Tag Archive for: Addeybb

Monday Musings: St Mark My Words!

The sports pages yesterday were dominated by a certain football match in Rome and, much earlier on Saturday, the 18-year-old world number 338-rated female tennis player wowing the home crowd at Wimbledon, writes Tony Stafford. At least on a par, ten miles down the A3 in Esher, St Mark’s Basilica was deservedly making his own headlines.

There is winning a Group 1 race, indeed one completed in slower time for the Sandown Park ten furlongs than the two handicaps over that trip on the card, and then there’s winning it like a potential champion.

You can list a big winner’s credentials but when it gets into the top level it is rare to find a horse running past fully tested Group 1 performers in a few strides and drawing away. That is what St Mark’s Basilica did in swamping Mishriff and Addeybb for speed once Ryan Moore unleashed him.

Afterwards there was the inevitable qualifying of the performance, commentators suggesting Addeybb, who battled back to wrest second off Mishriff, and the third horse may have both come to the race a little under-cooked.

Well here’s the rub. Both horses had already won Group 1 races this year, Addeybb continuing his Australian odyssey with another defeat of the brilliant mare Verry Elleegant in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in April while Mishriff earned his owner Prince Abdulrahman Abdullah Faisal just about £10 million when annexing his own country’s Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night.

Those wins illustrated his versatility, the former over nine furlongs on dirt and the latter a mile and a half on turf, so Sandown’s mile and a quarter will have fitted comfortably within his parameters.

When Mishriff drew alongside Addeybb in the straight on ground possibly a little less soft than ideal for the leader, he looked set to win, but St Mark’s Basilica was poised in behind in this four-horse field and, when given the signal by Ryan, he sailed serenely clear.

Sandown’s tough uphill conclusion often provides sudden changes in momentum. By the line St Mark’s Basilica was, either from loneliness or simply feeling the effects of the sudden change in velocity that took him clear, definitely if marginally coming back to the rallying Addeybb.

But William Haggas’ seven-year-old is a battle-hardened winner of 12 of 23 career starts. Mishriff, handled skilfully by the Gosdens, has won six of 11, but until Saturday his only defeat in the previous six had been in Addeybb’s Champion Stakes where he appeared not to appreciate the very testing ground.

Saturday’s success makes St Mark’s Basilica the winner of four Group 1 races in succession starting with the Dewhurst. That normally is the race that signals the champion juvenile of his year and then he went on to hoard both French Classics open to males, the Poulains and Jockey Club, where his electric burst heralded the type of performance we saw on Saturday.

In a year where four-fifths of the Aidan O’Brien Classic winners have been four different fillies and none of them Santa Barbara, the fifth has been going a long way to eradicate the overall disappointing showings – so far, and remember it is a long season – of the other colts.

A son of Siyouni – also the sire of Sottsass, the 2020 Arc winner, now standing his first-year stallion duties for €30k a pop at Coolmore Stud – his two French Classic wins made him an obvious object of admiration for French breeders as previously mentioned here.

Unfortunately, their pockets will need to have become much deeper than anticipated with each successive Group 1 victory and if the speed that has characterised all his wins remains or, as is more likely, intensifies with experience, he will easily outstrip his sire’s appeal – and stud fee.

Any thought that he will end up anywhere other than Co Tipperary is fanciful and with all those mares needing partners he will have an enviable stream of potential mates. One slight difficulty is that his dam, Cabaret, is by Galileo.

Cabaret was an unusual product of Galileo on the racetrack, atypically precocious enough to win twice including a Group 3 by mid-July of her two-year-old season but never nearer than seventh in four more races. Sold for £600k at the end of her four-year-old season – double the yearling price at which she joined Coolmore – she has been the dam not only of St Mark’s Basilica but also Aidan O’Brien’s 2,000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia, by Invincible Spirit.

Post-race quotes of 6-4 for the Juddmonte International look just about spot on in a year when you get the impression that Aidan is being more confident in narrowing down his candidates for the biggest races to the single most deserving.

