By Tony Stafford
There was some big money going around this Sunday, for example Rory McIlroy got more than €1 million for winning the Dubai golf with Englishmen Justin Rose and Luke Donald also getting large chunks in second and third. British golf is looking pretty good with all three in the world’s top six and Rory number one and money list winner on both sides of the Atlantic, as Donald was last year.
The Japan Cup was also worth a few bob with the three-year-old filly Gentildonna collecting more than £2 million having got up by a nose to deny the Arc runner-up Orfevre. Connections of the luckless second must be wondering whether they should have relied on a local rider in preference to Christophe Soumillon, who presumably they believed had wrestled defeat from the jaws of victory at Longchamp last month.
Gentildonna was the result of a mating between the phenomenal Japanese based stallion Deep Impact and the former Manton-trained Donna Blini, winner of the Cheveley Park Stakes for Brian Meehan. She’s now earned around £5 million. Nice prize money with a year or two still to come. There’s bundles to earn in Japan, which makes Hong Kong seem niggardly in terms of owner-rewards.
There was more than a little good news on this side of the pond with the Levy being agreed and minimum values for all types of race getting, I believe, a 14% hike. It won’t make owners that much better off, but it’s a start and the new formula at least suggests things can get better over time.
The jumping has been enjoyable, floods permitting, and I had two nice days at Ascot. Oscar Whisky was great in the two and a half mile hurdle on Saturday, the same day on which Paul Nicholls showed yet again his sure touch with staying chasers as his Silviniaco Conti saw off Long Run in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
For selfish reasons, though, the highlight for me and my boss Ray Tooth had to be the promising first start over hurdles of the classy Fair Trade, hitherto a source of untapped potential over-achievement. Indeed, he still only has a maiden win almost three years ago as proper reward for his talent.
At Ascot, though, tackling what might have been a decent prospect in the Queen’s unbeaten (a bumper and a hurdle) Close Touch in an introductory hurdle, he looked to have a good chance of beating the favourite until weakening a little close home.
Once rated 110, he was still an under-achiever despite being Group-placed as a three-year-old for David Elsworth, but then had a year off through injury and a difficult summer for Hughie Morrison.
Hughie got his putative jumps career underway with some show jumping education before handing him over to Alan King, and that ground work seems to have made a fair degree of difference to his general well-being.
Since joining King he has exhibited none of the extreme hard-pulling that terrified Paul Hanagan – and caused him to strain both his arms – at Kempton in the spring, and his jumping in home schools has been uniformly accurate and fast.
It is tempting providence to hope that Raymond might have a horse to go some way towards emulating the achievements of his Champion and Irish Champion Hurdle hero Punjabi – who is just about ready for a first run for two and a half year in his new role as a novice chaser – but I reckon we’ll have some fun, whatever the final outcome.
On the Tooth horses, Hughie has schooled Cousin Khee – third on his comeback in a hot Aintree handicap hurdle – and he could well run at Taunton on Thursday in a beginners’ chase, which looks quite attractive.
Once again, my offering has been delayed, not just because of lack of memory, but rather the best day’s Test cricket I’ve ever seen. I toyed with the idea of not getting up at 4 a.m., and if I hadn’t I would have missed the Cook ton – normal service of course – and Pietersen’s astonishing 186.
No wonder the Indians then suffered the old trouble of scoreboard pressure, especially with the skills of Monty Panesar and Graham Swann so obviously superior to those of the much-vaunted local spinners, and that on a pitch doctored to suit the home team.
I won’t bother getting up in the morning, as we’ll wrap it up by lunch, but I’m already planning for the third test, when the tide will have inexorably turned in England’s favour.
Short rations today, but I’m so filled to the brim with the excitements from Mumbai that I just cannot write another word.