By Tony Stafford
I’m not a great fan of product placement. It’s only just over a week ago that Alan Brazil and the Talksport boys gave a non-stop plug to Corals as they transmitted the morning show from the bookmakers’ box in the grandstand at Cheltenham. Their afternoon team were also there, enjoying the same hospitality, ramming it down ordinary people’s throats – “We’ve a fantastic view – the food and booze are great” said Brazil.
My version of product placement is slightly more acceptable I think. While you and me were contemplating what to do over the past weekend, Richard Farquhar, a 52-year-old father of four, was setting out on the first leg of his 13-month project of Walkingthecourses.
The idea is exactly what it says on the tin. Starting at Newmarket last Friday, he is now in the middle of the first leg, due to be completed at Towcester racecourse on Monday, to coincide with the fixture at the Northamptonshire track.
Richard, whose daughter Finty is coordinating the project, is a lifetime racing fan, who hatched the idea after hearing that a friend was about to complete a full set of British racecourses. I remember the satisfaction it gave me when first Kelso and then Perth filled up the last gaps on my British racecourses visited.
Richard’s father Peter, with whom he attended 26 consecutive Craven meetings at Newmarket, died two years ago, a victim of pancreatic cancer, apparently the most virulent and least well-funded of the 21 notified cancers.
More recent examples have been trainers John Hills and Dessie Hughes, and Richard and Finty have already collected a stellar group of racing people, from Clare Balding down, as supporters. The deal will be, Richard arrives at the target track, walks a circuit, accompanied by however many owners, trainers, jockeys and the hoi polloi, who wish to join him.
Richard and Finty have a target, like Mr Brazil in the Coral box – “see how many times I can say ‘Coral’s’, and how many of their glasses of champagne I can consume”. In their case they aim to raise £1.4 million for the two charities Pancreatic Cancer UK and Racing Welfare. As Mao Tse Tung used to say, before he changed his name to Mao Zedong, “the longest march begins with a single step”.
Three days into Richard’s long march, which will be completed at the 2016 Craven meeting having notched off all 60 tracks with meetings planned for this year, the raised tally is somewhere around £34,000. If Richard feels fresh after his gentle exercise of 2,750 miles, maybe he could throw in an insurance leg, from Hereford to Folkestone, 210 miles, just in case the Reuben brothers reopen those insensitively mothballed tracks.
I didn’t even feel much like walking round to get the paper this week and a lingering lurgy stopped me going up to Shropshire to watch work yesterday on what would have been for the first time on Mark Brisbourne’s stiff gallop. That was the planned stop-off point for a look at the three colt foals at Kinsale stud. Finty Farquhar is a friend of Rachael Kempster of Kinsale. As she says, “you have to use what little influence you have in life”. Actually, I said that, not Finty.
While Raymond Tooth’s seemingly mushroom-like band of mares continues to grow, two of the nine are temporarily based at Castlehyde in Co Cork, visiting Derby winner Pour Moi at Coolmore. I’m lucky enough to know many of the Coolmore/Castlehyde people, but it was a bit of a shock Saturday a week ago when Joe Hernon, the manager at Catlehyde, called to say that one of them, Laughing Water, had suffered a colic.
The daughter of Duke of Marmalade won one of her three races in France, and her trainer Nicolas Clement thought she could have been a black type filly but for injury. She was covered a week before her mishap, but as Joe said at the time, “The intestine isn’t twisted, but we’ll take her to the hospital to be safe”.
Four days later, after calls each day to report on her progress, she was back at Castlehyde and on Thursday they told us she was in foal – to her first cover in her first season as a brood mare. Her companion Ms Cordelia, who not only won two of her Flat races in France, but was second over hurdles for David Pipe, will soon be going up to the Derby winner having foaled a lovely colt by Guineas second French Fifteen.
Ray’s horses have gone through a quiet spell on the track, but the grey and pink are about to get busy. Mark runs Two Jabs at Wolverhampton on Thursday and expects a good run while Cousin Khee has a fair chance of getting into the Marathon on Lingfield’s big money Good Friday card.
His trainer Hughie Morrison was not actually delighted that having been easily cut down by New Year’s Night, he learned on Tuesday morning that the Charlie Appleby-trained winner was put up 3lb to 88.
This is a horse that cost 800,000gns. A son of Raven’s Pass from a Galileo mare, he got the three runs on all-weather at inadequate distances ruse, before being allowed to win by eight lengths in a maiden race.
The handicapper gave him 80, dropped him to 78 after his first handicap try, but then back up to 80 when he won, taken up to a mile and a half for the first time. They gave him an extra 5lb, and he came with a late run to show that his mark was notional and yet another example of apparent generosity by the officials to the boys in blue. Here’s an improving four-year-old, eight races in, already with three wins.
Take on the other hand Cousin Khee, who was making it a spectacular three wins from 16 Flat starts – he’s also run over hurdles and in various bumpers – when easily winning at Southwell. For that win he was bumped up 7lb to 81. Now six runs and no wins later he’s gone up 3lb for a third place, 4lb for a second and 2lb for last time, making it 15lb in all since his win. And he’s an eight-year-old! Cheers BHA.