Of course, there’s still Love as a possible for the Juddmonte as she won reverting to ten furlongs at Royal Ascot, but why wouldn’t O’Brien prefer to keep her in her comfort zone for a second Yorkshire Oaks at a mile and a half? Then it is the small matter in three weeks of the King George, for which in a vastly over-round market, Love and the Derby winner Adayar are vying for favouritism at around 2-1 or 9-4, with St Mark’s Basilica moving in close at 4-1 if Aidan wants to stretch him out to 12 furlongs as soon as that.

And what of Snowfall? A 16-length Classic winner is not one to ignore wherever she runs. It’s great having a lot of good horses: the trick is knowing where to run them.

One trainer who never seems to be at a loss in choosing the right target for his equine inmates is William Haggas. With 67 wins from 266 runs, but more pertinently having won with 49 of the 106 individual horses he has run this year, the Newmarket trainer operates at a better than 25% strike rate despite many of his horses having to run in high-class handicaps.

If they sometimes are not raised as rapidly as those of his fellow trainers who might have a much less healthy strike rate, the economy with which they often win is at least a contributary factor.

But they are invariably well bet, so for Haggas to be losing under a fiver to level stakes for those 266 runners is miraculous. I saw Bernard Kantor, a patron of Haggas, again last week and we were musing as to whether his Catterick winner Sans Pretension – remember she was DROPPED 2lb for that! – would ever be reappearing.

The next day, Bernard excitedly told me, “She is in at Yarmouth on Wednesday,” about his Galileo filly. I’m sure he will have seen a later and much more high-profile entry in a fillies’ race at Ascot on Friday. I could be tempted as there’s another horse on the same card I really ought to go to see. I had planned to wait until post July 19, so possibly the King George, but maybe I will try to go this week. I bet Sans Pretension will not be too far away in whichever race the shrewd Mr Haggas decides upon.

There are some jewels that one’s eye will often pass over when looking for something in the Racing Post records. While Haggas has had nine winners from 41 runs in the past fortnight there is another area where he has plenty to prove.

Like Ryan Moore, who won a hurdle race first time on the track for his dad before ever riding on the Flat and who has not revisited that discipline since, Haggas had a go at jumping. I know he had at least one winner over jumps, Fen Terrier on October 20, 1995, at Fakenham, but possibly only one.

The 6-4 second favourite, a daughter of Emerati owned by Jolly Farmer Racing, won narrowly with the 5-4 favourite Dominion’s Dream, trained by Martin Pipe, ten lengths behind in third.

William has had a further seven runners over jumps in the intervening 9,389 days without another win. I wonder if he considers he has something to prove. Probably not!

Another of my favourite meetings will come and go without my attendance this week. Whenever I think of Newmarket July I go back to the day when Hitman broke the track record in the competitive ten-furlong three-year-old handicap for owners the Paper Boys, and Brough Scott insisted I do an interview for the telly.

My then wife was blissfully unaware of my association with the Henry Cecil colt, that was until a colleague on a day off who was interested in racing congratulated her on the win in the office the next morning. Other similar offences were digested and clearly taken into account before the eventual inevitable domestic rupture!

- TS

Monday Musings: Haggas a Dab Hand with Addeybb

On February 6th 1954, two years to the day after her accession to the throne, Her Majesty the Queen, on a Royal visit to Australia, was present at Randwick racecourse, Sydney, to witness the first running of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, writes Tony Stafford.

Inaugurated by the Australian Jockey Club in 1851 in honour of Queen Victoria, it was staged as the Queens Plate throughout her reign. Later it became the AJC Plate with single-year editions in 1928 and 1934 as the King’s Plate, honouring the present Queen’s grand-father, King George V.

Early on the morning of the funeral of HRH Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, Englishmen William Haggas (trainer) and Ton Marquand (jockey) fittingly won the 4millionAust$ 2021 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes with the seven-year-old gelding Addeybb in the colours of Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, youngest and least publicised of the four Maktoum brothers who so transformed UK and world racing.

Like the Queen, Sheikh Ahmed has had a recent family death to endure after Sheikh Hamdan, second in terms of age of the quartet and mastermind of Shadwell Farm, passed away last month in the week leading up to the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan.

So, 67 years after that initial running, the QE Stakes is still going strong. In its pre-QE history it was won by many of Australia’s best horses, none more so than the legendary Phar Lap, winner of the Plate in 1930.

