By Tony Stafford
In Australia, the Coolmore team has a horse which was fully expected to win the Qipco 2,000 Guineas. I say “was” advisedly, although whether the insiders at Ballydoyle’s confidence was in any way shaken by Kingman’s romp in yesterday’s Greenham Stakes, I’ve no idea.
What’s great is that the two major protagonists of recent times, the triumvirate of Magnier, Tabor and Smith in the green corner for Ireland and Prince Khalid Abdullah in the, well also, green corner of Saudi Arabia are squaring up for a May shoot-out on the same turf graced so elegantly by Frankel and Camelot in the recent past.
For a while, Camelot was attempting in his later career to match the hoofprints of never-beaten Frankel, but never quite made it. Kingman got started about six weeks earlier into his juvenile season than Frankel, and if anything showed more precocity in his wide-margin win than Frankel achieved narrowly over Nathaniel, but both horses began racecourse life on Newmarket’s July Course.
Whereas Frankel packed plenty of action into his autumn campaign at two, a chip in a joint prevented Kingman having any more than a single unremarkable follow-up in the Solario at Sandown, the op ruling him out of the Grand Criterium.
Frankel set off as a three-year-old in the Greenham, winning easily, with his late effort clinching a wider margin than at one time seemed likely. Kingman’s Greenham was anything but unremarkable, as the colt, like his predecessor, did it all in the closing stages, stretching clear of the previously-unbeaten Dubawi colt Night of Thunder (rated 109) and winning by almost five lengths.
On windy days, when the prevailing direction is a headwind, times on round courses (where there is a positive element in the early stages) are unreliable. But taking all the races on the straight, Kingman put up easily the best time performance of the afternoon.
He was almost two seconds (around 30lb) better than the impressive Fred Darling winner J Wonder, who justified Brian Meehan’s high opinion of her with a controlled performance, and he was 25 spots per furlong better than the time recorded by Gabrial’s Kaka in winning the 25-runner Spring Cup.
That decent four-year-old carried 8st12lb, 2lb less than the Greenham runners. At this stage of the season, the weight-for-age scale requires four-year-olds to give their juniors 12lb, so it’s hard to see the handicappers’ giving Kingman much less than 123 for this win.
Nobody likes winning better than Johnny G and he knows how to make it look as though he’s underwhelmed by it all. When asked the “h” word by the interviewers after the race, he declared himself not to be a “hype man” and tried to say that it would be no catastrophe if fast ground prevented Kingman turning up on the first Saturday in May. Not much - and no doubt Mr M Prosser of HQ will be made aware of his duties with the watering cans over the coming weeks.
I must declare a role in Jamie Moore’s victory in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. After Al Co came in at 40-1 and survived a run-in jink, Jamie should but probably would not have, thanked the opportunity of riding the even more errant Two Jabs at Fontwell on Friday.
That Huntingdon winner satisfied the Brisbourne camp that his always-nervy character had survived the ride down from Shropshire and all the noise of the afternoon, until that is the two horses, already mounted, that followed the still unbacked Two Jabs around the parade ring decided to rear up and gallop forward.
An alert Becky Brisbourne narrowly managed to avoid a collision, but as the gelding rocketed down the all-weather ride to the start, Jamie was on the equivalent of an unexploded bomb reefing and going left and right. How he stayed on I’ll never know, and as Two Jabs tore off in front in the race itself, he did a repeat performance, also almost unshipping the jockey with another swerve at the first little path.
Those Moores are amazing people and Jamie had a great day - having avoided injury through his own skill - on Saturday not least when Arsenal got through to the FA Cup Final on penalties. The Daily Mail as usual majored on booing and criticism, but as the biggest individual proponents of the general anti-Arsenal brigade in the media, you’d expect nothing else. When Liverpool win with a last-minute non-penalty penalty, it’s always a great win.
Poor old Rory McIlroy! He seems to do the hard things so easily, it’s always a shock when he makes mistakes with the apparently easier aspects of the game. That said, how anything at Augusta National can be regarded as easy is hard to imagine.
They all want Jordan Smeith to win at the age of 20. I’d like Lee Westwood, who’s 40 to win his first major title. When I met him at the 2012 St Leger, he was just about to embark on his new life with his family in Florida. He seemed a lovely, unaffected bloke, far away from the unattainable “star” type of the present day. If he could only putt like Furyk or Snedeker (not that the latter is anywhere near the leaders) he’d probably win it with ease.