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Social Discourse – 10th June 2019

Happy Monday, and welcome to another weekly round up of the pick of the news as seen through the tweet machine lens...

There’s only one place to start this week’s Social Discourse, and that is the fire which could have been a tragedy if not for the extremely quick work of those based at Jamie Osborne's Old Malt House Stables in Upper Lambourn. When flames engulfed the yard at 4am in the morning, destroying the tack room, a bungalow and mercifully nothing more, it was thanks not only the quick thinking of Osborne but of all those involved, and the kindness of - amongst others - Stan Moore, who stabled some of the affected horses for a day afterwards. See some of the events below:

 

 

Tweet Of The Week: This says it all. What a man Jamie Osborne has been, and what a team he’s got behind him.

 

  1. All Rise for Sir Winston

This has been a rather dramatic Triple Crown year. It’s only six weeks or so ago that we had the first disqualification in Kentucky Derby history. Then, in the Preakness, the middle leg of the Triple Crown, we saw a riderless horse (having unshipped Johnny Velazquez, no less) stealing America’s heart, perhaps gaining more love than the winner. And in the third and final leg, we had another surprise as Sir Winston nipped up the rail to record an upset in the Belmont Stakes.

 

Making his Classic debut for Mark Casse, who was training a second of the three Triple Crown winners, Sir Winston travelled like he’d been at this level for just as long as any horse in the field. Held up early, he moved into contention smoothly in the run-up to the far turn; thereafter, jockey Joel Rosario had to hold his nerve when he was briefly boxed in, but when the gap came he scooted up the inner for what was a perfectly timed winning run. The Twittersphere had plenty to say about the race, the rides, and the tactics.

https://twitter.com/Calim1701/status/1137499938542182402

 

Any later, and it’s possible that favourite Tacitus, fourth in the Kentucky Derby before skipping the Preakness, might have got there in time, whilst Japanese contender Master Fencer appeared to finish fastest of all (just as he did in the Durby), but the glory went to Sir Winston.

A shout out to Master Fencer's connections, who have taken the Triple Crown in stride, and hopefully they will be back very soon.

 

  1. Judge, Jury and Mr Adjudicator
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Tory leadership contenders talking about taking drugs, taxes and Willie Mullins winning the Prix la Barka. They’re three certainties in life and we’ve had all of them this weekend, with Mullins continuing the Closutton domination of this French Grade 2 hurdle. This time, Mr Adjudicator denied stablemate Bapaume in that one's quest for back-to-back wins.

https://twitter.com/AtTheRaces/status/1137813615791071232

Mullins had won the last three renewals, with Un De Sceaux and Shaneshill scoring prior to Bapaume 12 months ago, and he'd entered over half the field on this occasion.

Elsewhere on the card, the Prix des Drags was a race of contrasting emotions; joy for Isabelle Pacault and dedicated ally Jonathan Plouganou after Jubilatoire's win, and despair for the Mullins brigade after the loss of Irish Grand National runner-up Isleofhopendreams, who was fatally injured at the water jump in front of the stands.

The Prix Questerabad saw Irish interest in the shape of French Made, but she was a blowout when fourth behind L’Autonomie, an impressive winner.

 

  1. Santa Anita-Close Down

Breaking: As I write this newsletter...

The consequences: Obviously massive. California’s premier racetrack – and arguably the premier racetrack in America, if not the most famous one – has been here before, and the first question that comes to mind especially for many readers here, will be what happens to the Breeders’ Cup, which took place at Churchill last year but which was set to return to Arcadia in 2019.

https://twitter.com/ArsenioHall/status/1137969596433162241

This is another reputational disaster for racing – there have already been nationally uncomfortable questions – and once again, questions to which the authorities do not have the answers will be asked, especially PETA, on a national stage (see the New York Times tweet above). Where do we go from here?

  1. Elsewhere at Belmont

Heading back to America, it was a truly top class card at Belmont to entertain on Saturday.

  • Bricks and Mortar, now firmly established as the best turf horse in the US, added to his Pegasus Turf win with a cosy success in the Manhattan Stakes

https://twitter.com/HorseRaceSite/status/1137479973135179779

 

  • Mitole took a thrilling and extremely high-class renewal of the Metropolitan Mile Handicap, holding off the late and unlucky challenge of McKinzie with Thunder Snow a fine third over a trip short of his optimum. The latter will stay in America for a summer campaign, perhaps heading to Saratoga next.