That was in the midst of a late-flowering career that brought a sequence of wins (career total 37/51) after a halting start. Sent to race in the US, he started with a track record before dying in agony after what was subsequently identified as a massive dose of arsenic. It is believed that his murder was at the behest of criminal elements worried that Phar Lap would be a threat to the profitability of the Mafia’s illegal bookmakers.

Tulloch, another Australian great, won 36, finished second in 12 and third in four of his 53 starts, with only one unplaced. This despite his being off the track injured for a full two years after his three-year-old campaign. He won the Randwick race in 1958, 1960 and 1961.

Tulloch was the only triple winner since 1954 until along came Winx. The great mare had won her first three races, then went the next seven with only a single victory before embarking on a 33-race unbeaten spree until the end of her career.

Three consecutive Queen Elizabeth Stakes fell to her spell, the last at 10-1 on as a seven-year-old in 2019 after which she retired having won 37 of 43 starts and, helped by the massive prize of the Sydney race, with world-record earnings and Group 1 wins.

Winx’s retirement left a vacancy in 2020 and William Haggas, who sent down the then six-year-old Addeybb, previously best known as a mudlark, was aiming to fill the void.  Addeybb, another late bloomer, first hit the headlines when winning the Lincoln on his four-year-old reappearance and had won six races and finished second to Magical in the 2019 Champion Stakes before that first Australian jaunt.

On March 21 last year, five days after the first lockdown was announced by Boris Johnson, Tom Marquand was in Sydney to ride Addeybb in the Ranvet Stakes and in the first of four memorable clashes with the two-years-younger Verry Elleegant <what an inelegant name!> beat her by half a length.

Five weeks later – Marquand having been marooned away from partner Hollie Doyle by Covid19 restrictions – he enjoyed a more emphatic defeat of the filly in the QE II.

The relative exploits of the two developing stars between that day and last month again in the Ranvet Stakes where they renewed their rivalry, was stark, largely governed by the need for Haggas to take account of his horse’s tough time away from home base.

He fashioned a minutely-planned three-race home campaign, returning to finish an excellent runner-up to Lord North in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. He then duly collected the Listed Land Of Burns Stakes at Ayr before winning another big pot, the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot, where he avenged defeats by both Magical and Lord North. A 9-1 shot, he also numbered the Gosdens’ future Middle East money-spinner Mishriff among his victims.

Meanwhile, Verry Elleegant was making hay at home.  After a break she won over a mile in August; was fourth in September and was victorious twice in October over a mile then a mile and a half before stretching out with a creditable seventh in the two-mile Melbourne Cup. Freshened up, the mare was third and then won, both races in February, before lining up for the Ranvet last month.

Fully conditioned, she got the better of a possibly ring-rusty Addeybb, but memorably on Saturday, the Haggas horse gained fulsome revenge. As a gelding and given the trainer’s skill with older horses, he could easily return next year aiming to match the three-time exploits of Tulloch and Winx.

I’ve been remiss in not yet collecting my always-valued copy of Horses In Training as I’ve been nowhere for more than a year and the usual sources either at Cheltenham or from Tindalls In Newmarket High Street have been unavailable.

I do see this morning that I can get it from Amazon at a discounted price of 20 quid so when I finish these words I’ll get a move on. It will be interesting to see the status of the Haggas string which numbered 199 last year. One definite change will be among the stable’s trio of assistant trainers as Harry Eustace is now training in his own right.

He has succeeded his father James, who ended a 30-year stint at the end of last season and his son is sure to have learnt plenty. I believe he (and possibly brother David) spent time in Australia learning his trade as did George Boughey who has been pulling up trees in his early training career.

I know they were house-mates in that hothouse of thrusting young training talent a few years back with George Scott, who was a little in front of his colleagues in his career. Others there included Ed Crisford, who now shares the billing with father Simon and James Ferguson, son of John, former colleague of Simon Crisford for many years in running Sheikh Mohammed’s racing affairs in the UK and Dubai in the winter.

It’s become fashionable for trainers to hand over either joint-, as in the case of John and Thady Gosden, or outright, like Eustace and also the Bethells up in Middleham. Listed as assistant trainer in last year’s HIT, Edward Bethell has taken over seamlessly from father James at the palatial Thorngill Stables just outside Middleham and threatens to take the family fortunes by storm.

