Monday Musings: No More Lockdown Barnett!

As one of the world’s leading football agents, Jonathan Barnett, with his business partner David Manasseh, through their Stellar Group, heads up probably the biggest “stable” of footballers in the world, writes Tony Stafford. Always a racing fan, Barnett has lately been making tentative moves into racehorse ownership but for much of this year he would have been excused for thinking he might never have another runner.

Injuries have either delayed or ended the careers of three of his hopefuls, one with Wesley Ward being a particular disappointment.

Over the winter, Eden Gardens, owned in partnership with Manesseh’s father Maurice, and trained by Simon Crisford, did at least have a couple of all-weather runs without much luck. All his horses are partnerships, usually with his share carrying the name of his son James, who also works in the family business.

Like all owners Barnett’s aim is to win a Group race one day and failing that to have the all-important “Saturday horse”. Well he might not yet have achieved the former part of his wish-list, but on Saturday, as was readily trailed by Alex Hammond on Sky Sports Racing beforehand, he did have a runner in a three-year-old fillies’ race on that Ascot card.

Margaret Dumont, named after a regular character in the Marx Brothers films, is listed as owned by Tactful Finance and J Barnett. Tactful Finance is the father-and-son team of Cyril and Jonathan Shack. Cyril was one of the mainstays in the Paul Kelleway stable in the 1980’s, often in partnerships with, among others, David Dein, one-time Arsenal Vice-Chairman and the man who recruited Arsene Wenger.

The younger Shack is a Marx Brothers devotee and he sourced the Camelot filly at the 2018 yearling sales, paying only 20,000gns for her. Mark Johnston agreed to take her having approved her looks even though she didn’t meet his own strict rating criterion for one of his own purchases.

The Ascot race included three other well-connected fillies, home-breds owned respectively by the Queen and Bjorn Nielsen, with a third bred by David and Diane’s Nagle’s Barronstown Stud but now in different ownership.

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Joe Fanning set off in front on Margaret Dumont, encouraged by the stamina she had shown when third on debut over ten furlongs at Thirsk last month. The Queen’s Lightness, a daughter of Shamardal trained by John Gosden, had had three previous placed runs behind her; and when she took up the running in the home straight, Barnett was resigned to her fate.

But then the renowned Johnston factor kicked in and Margaret Dumont rallied to beat the 82-rated favourite in a tight finish. This promising filly has a bright future, especially when allowed to race over further. Charlie Johnston was quickly on the phone saying her entry in a sale later this month would not be fulfilled.

Barnett also bought into a French-trained horse last year, but the then two-year-old Fitzcarraldo was always going to take time to come to hand. A big, backward son of Makfi, again relatively-cheaply bought at €27,000, he came strongly recommended by Nicolas Clement, but as the spring and lockdown wore on, there was little sign of any action.

Those planned trips across to Paris and Chantilly for weekend breaks were just a forlorn illusion, but then suddenly the by-now gelded Fitzcarraldo started pleasing the ever-patient Clement. He was ready for a first run early this month over 10 furlongs at Compiegne and, having turned for home well behind the principals, stayed on all the way home to finish an eight-length fifth to Zaykava, a son of top French stallion Siyouni out of the unbeaten Arc winning champion, Zarkava.

Barnett has a half-share in this potential stayer with the trainer and his breeder Hubert Honore taking the other half. With the public now being allowed back on track in France, starting at Deauville yesterday, those summer – what’s left of it – excursions on Eurostar might still be possible.

Deauville featured the full restitution to Group 1 success – if not yet domination of his generation - of Pinatubo. Beaten in both the 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes, he was a deserved winner of the Prix Jean Prat, run over seven furlongs (formerly a mile) since last year. Runner-up yesterday was Lope Y Fernandez, twice well behind Charlie Appleby’s champion last year, but now within three-quarters of a length, spectacularly out-running his 40-1 odds.

Pinatubo’s exploits last year were a fitting closing memento for sire Shamardal’s career which ended with his death earlier in 2020. Winning a Group 1 (and hopefully for Godolphin more) as a three-year-old adds credibility to the obvious stallion appeal of an unbeaten champion juvenile.

Saturday’s highlight in the UK was the July Cup and I’ve not heard a single negative word about Oxted’s trainer Roger Teal who goes around the whole time with a smile on his face. Anyone who has met Roger will find it hard to believe he was once a jumps jockey, but he’s a talented trainer as his previous handling of 2,000 Guineas runner-up (to Saxon Warrior) Tip Two Win amply testified.

Now his training career has gone into a different orbit. Oxted, a four-year-old son of Mayson, fully justified Teal’s decision to avoid Royal Ascot after his Palace House Stakes success last month, by beating the winners of both the Commonwealth Cup (Golden Horde) and Golden Jubilee (Hello Youmzain) as well as Sceptical and Khaadem, who were third and fourth in the latter event.

There was no hint of a fluke about the result as this former handicapper was always up with the pace and found much the best speed up the hill. His sire won the same race in his four-year-old season on officially heavy ground, something that is always thrown up to diminish his excellence as a racehorse.

This progressive sprinter, who as a gelding will have no stud future to worry about, will be free to continue to give pleasure on the track to his trainer and three owners who include Tony Hirschfeld. Tony’s had plenty of success over the years with horses trained by Susan Piggott and later William Haggas.

Mayson has always been close to my heart having carried in his racing days my former colours, now more realistically of David Armstrong. Raymond Tooth has bred a number of horses from him, notably Sod’s Law, but one Mayson in which he has a share was a breeze-up purchase last year by Shaun Keightley. Mayson Mount, owned in partnership by Ray and Clive Washbourn runs tonight at Kempton with decent chances of a first win.

Another much more famous Raymond Tooth-owned horse was Punjabi and his finest hour, winning the 2009 Champion Hurdle, was remembered again yesterday when Barry Geraghty, the man who rode him , announced his retirement at the age of 40.

After the epic victory over Celestial Halo and Binocular up the Cheltenham hill, Geraghty once described him as “the bravest horse I’ve ridden”. Whether in the manner of all things ephemeral in racing, that accolade was traded elsewhere about earlier and later triumphs in his 24-year career, no matter. We’ll take it.

Barry was always polite and professional, calm and powerful in a finish. He fitted neatly somewhere between his other contemporary fellow Irish-born greats, McCoy and Walsh in terms of strength and subtlety. Now all we have to admire of the four riding giants of this latest era is Richard Johnson and he is now in the unusual post-McCoy position of no longer being champion jockey.

It wasn’t all gloom for the Queen on the racetrack last week. Her home-bred colt Tactical followed up his Windsor Castle triumph at Royal Ascot by stepping up a furlong to win the July Stakes at Newmarket. Andrew Balding intends looking for Group 1 prizes now for the son of Toronado, with the Prix Morny as a likely first step.

Godolphin and Charlie Appleby have a very talented juvenile with Classic pretensions in the Superlative Stakes winner Master Of The Seas. In what looked an above-average renewal of the seven-furlong event, the son of Dubawi drew clear for a three-length verdict, and must rate right at the top among this year’s juvenile colts.

- TS

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