 

  • Thanks to a meltdown early pace, Hog Creek Hustle sprung an upset in the Woody Stephens, beating fellow outsider Nitrous, and an objection from the stewards as they debated whether the winner caused Mind Control to lose any chance in the lane when he shifted in his stretch run.

https://twitter.com/WHR/status/1137455811322683392

  • Guarana showed herself to be a horse of immense promise when graduating straight from maidens into Grade 1 company, breaking the track record as she slammed Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress by six lengths in the Acorn Stakes.

https://twitter.com/WorldRacing_/status/1137442373288505344

  • World Of Trouble had no trouble in taking the Jaipur Invitational Stakes.

  • Midnight Bisou got the better of Come Dancing in impressive style when landing the Odgen Phipps Stakes.

  • Rushing Fall started what would be a Grade 1 treble for Chad Brown when landing the Just A Game Stakes.

 

  1. A Right Royal Treat, Part 1

With just over a week to go, some of the best racing days of the year are on their way, and there’s so much to look forward to. 

On the Tuesday:

  • The Queen Anne will see a host of names which fought out the Lockinge Stakes meet again, with Mustashry favourite to beat Laurens, Accidental Agent and Le Brivido amongst others
  • Last year’s 1-2-3 will meet again in the King’s Stand, with Blue Point, Battaash and Mabs Cross re-opposing
  • In the St James’s Palace, there’s the chance we might get to see Magna Grecia – if he can recover from the pulled muscle which saw him disappoint at the Curragh – take on Phoenix of Spain, bringing together the English and Irish Guineas winners
  • There are more Coventry contenders than one can count, in what looks set to be one of the most open races of the week

 

Wednesday:

  • Sea of Class and Waldgeist could be joined by last year’s Derby winner Masar and Crystal Ocean in what looks a potentially belting Prince of Wales’s Stakes

Thursday

  • The Gold Cup sees last year’s Champion, Stradivarius, take on Melbourne Cup winner, Cross Counter, and 2018 Derby fourth and improver since stretching out, Dee Ex Bee

https://twitter.com/Punters/status/1137947074752786432

 

Friday

  • Dual 1,000 Guineas winner Hermosa is now likely to take on the wide margin Newbury winner Jubiloso in the Coronation Stakes

  • In the Commonwealth Cup, Ten Sovereigns heads a field packed with speed and potential, including Jash, with whom he clashed in last year's Middle Park

 

Saturday

  • Invincible Army, a very impressive winner of the Duke of York Stakes, takes on Godolphin's French raider Inns Of Court, who was different class in the Prix du-Gros Chene, as we conclude the week’s Group 1’s in The Diamond Jubilee

Tip top stuff, of which more next week.

Meanwhile, this is WK signing off...

- William Kedjanyi

Monday Musings: If it wasn’t for bad Luck…

Nick Luck on Sunday should be required viewing every week on Racing UK, writes Tony Stafford. This Sunday the show conveniently wrapped around racing from Hong Kong featuring Graham Cunningham who seems to have settled seamlessly into the racing there after a long career on this side of the pond, in more recent years as a regular on the channel.

In my case, disciplined as ever, I usually miss most of it. Yesterday the first segment included Hugo Palmer, who according to his stable jockey Josephine Gordon, also on the show before her dash to Goodwood, had to attend a party so left precipitously. I didn’t begin watching until after Hugo’s departure unfortunately.

That left Luck, soon, believe it or believe it not, to attain the unimaginable age of 40 with Gordon, tipster Maddy Playle and Hughie Morrison, with emphasis on the last-named’s trials and tribulations with the BHA courtesy the Wolverhampton steroids case.

As both interviewer and interviewee readily attested, the affair could easily have ended with Morrison’s losing his licence under the “strict liability” rule even though almost nobody believed the trainer likely to have been in any way involved in wrong doing.

Morrison believes it was his previously unblemished disciplinary record and the access to (if not ownership of) the excessive funds needed to challenge the BHA’s in his mind dilatory approach to the making available of evidence that ended with a satisfactory if expensive outcome on his part.

He talked about “£5,000 to send a letter and £25,000 to arrange a meeting with a barrister and the BHA”, figures which would take the cost of possible justice “far beyond the reach of most trainers”. Far beyond reason if you ask me.

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Hughie, who trains three horses for my boss Raymond Tooth, also readily attested that few owners expect to make anything like a profit from their horses but that they should expect to be treated much better on the racecourse than was previously the case. He says, though, that the situation is improving at a number of courses.