He’s already up to the six-winner mark from only 28 runners and the recent victories of Briardale (twice), Grantley and Blu Boy, his by miles and a in a canter, threaten an explosion. There were 30 horses in last year’s Bethell team. I can imagine a flood of new owners wishing to take part in what looks sure to be an exciting project and sending horses to him.

Yesterday, two meetings delayed from Saturday to free up mid-afternoon for The Duke’s funeral made for exciting viewing and Al Aasy promises to be another potential Group 1 horse for the Haggas stable and in the colours of Shadwell Farm. Not a home-bred, Al Aasy easily won the Dubai Duty Free Stakes (the John Porter to you and me)  and will be following in Addeybb’s footsteps no doubt as the season progresses.

Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting was one of the last jumping highlights in the UK before the domestic season ends next Saturday at Sandown. Harry Skelton’s inexorable pursuit then rapid-fire passing and drawing clear of Brian Hughes has all but clinched his first title and you have to think that with brother Dan’s fire-power and a greater readiness to take nice outside rides, he could be in for a longish spell in the number one spot. Congratulations to jockey, trainer and of course father Nick whose determination to support his sons was only exceeded by the far-sighted planning to set up their operation.

I would also like to congratulate Ian Williams for a superb training achievement in sending out One More Fleurie to win the highly-competitive novice handicap chase over three miles at Ayr.

Setting off in front, the gelding jumped every one of the 19 fences like an assured veteran, easily kept ahead of his 12 rivals throughout and stretched away for a six-and-a-half-length success with Charlie Todd not having to do much more than steer.

The exhibition was one almost of an automaton so perfect were the parabolas he executed at every fence. He didn’t gain his first career win, off a mark of 105 on his third chasing start, until seven weeks ago. He won twice more, with only a concentration lapse in between at Fakenham spoiling the sequence. This was his fourth success, now off 23lb higher than the initial winning mark.

It is easy to imagine him one day coming back to Ayr for a Scottish Grand National, or with his mix of stamina – he was going away from talented rivals rather than coming back yesterday – and jumping prowess, later on winning a Grand National.

Ian Williams is one of the truly versatile trainers who can win with any type of horse, but One More Fleurie could put him and his young rider deservedly onto a different level.  I reckon he’ll be elevated to somewhere near 138 – those iniquitous handicappers are never very lenient with Ian’s winners – so that means he will probably get in the Ladbroke Handicap Chase <Hennessy> next November. Cloth Cap won it this season off 136, so go on Ian - fill your boots!

Monday Musings: Tom and Hollie’s Top Class Show

Many famous men through history have had to accept second place in their relationships with their even more well-known better halves, writes Tony Stafford. Their own celebrity was undoubtedly the reason they first came to the attention of their future partners, none more so than Joe Di Maggio, America’s supreme baseball star of the 1950’s, who had to grow accustomed, once hitched, to being referred to as Mr Marilyn Monroe.

Joe clearly accepted that slight (as it was in those unenlightened days) on his manhood, for why else would he have continued to support the troubled platinum blonde film star through the various subsequent alliances and scandals that stretched all the way to a President of the United States? For Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels, read John F Kennedy and Marilyn, illicit alliances half a century apart.

While entertainment and sport stars have occasionally got together, rarely has it been on such an equal basis as Mr and Mrs Hollie Doyle. Sorry, not quite yet, as although the wonderful Hollie and the equally admirable Tom Marquand are no married couple, they do live together in Hungerford. After Saturday’s exploits where the 20-some pair – Tom is the younger by two years – monopolised Champions Day at Ascot to the tune of four wins, so 67% of the six races, Tom hinted that marriage might be on the horizon.

Halfway through Saturday’s card, the various television outlets were in full Hollie mode. She won the first two races on Trueshan (by miles in the Stayers) and thrillingly by a nose on Glen Shiel (Sprint) before finishing a creditable second on Dame Malliot behind the highly-talented Wonderful Tonight, trained by David Menuisier in the fillies’ and mares’ race. Had the finishing order been reversed you could have imagined Frankie Dettori, already tailed off on Stradivarius in the opener and destined to share in Palace Pier’s first career defeat later on, wondering what was going on. Ascot’s supposed to be his private venue, but sorry Frankie, even Peter Pan had to grow old one day.

