By Tony Stafford
I had an eclectic day’s televiewing yesterday, from watching the world’s worst fast bowler, Jade Dernbach, predictably take the biggest part in England’s World Cup T20 loss, through Meydan, Doncaster and Kempton, to Arsenal’s great fightback against Man City.
Then it was over to BBC4 – having dropped Mrs S for a meeting in West Ham United’s future home in Westfield, Stratford, two minutes away – time for Inspector De Luca, then documentaries on Chas and Dave and Squeeze.
C&D lived up near me while the former “we” were based in Hoddesdon, Herts. Chas did not rely solely on his music, but had a little white van with C Hodges offering some building skills on the side trawling around Ware and its environs for decades.
Are you old enough to remember Gercha? I am and Roy Hudd was and for one of my favourite radio performers to flit through the piece made it even more enjoyable. One of the boys’ mates was Russ Ballard, whose son was a good friend of my son’s, and Russ wrote a lot of Errol Brown’s best songs including You Sexy Thing.
But you may be surprised to hear me say: “I digress”. Digression to my mind is the better part of banter. But to return to my point – about the Dubai World Cup meeting in particular - Betcha never knew that Jamie Osborne and Michael Buckley have a lot for which to thank Bolton. Without the legacy of one of the most famous sons of that Greater Manchester outpost, they would not have been the Toast of Dubai yesterday.
The story starts with John Greenhalgh Hilton, who learned to play the piano before leaving for the bright lights (you have to say that – not much light in Bolton!) of London and a name change to Jack Hylton. He started what was to become the best dance band in Britain, enjoyed great fame as a band leader before stretching into production and management.
Three children were to come from two marriages, and from the second to “Fifi” – great name that – the elder daughter Jackie became a great name in horse racing and breeding. The first-born, the only son, received some startling life lessons from dad, who had a reputation for largesse. He told him: “I won’t leave you a lot, but we’ll have a good time spending it while I’m here!”
Jackie was initially married to Liam Ward, the jockey who used to get the plum Irish rides on the Vincent O’Brien horses that would be routinely ridden in Britain by Lester, Jackie started Ashleigh stud in Kentucky as long ago as 1958, still only in her mid-20’s and seven years before her father’s death.
Latterly she has run the farm in conjunction with present husband Frank Ramos as Jackie Ward Ramos. Now into her 80’s, Jackie is going to have the kind of a whale of a time that dad would hve approved of, as Ashleigh-bred Toast of New York is the new pride of her farm.
Coolmore successes were rather thin on the ground on World Cup night, hardly surprising at the stage of the season when Aiden has barely got started. The least noticed, but obviously not by Coolmore, was the victory by the son of Thewayyouare, himself a half-brother to the partners’ great racemare Peeping Fawn. Winner of the Criterium International (Gr1) when trained by Andre Fabre – the race won by my boss’s nice horse French Fifteen – he later joined Coolmore and stands this year at their Irish base for just 4,000Euro.
Toast of New York had two spins around a sale ring, fetching $35,000 as an early yearling in Keeneland’s January mixed sale from ace talent spotter and Coolmore trusty Timmy Hyde and then was moved on that October at Goffs for €60,000 in a private sale to Osborne.
Jamie’s had his ups and downs and will be scratching his head that he’s ended up with a horse that could stroll away from a talented field to win a $2m race like the UAE Derby unchallenged.
Having twice won by double figure margins around Wolverhampton, you might have thought someone other than the trainer might have believed. In fact Timeform did, giving a 111 rating while the official handicappers in the UK were content to rest with the 78 assessment made after the first Woverhampton romp.
Jamie rarely misses a trick, but here’s the one time he has. If he’d had the foresight to enter Toast of New York for Leicester’s 10-furlong Simon de Montfort Handicap on Friday, he’d be able to run off 78 plus a 6lb penalty and still not be top weight!
On second thought maybe that other plan of the Triple Crown in the US could be a better option. The locals collected the World Cup, but can think themselves lucky that neither Just A Way, nor that horse’s recent victim Gentildonna was in the big one. Those two wins, and two more each from Hong Kong and South Africa show just how far thoroughbred racing excellence has spread throughout the world.
As to the Americans, where were they? They used to love coming for the big bucks, as Animal Kingdom did with success as recently as a year ago, but there seems to be an element of embarrassment about their industry just now.
It might have been an annus horribilis for Nicky Henderson – it wasn’t that bad really, Nicky – and by implication, for one of his biggest owners, that nice Michael Buckley. But in the way of such things, as soon as you think you’ll never have a winner, along comes a freak, because that’s clearly what Toast of New York seems to be. Until something else puts him in his place, that is, as usually happens. Let’s hope it’s after he wins the Kentucky Derby. The Americans will just love Mister Osborne, after all they stood for Big Mac for years.