Sunday Supplement: The Vorda-Men

Sunday Supplement

Sunday Supplement

Sunday Supplement

By Tony Stafford

I’ve always loved the Cheveley Park Stakes. In the 80’s it was Ma Biche that took my attention. The following decade it was Ravinella. More recently Natagora and Special Duty maintained the trend. When the French come over and win it, especially when the Head family are the trainer(s), they usually come back to win the 1,000 Guineas.

I must interject here that the year before Natagora’s success (2007), Indian Ink won it for my boss Raymond Tooth, the year before he became my boss. She didn’t win the 1,000 Guineas, by which time I was on the team, but next time out beat all that year’s European Guineas winners when winning the Coronation Stakes by six lengths.

There was another French Cheveley Park moment at Newmarket on Saturday when Vorda strolled home for trainer Philip Sogorb to win the race from Princess Noor. Now the winner of four of her five races, Vorda gave a direct compliment to her only conqueror, the US-trained but Coolmore-partners-owned No Nay Never who beat her by a length in the Prix Morny after toying with his Norfolk Stakes opponents at Royal Ascot.

A look at the Newmarket racecard on Saturday revealed that Vorda is yet another top-class racehorse owned by the ever-accumulating Royal family of Qatar, owners also of the rights to staging the 2022 World Cup.

But a delve into Vorda’s history, her breeding and the path to this position high on the roster of juveniles of 2013 is interesting to say the least. First let’s look at her pedigree. You expect to see the top stallions siring Group 1 winners so it’s quite a shock to see that Vorda is a daughter of Orpen out of a mare by Observatory.

Both were high-class horses, but Orpen, having started at Coolmore with a stud fee of a mere 7,000 Euro, was soon sent away and in a decade at stud, since 2008 based in France, has never wavered beyond a high of 8,000 and below the 2013 fee of 6,000 Euro.

Observatory, who I remember winning nice races around Goodwood for Khalid Abdullah and Guy Harwood, always remained in the Prince’s ownership, and his last quoted fee was £5,000 at Banstead Manor for 2012, so presumably he is either retired or deceased.

Vorda came up for sale at last year’s Deauville October yearling sale, in the same ring through which her full-sister Ysper realised 11,000 Euro a year earlier. Ysper did nothing of note either before Vorda’s sale or since, so it was possible for Sogorb to get her for just 9,000 Euro.

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She made her debut in May at Chantilly, starting at 13-1 and carrying the colours of Remy Picamau. She won with the same economy that characterises all her wins, a short burst of speed and a victory around a length and a half until Saturday’s even more relaxed three-quarters margin that greatly understates her superiority.

Vorda’s debut was obviously striking, as it attracted the attention of Gerard Augustin-Normand, the most acquisitive of modern-day French owners. His spread of trainers rivals that of Matthew Green in the UK around 2007. Matthew might have seen the light and withdrawn from the public attention in favour of his art gallery since, but the exploits at stud of Dutch Art must still give him plenty of pleasure.

Augustin-Normand and Remy Picamau were the partners still for Vorda’s third win, but by the time of the tilt at No Nay Never (surely next season’s champion sprinter) in the Morny, M. Picamau was off the ownership detail, replaced as second-named owner to M. Augustin-Normand by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani.

By yesterday, even Gerard had been persuaded to take the profit so that in a third change of ownership, the Sheikh was able to enjoy sole glorious possession of the Group 1 winner.

As I suggested last week, if I had Qatar, Dubai or Coolmore money, I’d have a proper go, but I’d love to know the figures involved. At least Philip Soborg has kept her – for now!

I was at Newmarket for a relatively short time, indeed Sky Lantern’s brilliant win in the Sun Chariot was my exit point, forgoing the Cambridgeshire (heresy!) for a listen to Radio 5 Live’s football coverage and the chance to be safely in front of the telly in time for the Swansea – Arsenal encounter.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been intending to have a carp at Talk Sport, whose entire personnel seems to consist of people with strong Cockney accents, even the ones like Alan Brazil who are actually Scottish.

That tendency echoes the tone of the advertising content which suggests that everyone listening is a builder or ought to change his car insurance once a day. Happily, the aggravating and, to my mind, highly-dangerous succession of usurious loan offers by a myriad of companies is less prevalent here than on the Attheraces platform.

One of the biggest faux Cockney voices comes from someone called Adrian Durham, whose opinionated nature would make John McCririck and Matt Chapman worry that they’ve gone soft. He’s from Peterborough, which suggests his true voice might be rather Fenlandish; writes a column now and again in the Daily Mail and therefore has the authority of those two platforms.

His favourite rant until a few days after transfer deadline day was that Arsene Wenger should be sacked as Arsenal manager. Not uniquely his idea at the time, but clearly a campaign he’d underwritten, and one that’s starting to look a little silly.

Even as Arsenal were preparing for yesterday’s game which was destined to become a twelfth consecutive away victory, the experts were questioning the team’s long-term prospects. Jamie Redknapp, at halftime in the Swansea match, talked of defensive weakness, but his analysis wasn’t in the same street as Michael Owen’s dismissal of their chances of a top four place. Sorry Michael, do we have some additional teams who’ve yet to play any matches?

Owen thinks the goalkeeper is worse than any of Arsenal’s rivals’ counterparts, and that other voice of reason, the Racing Post’s lunatic punter Steve Palmer, he of the unlikely get-out-of-jail with a 66-1 long-shot golf bet, said they haven’t got a goalkeeper at all. Yesterday Szczesny, who after all is just 22, looked pretty good to me.

To win 12 away matches in a row is nigh on impossible. Look at the Premier League table and only Arsenal has won all their three away games this season. In the other three Leagues, Leyton Orient have won four from four, and none of the other 71 Football League sides can boast that.

Face up to it Steve, Michael and Adrian, Wenger’s doing a very good job, while at Spurs AVB is almost matching him. As to Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, they are in a state of renewal after changes in the management structure this summer, so inconsistency must be expected.

I’m trying not to crow, but I can’t wait to watch the other Sunday Supplement on Sky this morning. What on earth can they say now?

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3 replies
  1. Ian Macdonald says:

    Great piece as always Tony…..but your memory is playing tricks if you have Observatory trained by Guy Harwood. The horse was born the year after he retired and was trained by John Gosden throughout his career. He did win at Goodwood though. Once. I expect he’ll be best remembered as the horse who beat Giant’s Causeway in the QEII at Ascot by challenging so wide that the ‘Iron Horse’ didn’t see him until it was too late.

  2. Chris Worrall says:

    I wouldn’t set too much store by the charismatic void known as Michael Owen.

  3. SeattleDancer says:

    My first hour in the office of a Monday catches up on the weekend musings of many bloggers-Brian O’Connor’s Irish Racing blog is always worth a read, along with the honourable (venerable?) TS.

    I think most racing enthusiasts, especially those of Irish extraction, prefer National Hunt racing as, among many attractions, it allows one to love the horse who will be around seven or eight years if we are lucky. Flat racing on the other hand, I believe, requires you to love the race (“I’ve always loved the Cheveley Park”) as most of the best participants are packed off to stud before we can identify with their true brilliance and idiosyncracies. There are exceptions thankfully.

    Which brings me to soccer………we now must love the club (I’m the Irish ToffeeDan!) and perhaps even the manager because the players are now the equivalent of young, thrusting stallion prospects most likely to be found at “other” clubs and a middle-of-the-road premiership’s team sheet will most likely change out of all recognition every two-three years. Funny old game!

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