As it turned out, Glen Shiel was her final win, but after a brief break in the changing room while Palace Pier was struggling into third behind The Revenant in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, she picked up lesser cheques, for sixth in the Champion Stakes on Extra Elusive for her new boss Imad Sagar, and another second on Sir Michael Stoute’s Solid Stone in the Balmoral Handicap which closed the show.

I’m not sure whether the Marquand/Doyle team pools its earnings. By all accounts they usually sit down to relax after their respective long days, maybe playing a game of cards, watching telly or maybe even examining closely the relative quality of their performances.

At times one or other might be in the ascendant, as Hollie clearly was in the first half of Saturday when the total earnings of her two wins and three minor places added up to a whopping £495,000. Modesty precludes me from checking just what the precise share of that will go to the jockey, but somewhere around seven per cent might not be far wide of the mark.

So Hollie could rightfully say as they shuffled the cards: “Here’s my Group 2 and Group 1, can you match that?”. Well, fortunately, late-starting Tom could indeed counter. “Yes Hollie, here’s my 62 grand for the Balmoral Handicap on Njord, but my Group 1 and the 425k Addeybb won in the Champion Stakes easily matches your day’s work!”

In monetary terms it might just do so, but in the media perception – I still didn’t watch it on ITV, but Sky Sports Racing, who had to share their rightful coverage of Ascot with Racing TV and the national broadcaster - both revelled in Holliemania. It was indeed mostly a one-way street.

In the end, though, it proved to be almost a dead-heat on the earnings front, the final figure arriving at almost exactly £1 million (505 Tom and 495 Hollie); just like their riding styles: tidy, unobtrusive and in each case being in the right place at the right time in just about all their races.

I’ve mentioned Tony Nerses before and there’s no doubt that Imad Sagar’s Racing Manager played a big part in securing Hollie’s services earlier in the year. When the news came it was with a mixture of surprise at the appointment and dread that it might all go pear-shaped, but the tiny Hollie quickly grew into the role. The first Group races soon came, notably on Sagar’s Extra Elusive at Windsor in August, the highlight of her personal five-timer that day. Now she has that first Group 1 on her ever-expanding list of achievements and a record number of winners for a female rider: already pushing 120, that in a truncated year. Which of them will win the championship first? Possibly Hollie, but either will be a credit to the accolade.

There seems no limit to the list of potential employers – if you’re good enough for Sir Michael Stoute, you’re good enough for anyone. At the same time Marquand has seamlessly moved from the guy who happened to be available to partner Addeybb in those two winning Group 1 rides in Australia last winter to now being the go-to man for that well-travelled mudlark’s trainer, William Haggas.

I use the term mudlark advisedly, and there is little doubt that there is no point in turning up on Champions Day if you cannot cope with the soft ground that is almost inevitable in mid-October. That was always the main argument against staging such an important date so late in the year. In a normal mid-October once the European pattern gets through the various Classic schedules of the three major racing nations, there is little scope to go elsewhere. The Irish have their Champions weekend; France and the Arc meeting follows three weeks later, so this is where our big day has to be.

Not that the winners of Saturday’s races are anything but worthy, even if the names John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien, for whatever reason, didn’t manage to collect any first prizes. I was surprised to hear that Gosden was citing the going for Stradivarius’ capitulation in the opening Stayers race. It was the fourth time he’d contested it and he’d won it only once previously. This time he’d gone through the extra exertion of a full preparation for the Arc with a mile and a half run in one of the trials. Gosden’s suggestion that because the Arc had been run at a pedestrian pace it was less demanding than usual seemed surprising.

The biggest surprise, though, in view of his less than outstanding record at this fixture – nowhere near the level of his three Gold Cups there or four Goodwood Cups in high summer – was that he started as short as 11-10.  Trueshan came to the race having won six of ten career starts, including a defeat of smart stayer Withhold in Listed class last time at Salisbury. Runner-up Search For A Star had won the last two renewals of the Irish St Leger for Dermot Weld and third home Fujaira Star had won a Royal Ascot handicap before impressing in a top-class Ebor at York and following home Search For A Star at the Curragh. It was a hot race.

