By Tony Stafford
As soon as the runners went into the final furlong of yesterday’s Weatherby’s Super Sprint at Newbury, an inescapable conclusion was being drawn – certainly among those of us with a certain tinge of racing history in our veins.
Even before the Richard Hannon-trained Tiggy Wiggy drew away from her 23 rivals – to all of whom she was conceding weight – for that emphatic six-length romp, the word “Nunthorpe” came straight into the consciousness. Surely Tiggy will become the third juvenile following the same stable’s Lyric Fantasy in 1992 and John Best and John Mayne’s Kingsgate Native in 2007 to win the race since 1980?
All the right ones were in the pursuing pack behind the winner even if as Eric Morecambe once famously told Andre Previn that the notes he played were the right ones “if not necessarily in the right order”.
When Lyric Fantasy won the race for Hannon senior and Lord Carnarvon, she started 2-5 against ten rivals and won by the identical distance that Tiggy Wiggy put between herself and a far more substantial opposition in terms of quality as well as quantity.
Lyric Fantasy had come to York by way of Windsor – workmanlike – Sandown’s National Stakes, the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot and the Super Sprint, all easily achieved. Kingsgate Native’s triumph was much less predictable as he’d lost both his previous starts.
That said, a narrow defeat on debut in the Windsor Castle at the Royal meeting and a neck second to subsequent July Cup winner Fleeting Spirit – smart Captain Gerrard third – in the Molecomb at Goodwood were sufficiently compelling reasons for me to back him on the Knavesmire third time out at 20-1 (SP 12’s).
John Best brought him back to finish third the following year, and after a fruitless stud stint at Cheveley Park, he returned to run in four of the next five Nunthorpes, first with Sir Michael Stoute and latterly Robert Cowell.
Best tried to follow the two-year-old winner route with Stone of Folca in 2010, but he was unplaced. Best had the last laugh though when Stone of Folca put up the fastest recorded time for five furlongs in the 2012 Vodafone Dash at Epsom. It’s engraved on my mind as I peruse the Guinness Book of Records to see that fact when of course it should have been Ray Tooth’s Catfish in there.
It pains me to remember that her saddle slipped at the start and Mikael Barzalona – remember him? – was perched on her back unable to ride her properly as stayed on fast into third. At least Ray’s got a lovely, stroppy Dutch Art foal out of her. Bratfish as I like to call her will win the 2016 Queen Mary, and possibly Nunthorpe.
I’ve known – and occasionally bought from, notably Hitman - Tony O’Callaghan and his wife Ann and son Roger for many years, and been aware of elder brother Gay, but until the recent July meeting at Newmarket, had never bumped into Noel, who refers to himself as the little brother.
Noel operates as the Mountarmstrong stud and as such basks in the glory of having bred Grand National winner Auroras Encore and also owned (via his wife) the multiple Group 1-winning filly Alexander Goldrun. Last year he sent a filly by Starspangledbanner – uncannily, like Kingsgate Native, possibly a stud flop for Coolmore, although he is sub- rather than infertile – to Tattersalls. She was led out unsold for 48,000gns, and was sent to Eddie Lynam, trainer of the two Powers, Slade and Sole.
Sole Power first came into the public consciousness when winning the 2010 Nunthorpe at 100-1 from, wait for it, the ex-Australian colt Starspangledbanner, already impressive winner of the Golden Jubilee at Ascot and the July Cup.
Remarkably, the O’Callaghan filly, named Anthem Alexander, was to inflict the second defeat of Tiggy Wiggy’s career, by a neck in the Queen Mary. The first blot on an otherwise spotless campaign was by the way of the David Evans-trained Patience Alexander, you’ve got it, owned by Noel O’Callaghan. She’s a daughter of brother Tony’s red-hot stallion Kodiac, a full-brother to Invincible Spirit, and of course the sire of Tiggy Wiggy! Like Anthem Alexander, the sale price of 65,000gns disguised the fact that she too was a buy-back.
The two Alexanders join Tiggy Wiggy among 53 Nunthorpe entries as are two very smart male Royal Ascot winners, Hannon’s Baitha Alga and the Wesley Ward-trained but Coolmore-owned Hootenanny. The second Starspangledbanner juvenile Ascot winner, The Wow Signal, has longer-distance objectives on his radar, but Mick Channon’s once-raced winner, Moonraker, is an intriguing one to add to what looks a formidable list.
As time has gone on, Eddie Lynam’s stable power has shifted slightly towards Slade over Sole, though at the minimum trip the old boy is probably the one – evidence Slade’s ineffective challenge last year. But I can’t help thinking that with 7st 12lb for the fillies, or 8st 1lb for the colts, it’s going to be one for the babies. Maybe Tiggy Wiggy, but I’m sure Noel will be itching to keep beating her.
There’s not much else happening today. Rory needs to have a car crash of Lewis Hamilton proportions to lose the Open and Lewis needs a Rory-like run from the pit lane to get anywhere near Rosberg in Germany.
Alastair Cook’s goose looks all but cooked and only a big score/win will prevent the inevitable fall on the sword, while Nibali has the Tour de France so much in control that he looks like he’s out for a bike ride around the Olympic Park. I didn’t notice him going past the other day though.
Thank God football’s back after a week’s grace and Manchester United are the Mail online’s new favourites. I don’t know if I can stomach their biased reporting, although at least there’s a lot of it. You’ll have to watch this space if you want a diametrically-opposite unbiased view [ahem, Ed.] of the next 11 months which comprise the new season. Perish the thought!