By Tony Stafford
The thunderbolt came at the end of what had been a highly-satisfactory Friday’s activity starting early morning and concluding with a delicious scampi and chips in the Mayfair Fish Shop.
We – Steve driving, the boss and me - were in the car right after the feast when Rachael called from Kinsale Farm. “We’ve lost April Dusk”. The one consolation of the news was that Ray was able to talk to her, easing her pain while admirably controlling his own.
April Dusk was settling into his spring break in advance of going back for another season with Warren Greatrex, for whom he won successive races, over hurdles and then fences at Uttoxeter. We thought him a future star in staying chases.
Unfortunately, he and the stable had been coping within the restriction caused by a wart-like growth around his ear. Rachael did tell me the medical term – a sarcoid, one of twelve over his body, the worst of which was sutured and stitched - when I went up to the stud during Chester, but it was an ugly thing which had started to weep.
He’d come back together with the medication they’d been treating him with at Uplands, but clearly it was not working. The decision was made to laser it off. He had the operation, recovered from the anaesthetic, but then had a fall in the padded recovery room, breaking a shoulder, from which there was to be no recovery.
Proper racing and horse people are easy to spot. I talked about Kieren Fallon’s affection for the animal last week, and late last night after texting Warren and also Guy Anstey, the travelling head lad who first put me on to the horse, I got horrified calls back from both in rapid succession.
Guy, in particular loved the horse’s quiet good nature. He does a lot of the clipping out when the coats get too long and told me a while back: “You don’t even have to put a hand on him. He just stands still and lets you get on with it.”
He’d been just the same at the stud, although as Rachael said last week: “Once he goes out in the field, that’s it. He comes in when he’s ready”.
The grass is luxurious as the weather warms up in Shropshire, but there will be a cold, empty feel to his few acres as summer approaches.
Earlier in the day, between lots on the Limekilns and then Warren Hill, I narrowly missed Rachael’s husband Richard Kempster. I was in the office at Cheveley Park Stud actually delivering the mating contract for the stud to countersign minutes before Nicoise was to be covered by Mayson.
The gap between the two actions was tight, clearly so as Richard was already preparing the mare for her hastily-arranged marriage of convenience while the ink was metaphorically drying on the contract.
When I saw his message, I was already on my way to Micky Quinn to see Nicoise’s two-year-old, Stanhope, too late to watch work on a morning of mismanaged appointments. Richard was also headed back to the A14 when we talked, saying: “Pity, you could have seen her being covered!” Not so sure about that, but then I’m no horseman.
Stanhope is a nice sturdy, indeed quite strong, colt by Equiano, and he’s coming along nicely in his work, so much so that the trainer, who will not be working at the Euros for Talksport - “There are horses to train!” - reckons he’ll be running in a couple of weeks.
Later in the morning, I caught up with my friend Noel Quinlan, who at the mention of the universally-liked Quinn, asked me whether I’d heard the story about him. Suddenly, I twigged, and it concerned the previous location of the colt before Mick strolled along Hamilton Road to pick him up after rookie trainer and owner had, in retrospect inevitably, fallen out.
Mick was just leaving when the young man, having talked about what Stanhope had done so far, called out: “He won’t make anyone famous!” to which the Scouser replied: “I’m already famous – I don’t need a horse to help me with that”.
Some may say – especially me – that my fixation with Mayson stems from the fact that he ran in the same red and white colours that adorn my office in the shape of the hurdler Tangognat and his exploits at Cheltenham in pre-Festival races 30 years ago.
David and Emma Armstrong have done more than justice to them, but as I’ve said before, they still give me the feel of part-ownership, unsurprisingly as I had them for more than 20 years myself.
Mayson and Garswood are probably the best two to race for the Armstrongs and both are now standing at Cheveley Park. We already sent a mare to each of them this year, and were prompted for the change of mind by the unexpected well-being of Nicoise post the arrival of her Dick Turpin foal. Rachael says they’ve managed to keep the weight off her, as she has a recurring issue with her feet when overweight, and that she always is at her healthiest when she has a foal.
Since Global Applause, from the first crop of Mayson, exploded into the consciousness for Ed Dunlop at Newmarket on 1,000 Guineas day, the phones have been in constant use in Duchess Drive and more than 30 additional bookings have been recorded for the fledgling stallion. Global Applause was attempting to follow up on Saturday at Newbury, finishing a gallant second to the equally progressive Mehmas.
At five grand a pop such a reaction is understandable, but it’s hard to estimate how successful any would-be additional patrons of the wonderful Frankel might be after the excellent winning debut of his first runner, Cunco, on Friday. Frankel stands at £125,000, and there will be plenty of people itching to join the throng with that single piece of evidence to go on.
We’ve got two Mayson yearling colts, and a colt and filly foal each, with Lawyers Choice’s yearling colt and filly both standing out in what we hope will prove an excellent two years’ breeding programme. We repeated Cheveley Park visits for her in the past and Dutch Art Dealer, sold as a yearling, and Dutch Law, both conceived in the days when mere mortals could afford their sire, Dutch Art.
Now that stallion is in the 40 grand range, but the pair, now five and four respectively have similar profiles, so much so that they are both in the same race at Kempton on Wednesday night off the identical mark of 82.
Global Applause, should he live up to expectations, could help the young sire on his way onto that sort of upward spiral. In racing, while there’s life there’s hope. Of April Dusk, for the people that encountered him, there’s just sadness and fond memories.