I fully expected Andrew Gemmill to have been at Ascot on Saturday for Trueshan’s win, but he stayed home. Andrew was one of the four original owners – the Singula Partnership- of Trueshan but in May last year they leased the horse to the Barbary Lions 5, a bigger syndicate of 20 in which the quartet also participates. That lease ends at the end of the year according to Andrew and it will be interesting to see whether Alan King will allow this four-year-old gelding to run over hurdles which must have been the original plan. More than likely he’ll be happy to stay on the level and try to win next year’s Gold Cup.

Some spectacular results have been achieved by two of Saturday’s winners, cheaply bought at auction some way into their careers. The Darley-bred Glen Shiel had already raced 11 times in all, once at two, then as a three- and four-year old for Godolphin with Andre Fabre, winning three times. Turning up at the Doncaster May sales as a five-year-old, unraced so far that year, he was bought on behalf of Archie Watson for £45,000 and didn’t see a British racecourse until October. Five runs before the turn of the year didn’t produce a win, but the first of three pre-lockdown appearances did.

On January 8 at Newcastle off a mark of 96 and ridden by Hollie, he won readily. It was not until another five runs later, also at Newcastle in late June that he collected again and that was the start. The son of Pivotal has shown his and his trainer’s ability with a second to Dream Of Dreams in the Haydock Sprint Cup and then by reversing that form while also seeing off perennial Group 1 sprint contender Brando, much to his rider’s evident disbelief.

Marquand was also the beneficiary of an inspired purchase. The four-year-old Njord had started out with Sheila Lavery’s Irish stable, gaining his first win off 63 in May last year. He collected again on October 13 before going to Goff’s sales six days later when BBA Ireland paid 54,000 Euro on behalf of Jessica Harrington. By now on 82, he ran back at Gowran Park only nine days after the sale, winning comfortably. Another win, soon after racing’s resumption in June came off 88 at The Curragh. On Saturday Njord ran away with the highly-competitive Balmoral Handicap and must now be on at least 110, more than three stone higher than where he started.

I highlighted the chance of The Revenant last week in this column and was not at all surprised that he coped with conditions better than Palace Pier when going one better than last year in the QE II. He now has the remarkable figures of 10 wins, two seconds and a third in 13 career starts. In that race, Sir Busker’s alarming tendency to hang left when put under pressure didn’t stop him from finishing fourth, showing that if he had been drawn on the stands side in that most unfair of all Cambridgeshires, he might well have won it. Fourth in this coveted Group 1 and almost £35k will have been satisfactory compensation.

One other horse that we in the UK probably have hardly noticed – I hadn’t! - even after his achievement of splitting Addeyyb and Magical, who was unluckily denied a run at a crucial stage, is Skalleti. This five-year-old, trained in Marseille by the talented Jerome Reynier has a record on a par with The Revenant’s. Even after Saturday’s defeat he has 12 victories from 16 and this autumn has a Deauville Group 3 victory over subsequent Arc winner Sottsass and an easy Prix Dollar victory on Arc weekend on his record.

Preconceptions proved misguided in several cases on Saturday, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that some of the winners weren’t up to standard. They were.

- TS

Monday Musings: The Month Long Day

Four weeks in and I don’t know about you, but it’s almost impossible to tell the days apart, writes Tony Stafford. I know I’m writing this on what they tell me is Easter Sunday; but with little varying day to day – even the weather, with the sun blazing incessantly and perma-warm temperatures – what we have had is a totally homogenised month.

The initial shopping frenzy has cooled. I act as driver for our once-a-week taxi journey a few miles to the usual supermarket where I stay secure in the car with the windows firmly closed while Mrs S does the six-foot-apart car park snake towards the entrance. Inside, she assures me, she scrupulously adheres to the one-way arrows on the floor and reckons she’s almost the only shopper who does. Food is available now and thousands have died as we proceed in our frozen state.

The Racing Post, predictably and understandably, has been forced to reduce the size of its daily computer newspaper usually to eight pages, so I’ve no idea if the birthdays remain available. For my part I just have a quick squint before looking elsewhere.

