As one of the trainers I work with in my job as Raymond Tooth’s racing manager said, perhaps indelicately, recently: “Where there’s livestock, there’s dead stock”, writes Tony Stafford. He was reacting to the news that on his lad’s arrival at the yard that morning, our unraced three-year-old was found dead in his box with no previous warning.
The other horse we have there, a two-year-old, happily is alive and well, but needs time. Therein the conundrum for owner-breeders - you get what you get. Happily Ray’s youngsters are for the most part pretty correct, but force them at your peril.
The Tooth experience is a microcosm of what happens with the top teams. Take Ballydoyle and Aidan O’Brien’s latest Classic-winning weekend, which arrived not via Epsom Derby hero Wings of Eagles, but with Capri, unplaced at Epsom, but now edging out Cracksman and Wings of Eagles.
On Sunday it fell to the trainer to report that Wings of Eagles had suffered a serious injury to his near-fore sesamoid joint during Saturday’s race and that he would be retiring to stud after undergoing surgery.
Dr John Halley is Ballydoyle’s senior vet and he has had to accept that Minding, the team’s champion older mare and seven-time Group 1 winner, may have run her last race. Further, Halley revealed that Somehow, a progressive older filly placed in both Group 1 runs this spring, had to be put down after suffering serious injury on the gallops.
Saturday’s three wins all avoided the grasp of the stable’s number one jockey, but Ryan Moore redressed the situation with a Curragh Sunday treble via the juveniles Gustav Klimt and Clemmie, and the improving Johannes Vermeer in a 10-furlong Group 3 race.
Needless to say all three are products of the insatiable Galileo, as of course is Capri, but after viewing the x-rays of Wings of Eagles over the weekend, John Gosden, Cracksman’s trainer, reckoned Wings of Eagles must have confirmed the Derby form by some margin without the injury.
Ryan Moore said he’d never been going particularly well during the race, so the frustration is that, like his sire Pour Moi, who was unable to run after the Derby win at Epsom, Wings of Eagles cannot fulfil what was clearly considerable potential. He was the only representative of the sire among the 170 horses listed at Ballydoyle in 2017, and was not a home-bred, but bought in France as a yearling by M V Magnier.
As for Pour Moi, his story as a stallion, with only three crops to represent him on the track, is already one of extreme highs and lows. For those breeders who supported him in his early days at Coolmore, the low point came with the news earlier this year that he’d been transferred onto the jumping stallion roster.
Then there was the unexpected euphoria of Wings of Eagles’ win, and a general upswing of the sire’s fortunes. On four successive days in the UK last week, for example, Pour Moi products ran and all four won, each suggesting imminent improvement and not just in middle-distance races. Back home in Ireland, Only Mine continued her impressive career with another Group race win at the minimum trip.
Two stallions who have made a winning start to their first season have been Dabirsim, whose daughter Different League saw off Alpha Centauri to win the Albany at Royal Ascot – a race in which Churchill’s full-sister Clemmie was only seventh - and Camelot, the 2,000 Guineas hero for Ballydoyle. Both had debut winners at Saint-Cloud yesterday.
The last week also brought a welcome change of luck for TalkSport radio presenter Mick Quinn when Stanhope, owned and bred by the boss, came good in a decent six-furlong handicap on the July Course.
Whenever Mick has a fancied runner, he can be relied upon to give it an optimistic mention on the air, but this time, the racing slot was commandeered by the Bell family, still glorying in the Gold Cup win of Big Orange. Michael’s brother – and therefore Olly’s father – Rupert, apparently took so much time blathering on about Andy Murray and Wimbledon there was room for nothing more than for Quinny to read out the fixtures.
That cost the punters a 10-1 winner, as ‘Stan’, wearing a first-time visor and benefiting from soft ground for the only occasion since his debut a year before, sluiced home by three lengths under Fran Berry, from the Bell-trained favourite, no less. Thursday was the first time I’d had much to say to the jockey, but the intelligent way he drew on the horse’s apparent discomfort when close to other horses on the way to the start, shows how vital experience in the saddle can be.
Strangely, in his third run as a three-year-old Stanhope is closely echoing the example of Dutch Law, also a home-bred and an initial winner on the July Course, from a mark in the mid 70’s in June two years ago. Dutch Law added three more victories, two on the same track, last year and hopes are high that Stanhope might have a similarly bright future.
The Tooth horses have done excellently on the July Course. It’s a track I’ve always loved although there was one rather sticky moment, almost 20 years ago, after Hitman, a horse I’d bought as a yearling and then syndicated, broke the 10-furlong track record in the valuable three-year-old handicap for Henry Cecil.
After he had won in the name of the Paper Boys - the syndicate’s boss Tom Mines still has a box on the winning line at Cheltenham - Brought Scott exhorted me to “do an interview”. You’d think I might have known better as the arrangement, while common knowledge on the racecourse, did not generally stretch to a certain part of Hertfordshire - until that day.
One racing fan among those stationed at Herts Police in Hertford, saw the interview and called my then wife, who worked in the office there, to congratulate her on my horse’s big win. “What horse?” she asked. Needless to say she was on hand when Hitman was a beaten short-priced favourite next time in the Gordon Stakes and then when he broke down in the Great Voltigeur.
This week I’ll be travelling around a bit, taking in the north, then Lambourn and finally Shropshire, the last trip in company with the boss and Steve Gilbey, to take an inventory of the young stock. Amazingly around the country, yearlings are getting ready to go to the preparation experts ahead of sales like Doncaster and Arqana. The season seems barely to have started – especially for us – but with all bar the St Leger gone for the Classic candidates, in some ways it’s almost over!