Morrison cited the new facilities for owners at Cheltenham and Newbury – both top notch – but could easily have included Ascot and York at the upper end as similarly exemplary. I was at Haydock on Wednesday and that course provides another enjoyable experience for owners, but the five and a half hour trek back down the 50mph limit blighted M6 was less tolerable.

That was after a disappointing sixth place for Raymond’s and his partners Dilip Sharma and Shahpur Siddiqui’s Laxmi in a fillies’ maiden race over six furlongs. Harry Bentley reported afterwards that she found the going too firm and the trip too short and the fact she did rally late on after getting outpaced seemed to support that opinion.

Laxmi could have run in any number of different types of two-year-old races, being an auction buy (£42,000), and also a product of a stallion (War Command) whose progeny qualify for mid-range median auction races, as well as the now ubiquitous novice contests.

The same cannot be said of all juveniles. In the old days, most races for two-year-olds at this stage of the season were either maidens or winners’ races. This year, the BHA’s race planning division – you know that part of the executive which scheduled afternoon meetings on Saturday at Haydock, Beverley, Catterick and Musselburgh to make it simple for northern trainers and racegoers – have thrown the programme into almost total reverse with previous winners being allowed into most races, both for two and three-year-olds.

Hughie Morrison was more concerned with the older division, complaining that inexperienced, later-developing maidens in their early days are habitually confronted by pattern-class horses totally schooled in racing. He reckoned most novice races for three-year-olds now go to previous winners. He implied that all this is doing is offering additional easy pickings for the most powerful stables – step forward Mr Gosden, and he does!

As an attempt to try to put myself into a trainer’s place, I had a look at the 57 two-year-old races over six furlongs in Volume 2 of the Programme Book for 2018. In order of availability there were 21 novice races, 12 novice auction, nine novice fillies’, five maidens, three each novice median auction and novice filly auction, two for maiden fillies (including Haydock last week) and one each median auction maiden and median auction fillies’ maiden.

The five maiden races were interesting. The first is at York this weekend, a Class 3 that carries a £15,000 prize fund and will therefore be very hard to win. The others are at Brighton, Windsor, with two (in a course series) at Hamilton. In all only nine are confined for maidens out of the 57. For home-breds that didn’t go through a sale to secure a mark for auction races, their opportunities are also limited, in my opinion unnecessarily so.

**

A few weeks ago I rather unfortunately chose Jeremy Noseda as an example of a small-to-medium size trainer who habitually takes on the big stables with excellent hopes of success. I was pointing to his forthcoming proposed challenge with the high-class, Phoenix Thoroughbreds-owned Gronkowski for the Kentucky Derby, even though news had come out the previous week that his colt had suffered a setback and would miss the race. I missed the news! It needed the better-informed resources of the Editor to prevent total embarrassment in this quarter. For Noseda it could hardly have gone worse in the interim.

Subsequently Phoenix, presumably in a pique that the Derby challenge was off, removed all their horses, including Gronkowski (three for three this year) and Walk in the Sun (two for two), along with 12 others. The latter has joined Martyn Meade, while the useful Lansky has gone to Robert Cowell.

It must have been galling for Noseda to read in the build up to Saturday’s Belmont Stakes from new trainer Chad Brown that Gronkowski came to him in wonderful condition. But that would have been nothing compared to his feelings after Gronkowski came from a long way back on his delayed US debut to get nearest to Justify as that brilliant colt gave Bob Baffert a second Triple Crown in three years following American Pharoah in 2016.

After some quiet times it seemed that 2018 would herald a major revival in Noseda’s fortunes. Understandably, following the removal of pretty much all of his best and certainly most expensive horses, his yard seems almost to have ceased operations with no runner since the unplaced Laughing Stranger at Newmarket on May 17. One can only hope that a mid to late summer surge will be forthcoming.

Sunday Supplement: Triple Crowned

American Pharoah

American Pharoah

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

When dawn broke over London and more particularly Epsom yesterday, I already had the theme of my – what do I or you call it? – blog, article, entertaining (one hopes) romp, as the Editor once unwisely suggested, through the years or simply an hour’s self-indulgence.

Who else deserved centre stage but a jockey who’d not had a single ride for his nominal boss in his native land this year – and won’t have at The Curragh today – but came through to win the Investec Oaks on Qualify at 50-1 for said trainer? I’ll get to him later, much later, for as dawn passed to afternoon in Surrey, then across the Atlantic to late afternoon in New York, seismic shocks were delivered to both racing establishments.