I mention birthdays because Easter Sunday would have been the 100th birthday of my father had he not died 18 years ago. For years I regretted he had never seen the development of the Olympic Park, part of his home turf for all his life, apart from the six years he had to give up to join in the Second World War, which he spent mostly in Egypt. Not only did he not see the Olympics, he never knew they were coming. My mum was still alive and I can still picture sitting with her as the announcement that the Games had been won and would be staged in London in 2012 was broadcast to the nation.

Dad took me racing, to Arsenal and to the Oval as a kid, three pastimes that have never wavered in my interest. His principal goal in life seemed to be to ensure that I joined Eton Manor boys sports club as soon as I could, which meant on my 14th birthday.

Sixty years on, we took our permitted walk on Saturday with a puffing Yorkshire terrier, close to the River Lea, on the same land where I’d played so much of my cricket as a kid. I had even contrived to play in a match there rather than watch the World Cup Final in 1966, three years after – between innings – watching the famous Irish Derby when Relko, the runaway Derby winner, had to be withdrawn lame a few minutes before the start. That left the nine-length Epsom third Ragusa to step up.

Working for the racing press led me to so many places and a great deal of the more unlikely connections came from making summer trips to Kentucky when Keeneland still had the July Selected Yearling sale. In the late 1980’s I’d bumped into the former teen idol David Cassidy there, so when on Friday I noticed that an hour and a half documentary was to air promising the last recordings of the life that ended aged 67 three years ago, it was required viewing.

The all-encompassing years when his role in the antiseptic TV show The Partridge Family, which led to his becoming the most-worshipped pop star of the early 1970’s, were already way behind him. He got into racing and breeding and a couple of times we happened to be in the same company at dinner in the famed Dudley’s restaurant in downtown Lexington.

Then at Epsom on Derby Day 1987, I noticed someone in morning dress looking over at me. It was David, and he said he recognised me from Kentucky and asked where could he get a good view of the big race? It was the days of the old Epsom grandstand – two structures ago! -and I said I could sneak him up to the top of the Press stand.

As an American, he got a great thrill seeing his compatriot and friend Steve Cauthen coming home clear on Henry Cecil’s all-the-way winner Reference Point. Cassidy was in London that summer having taken over the leading role originally played in the West End by Cliff Richard in the musical, Time. He invited the family to see the show and asked the five of us backstage to his dressing room afterwards. He seemed a very nice chap and it was salutary to discover from the documentary the problems he had with his own father, the film star and famous tenor, Jack Cassidy.

Even more devastating was the evidence of his dementia, which as he honestly and perhaps possibly for the first time in his life, stated in interviews was caused by alcoholism.

Mortality is being brought home to us every day right now. One person whose recovery from coronavirus was revealed recently was Sir Kenny Dalglish, who shares a birthday with me. It’s so random who will be struck down next, you just have to keep out of harm’s way as much as you can.

Racing is going on in a few selected areas around the world under strictly-controlled circumstances, and two people who have been delighted that Australia has kept going are William Haggas and Tom Marquand. On Saturday at Randwick, taking advantage of the retirement of Winx, winner of the previous three runnings, they stepped up to win the Queen Elizabeth Cup with Addeybb by almost three lengths from Verry Elleegant. The near £700,000 first prize will no doubt have been causing envious glances from their training and riding counterparts around the UK.

Addeybb was following up his victory in another Group 1 10-furong race at Rosehill last month when he beat Verry Elleegant by only half a length. Forty minutes before the Queen Elizabeth Cup, the pair teamed up with recent Australian Group 3 winner Young Rascal, the 19-10 favourite for the two-mile Sydney Cup. Young Rascal disappointed, finishing unplaced and well behind former stable-companion Raheen House, who was a close third a week after winning a 50k prep race over the same track.

I see from the now long list of owners that Lew Day, who originally bought the six-year-old as a yearling on the advice of Sam Sangster and his first trainer Brian Meehan, still has his name as part of the syndicate. I’m delighted that he will have picked up a few pounds, or rather Aussie dollars, from his now far-away involvement.

On the same card, another well-known name, Con Te Partira, a winner at Royal Ascot for the Wesley Ward stable in 2017, collected a big prize for mares, the Group 1 Coolmore Legacy Stakes. The daughter of Scat Daddy was winning her third race for the Gai Waterhouse stable and will be worth a fortune when she eventually goes to stud. What price Royal Ascot, even behind closed doors, this year?

 - TS