By Tony Stafford
Richard Fahey’s is the busiest stable right now, the Yorkshire-based trainer having sent out a total of 276 horses for upwards of 1,300 races in 2015 <the imprecision is because the Flat trainers’ Championship runs from November to November>.
Amazingly, he operates on an even higher level numerically than either Richard Hannon or Mark Johnston, and the usual weekend glut of winners has pushed him almost to the 200 mark for the season.
I guess in the interests of accuracy, I should have slobbered around the late 2014 results to check on how many of the 192 he was credited with on Saturday morning had been on the all-weather in the period between Nov 9 and Dec 31, but if the referee at Stamford Bridge couldn’t be bothered to get it right, why should I? [Ed – it was five winners from 67 runners]
Anyway what I can be sure of is that Fahey won six races on the day and hardly easy ones either. Ayr’s Western Meeting is one of the most competitive of the season but Fahey had a winner on Thursday’s opening day and three on Friday.
Yesterday he added another four, collecting almost 10 grand for a Class 3 handicap, 12 plus for the opening Class 2 nursery, and both the Ayr Silver and Ayr Gold Cups. Talitsu collected 31k for winning the Silver from stablemate George Bowen (another 9) while unbeaten Don’t Touch earned his lucky owner £112,000 to go with the 60k his first four wins yielded.
You have to wonder what more he can do? That nominal 192 wins already matched his 2013 best, and exceeded by five last year’s tally. But in reply to that rhetorical question, you’d have to say plenty, or rather in a single word – Godolphin.
Because away from his beloved north – he also collected a little prize for a Catterick nursery – he was spreading his wings further south. Two Frankie Dettori favourites at HQ might not have added to Nimr’s near 10 grand for fourth in the Tatts sales race at HQ, but it was a different story at Newbury.
There the recently-acquired Ribchester, previously a twice-raced maiden for David W Armstrong, for whom Fahey won £122,000 when taking the Weatherbys Super Sprint there with Lathom, had his first run for the Boys in Blue. Ridden by James Doyle he comfortably beat another of their mid-term buys Log Out Island in the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef (Group 2). Having also sourced and done well with Armstrong’s Birkdale, there will almost certainly be a few more shopping trips, and copping days from and for the Fahey team.
The £232,410 (that’s right, I think) earned yesterday, will put R Fahey, Malton on to the £3 million mark, domestically – never mind his highly-acceptable £118,000 from two wins from 11 Irish runs – again his best for ages and many potential winners still to go.
John Gosden will still be fairly sanguine – more than when making his one-race Newmarket guest commentator stint, along with Haggas, Fellowes, Palmer, Simcock, Wadham and Sir Michael Stoute - with a clear £1 million advantage, but I doubt whether the Hannons will like the thought of dropping down to number three, which must be a possibility.
It was a nice, untroubling afternoon at Newmarket where the afore-mentioned Hugo Palmer barely resisted the temptation to throw in a Henry Blofeld cricket weather, bird-spotting and bus report during the two miles of the Cesarewitch Trial, while Sir Michael took the imaginative and wholly illegal, morally, course of action to bring in Ryan Moore for some guest comments during the next longest race, the fillies’ maiden over a mile and a half.
Ryan as ever showed more than a hint of the understated humour that the press’s intrusive natures make sure he suppresses. On the theme of press intrusion, I wonder what’s in store for Mr Corbyn over the weeks and months. Wonder what he’ll do at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day, for example?
Moving swiftly on, many of Newmarket’s top yards will be open to the public today and Hugo gave me the office to slip in for a quick visit in the morning to see Ray Tooth’s Harry Champion before setting off for Uttoxeter. Harry’s had a break since Windsor in midsummer, but is coming along nicely he says.
Cousin Khee, an easy winner on his return from more than two and a half years since his last jumps run, flipped fluently around Stratford on Monday and needs to run off a penalty as the handicapper may well take exception to that performance. Only five take him on and we’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t follow up.
His stablemate, Dutch Law, Ray’s home-bred three-year-old, has had more than two months since a good second at Ascot following success at Newmarket. He goes to Kempton the following day and by all accounts has thrived during his break. If they both win it’ll have been a nice week. Big if.
One element of Newmarket’s sidebar attractions – a food fair and several demonstrations – left a bit of a sour taste, certainly for me and even more so for the couple I was with, both horse lovers who have kept their former racehorse for the past five years simply for once-a-week riding near Newmarket and at considerable cost to themselves.
The source of their irritation was the commentary by “horse whisperer” Gary Witheford which accompanied his and his son’s demonstration, understandably rudimentary, of the skills needed to persuade a horse to enter and depart from stalls.
Gary has long been admired for his skills – even though about seven years ago a horse of the boss’s he had re-schooled refused to enter the stalls at Bath – and as a result has had plenty of favourable attention, including a feature piece on Racing UK in recent weeks.
But here, when calling for a volunteer to illustrate a point, he singled out a young woman – first checking “is your boyfriend here” and going on from there. There was a comment about “if you were blonde” and then he asked whether she would allow him to lead her around on a rope as though she was a horse. After getting her agreement and parading her around, he twice saw fit to comment favourably on her prospects of finding a husband.
Some of the few dozen people sitting on the bales of sawdust around the arena might have found it funny, but honestly Gary, if that’s your idea of entertainment, stick to the day job. For me and my friends it was one of the most embarrassing things we’ve seen in years.