity. We got to Palmer’s ready for third lot, with Harry Champion, a November juvenile winner, getting back in practice after a gelding op, and the fillies, Jean Harlow and Betty Grable, at varying degrees of physical and mental preparedness for the tasks ahead.
So it was over to Long Hill and as we approached the gallop from Bury Road, Rob Speers, advisor to major owner Mr Araci among others, told us that Galileo Gold and his lead horse Strong Steps would be heading the line.
That pair came up first and everyone, in particular his work rider Toby Atkinson, was thrilled as he displayed verve and good health in what was the final piece in the puzzle. So we were at the right place at the right time, you would think? Possibly, but with Harry Champion, his sister Jean Harlow, and sales acquisition Betty Grable to note as they moved past immediately after, scrutiny was fleeting.
As with Ivawood, also featured last week along with the Amanda Skiffington – Matt Chapman Curragh encounter, Galileo Gold was a “spec” Skiffers buy for the trainer, and after the colt dominated Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas, Hugo reminisced that he owned him at this time last year.
By the time Galileo Gold had his first race, Colin Murfitt, who breeds as well as owns horses, had him in his name and enjoyed a couple of wins from three starts before succumbing to the advances of Harry Herbert on behalf of Al Shaqab racing. They collected first time at Goodwood in the Vintage Stakes, sponsored by Qatar, and went close to winning the Grand Criterium with a fast-finishing third on his only other juvenile start.
On Sunday I congratulated Amanda on her triumph and she was clearly relieved “after Toormore and Ivawood’s near-misses”. I wonder if Chapman would know who she is when they next meet in a paddock, she close to horse, him with mic in hand.
There can have been very few 14-1 shots that carried so much confidence in any race, but the smart course work-out at the Craven meeting that obviated any need for a trial run, so convinced one person close to the action that a reputed £50k was collected. No, not Frankie, although his masterful ride was as much a feature of the Classic coup as Hugo’s adept handling.
If the colts’ race was a sad blip for Coolmore, with Air Force Blue’s surrender, the boys were back in the pink as the three Galileo fillies - Minding, Ballydoyle and Alice Springs - completed a one-two-three in the 1,000 for Aidan O’Brien. There could hardly be a bigger contrast between the ebullient Palmer and soft-spoken O’Brien, who was making it a surreal 250 wins at Group or Grade 1 level world-wide.
Of course he has the financial muscle of the Coolmore partners to keep the show going, but even they would hardly be in the same financial ballpark as the major Middle East owners, who try so hard to unseat them with the wealth of their countries rather than business acumen to assist.
Thus John Ferguson has been at pains to stress the new-style Godolphin, as we suggested last week, with some new promising stallions hoping to challenge Galileo and his own lesser-being in Tipperary. Helmet duly proved an attraction once again at the Guineas Two-Year-Olds in Training sale on Thursday and at the end of the week came news that he’s had his first winner from the initial Australian crop, bred to Southern Hemisphere time.
Helping with Ray’s matings for his rather less exalted mares had a decent start with some talented Dutch Art produce early in the sire’s meteoric rise, and a couple of years back, I suggested Mayson, a beautifully-bred Group 1 winning sprinter (July Cup by six lengths) by Invincible Spirit out of a Pivotal mare, standing at Dutch Art’s base, Cheveley Park.
Ray sent two mares for each of the first years and he has a yearling colt and filly, the former half-brother to Dutch Law, who was second of 17 on his four-year-old comeback at Ascot on Wednesday. Lawyers Choice went back again and got her first filly after six colts, like her elder brother a bold, active type, and there is also a colt out of fast sprinter Catfish.
Those two are junior in age to Nine Red, a Royal Applause mare, now 15, a daughter of Ray’s brilliant Ayr Gold Cup and Portland winner Sarcita, who was still breeding into her 20’s. Until the arrival of her second active foal Nonagon, she was looking a disappointing broodmare. It did not help when after a promising debut fourth in April 2013, Nonagon was injured.
Meanwhile, Harry Champion was soon showing promise for Palmer, but after finishing a disappointing fourth when favourite second time out at Windsor – Stormy Antarctic third - he was found to have suffered a depressed vertebra fracture and was off till the late autumn, when he won nicely at Wolverhampton.
The next foal, Table Manners, by Dutch Art, was in training at two, but got jarred up. After Rachael Kempster saw her galloping merrily around the field at Kinsale Stud, it was decided to give her another try, but a chapter of frustrations meant that was delayed until Redcar on Thursday: as a four-year-old, conceding 11lb to some nice younger fillies at Redcar, she ran a strong-finishing fourth at 66-1.
Now, like Nonagon in the ownership of Geegeez.co.uk – bit incestuous, Ed? – Table Manners is poised for a promising career with the great Wilf Storey, whose own winter bears some telling.
Wilf provided Nine Red’s initial winner as a late 14-year-old when Nonagon preceded Harry Champion’s win by a month or so in a Nottingham amateur race that first showcased the obvious potential of Borders-based Sam Coulthard, one of the emerging jump stars of 2016, shooting clear in the heavy ground.
That was the final highlight of a brilliant 2015 for Wilf and daughter Stella, who does most of the work, but then the old man saw fit to slide on the wet in the stable yard a few days after the end of the season. Stella came to his aid, but the silly sod had badly ruptured the tendons on both knees and was told if he didn’t have the required operation, he’d never walk again. Injury enough for two Premier League footballers!
I saw him at Catterick the other day and he was well on the way to recovery. Nonagon’s impressive last to first win at Hamilton yesterday was the stable’s first of the new year – off 10lb higher than at Nottingham - and as long as the ground stays on the easy side, he should be competitive for the rest of the year.
The O’Brien 1-2-3 and Nonagon’s win were great, but for me Sunday’s highlight was the first winner for Mayson with only his third individual to run. Global Applause, a very untypically-precocious Ed Dunlop youngster, was partnered by Ryan Moore and scooted almost four lengths clear of some other well-touted rivals.
Ascot awaits him. As Jonno Mills, Rabbah’s still youthful-looking boss said after the win. “I love how the Maysons breeze and how they look, so strong and attractive. I’ve even sent my own mare to him”. Certainly if any more evidence were needed, one filly, bought as a yearling for less than 10k last year, so impressed the Tattersalls crowd last week that she went for 140,000gns, 62,000gns more than Global Applause cost. Sometimes gut instinct works.