Ribchester was bought from David Armstrong by John Ferguson

Monday Musings: Better to have loved and lost?

I often wonder what the seller of a good horse feels when that animal goes on to do ever better than expected, writes Tony Stafford. What for instance were Peter Ridgers’ emotions as his one-time pride-and-joy Harry Angel stormed away with Saturday’s 32red Sprint Cup through the Haydock Park mud on Saturday?

Equally, how do David and Emma Armstrong react every time Ribchester, twice beaten in their colours after a 105k Euro purchase from the Irish National Stud, wins yet another major race, as he did in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (and £220,000) in the same Godolphin colours now sported by Harry Angel.

And on a similar theme, imagine the inner turmoil every time either horse turns out with their normally spectacular results in championship races, experienced by John Ferguson, the man who sourced both top-class animals for his former employers.

Ribchester was a notable coup, after those two initial second places, but as the latter had been as a 25-1 shot in the Gimcrack Stakes, the risk was probably at worst only a sporting one. Big Dave got the cash, and Godolphin the future winner of the Jersey, Jacques le Marois, Lockinge and Queen Anne before yesterday’s prize.

Harry Angel’s sourcing came in the spring after he broke Haydock’s track record with a scintillating display over the same six furlongs he graced in such devastating fashion over the weekend. He was beaten by Blue Point at Ascot before that, but gained revenge over his new ownership-mate when runner-up to Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and had him well behind on Saturday.

In between, Harry Angel also avenged his Ascot reverse with Caravaggio in the July Cup at Newmarket. Cox will have been an interested observer at The Curragh yesterday when the Aidan O’Brien colt resumed winning ways (he is now seven for nine) in the Group 2 Flying Five following a messy run in Deauville’s Prix Maurice de Gheest. A summit-meeting rematch between the pair beckons with most of the momentum behind Harry Angel.

Trainers who buy at the sales – Cox acquired Harry Angel for £44,000 at Doncaster’s Premier Yearling sale – need to follow a system with so many youngsters to assess and as the trainer stated in an interview, “it helps when you know the families”.

Clive certainly knew Harry Angel’s family as he had bought the colt’s older brother Golden Journey, who also ran for Mr Ridgers, for 70,000 Euro as a yearling in Ireland. One win (at 10 furlongs) from nine runs might have been sufficient encouragement to buy him, but the eternal conundrum of race breeding is how far up the ability scale different members of a family might go. The pair may have expected more speed from a Dark Angel rather than a Nayef, but a champion sprinter, and potentially an outstanding one – probably not!

On a stellar weekend for the handler, Lady Macapa, who joined the Lambourn stable after being sold from William Knight’s team for 88,000 guineas at the end of her three-year-old season, gained her first victory for Cox in the Group 3 Prix du Petit Couvert at Chantilly, stepping up on all previous form.

Then another Cox discovery, the juvenile Snazzy Jazzy, retained his unblemished record, adding to Goodwood and Windsor victories by collecting 147,500 Euro for his defeat of 28 other juveniles in the big Tattersalls sales race at The Curragh. He cost 65,000 Euros at the qualifying auction and no doubt the trainer will have that venue high on his shopping agenda again this autumn.

Ascot holds its first full-blown yearling sale tomorrow and one colt I’ll have a metaphorical eye on is the Sepoy youngster, owner by Jack Panos, out of Anosti. Sadly, Raymond Tooth’s Tarnhelm, that colt’s half-sister has yet to win, but connections, as the saying goes, remain optimistic. Her trainer, Mark Johnston, will not be in attendance, as he has joined the annual migration to the Keeneland September sale – wish I was still able to get there – but he promised Jack when they met at Ascot on Saturday, that he’ll have him looked at.

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Not everything that Clive Cox gets his hands on automatically goes over the line in front, and Raymond’s first meeting with him the previous day, also at Ascot, preceded a last of ten finish for his giant home-bred colt, Nelson River. Predictably green, he finished a satisfactory 10 lengths or so behind the winner, Herculean, one of three sons of Frankel that offered great optimism for the future over the long weekend.

Herculean, a big, flashy chestnut home-bred of Khalid Abdullah’s, trained by Roger Charlton, carried plenty of cash and strong recommendations before the race. He came home comfortably ahead of another Frankel product, Wadilsafa, trained by Owen Burrows. Ryan Moore, at the start of what might have been, for others less sanguine, a traumatic weekend, reported him a fine prospect, and it didn’t take long for talk of the Classics to emanate from the bookmakers and media. Then yesterday Elarqam justified Johnston stable confidence with a fluent debut victory at York.

No doubt that elusive Group 1 will soon be forthcoming for the stallion and quite possibly from Cracksman, who did his Arc de Triomphe prospects no harm with an albeit routine (and slow) win in yesterday’s Prix Niel at Chantilly.

There was more substance to the Prix Vermeille success of French-trained Bateel and she could emerge as a longish-price each-way shot on October 1. It seems the Arc is on the agenda again for Order of St George, third last year, and now a dual Irish St Leger winner having possibly been the recipient of Ryan’s general ire when driven well clear to win unchallenged.

Having been mugged late on in the Matron on Winter by 20-1 stablemate Hydrangea, and similarly foiled close home by another former mount, Happily, on Magical in the Moyglare yesterday, he seemed not in the mood for similar frustration on the champion stayer. It probably would not have mattered if Big Orange had stood his ground, and those of us who could not believe “George” had not picked up Michael Bell’s favourite at Royal Ascot, felt reassured here.

Another of Ryan’s weekend reverses came behind a Frankel, namely Nelson, trained by Aidan for ‘the lads’. Ryan was on the favourite, Delano Roosevelt, but was never going well enough as the winner set a strong pace. No doubt he’ll be on this nice colt next time.

Going back to Ascot Friday, we got plenty of encouragement going forward to longer trips for Nelson River. When Alan Spence saw him at the stable Open Day in the spring, he suggested we’d have to wait at least until the autumn. Isn’t it annoying when someone tells you something unsolicited and is proved right?

Of course, Mr Spence was another beneficiary of John Ferguson’s talent spotting for his old boss, Sheikh Mohammed and apparently is still counting the notes from the sale of Profitable last year. He smiled when Priceless, still in his colours, finished ahead of the older horse when they were fifth and sixth in the Nunthorpe. Has he booked that cover to Galileo yet, or will it be Frankel?

On a slightly lower level, Ray’s lightly-raced filly Betty Grable runs off bottom weight at Catterick (0-80) tomorrow and do not be surprised if she proves competitive. I’ll be there rather than Ascot or Keeneland and Wilf has done well to get Sammy Jo Bell to ride at 7st13lb. The old boy’s playing a big part in her rehabilitation after that bad injury.

- Tony Stafford

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