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.
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!