Two questions had been exercising the brains of world racing. Would Golden Horn stay a mile and a half, once Anthony Oppenheimer had accepted that he should pay the £75,000 supplement to get his unbeaten colt into the Derby, and would American Pharoah stay the very different mile and a half of the Belmont Stakes to become the 12th winner of the American Triple Crown?

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Both questions were answered in the affirmative, much to the delight of Epsom observers, able to watch 44-year-old Frankie Dettori make possibly the most poignant of his trademark dismounts – we left straight after so I’m guessing he did one? – but much more emphatically to the packed stands at Belmont Park after American Pharoah’s trap-to-line right-of-passage around the vast oval that has killed so many owners’ dreams since Affirmed’s win under Steve Cauthen 37 years ago.

Watching on TV last night it was hard to stay immune from the emotion from New York. As he went over the line, Victor Espinosa (at 43, just a jot younger than Frankie) held his whip aloft in celebration – the same whip that crunched down repeatedly on American Pharoah’s flank as he coerced him to success in the first leg of the TC, the Kentucky Derby.

Without what has been construed over here as unacceptably harsh riding, he would probably have been beaten in Louisville and the Triple Crown would not have happened. Suffice to say that the Americans are far less squeamish when it comes to use of the whip. Espinosa, who was on Bob Baffert’s last failed Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem – whose Derby win was my only trip to a Triple Crown race – needed far less vigour this time, all the necessary power was in the Pharoah’s hooves and through his handsome body.

When I said “emotion”, it hardly pays justice to what actually happened. As they crossed the line, the crescendo of sound just swelled into near-delirium as 100,000 proud New Yorkers welcomed the California-trained champ, who won by five and a half lengths from second favourite Frosted. It was a long wait on one of those spaced-out US cards that leaves hours almost between races, but immensely worth it.

It wouldn’t really have mattered if four chimpanzees rather than the two line-ups – that’s right Attheraces had a crack, but sorry Matt (Chapman) I stayed with the other side. They had the tried and tested Angus McNee and James Willoughby duo supplemented by the dour man Mark, who seems to have the same Hull accent that inhabits the channel through other Timeform graduates, and refreshing Rachel. She’s the American lady who first saw the light of day on our tellies in conjunction with her pal Mark Johnson, who must have met her during his commentating stints at Churchill Downs.

Rachel – her surname begins with C and is Italian – was unstinting in her support of American Pharoah’s prospects, even going so far as to reassure one emailer to the show who’d backed the treble of Golden Horn, Barcelona in the Champions League Final and the Pharoah, with “you’ll be fine”. He was, and she was too. Even James was less quirky than usual, apart from frequent glances away from the action and thus the wide-angle camera. It was great entertainment, and real history, even if the host US broadcaster’s frequent jump from Kenny, to Laffit, to Uncle Tom Cobley for a series of 30-second inserts still gets on one’s nerves.

By the way, did you notice that Neymar, who scored the final goal at around 9.55 p.m. BST last night, also won a race for Michael Bell at Newcastle during half-time in the football. Bell, a big Manchester City fan, got 3-1 for his money. Earlier at Newcastle, Sir Alex Ferguson, Champions League-winning manager for the other Manchester club, also had a winner with the promising newcomer Red Artist for Simon Crisford. He had to accept 9-4. 1-0 to Bell!

I don’t know about you, but I reckon Golden Horn was one of the most emphatic Derby winners in recent history. The Dante winner challenged stable-companion Jack Hobbs at the furlong pole, and quickly moved clear. Anthony Oppenheimer has been trying to win the race through his breeding programme for many years and it’s wonderful for him that his trainer, John Gosden, encouraged him to stump up the 75 grand. As I said last week, 10-1 about what turned out to be a 13-8 shot was fair value.

Golden Horn won’t have to be exposed to a mile and a half any more, unless his superiority over his stablemate continues to expand. The Eclipse is there on the near horizon for him and The Curragh beckons Jack Hobbs. It’s great when the Derby goes to an unbeaten colt and as with Sir Ivor and several other potential non-stayers, their wins are generally more glorious.

For now it’s going to be ever onward and upward for Frankie and obviously Ryan Moore who for once missed out on a Classic winner thanks to the late powerful run of Qualify and Colm O’Donoghue on Friday. Aidan O’Brian commented: “We don’t use Colm very much, only on the big days”.

Last weekend Colm was also in England riding five horses at Chester. Three were for Brian Ellison and he was very powerful in the finish on last-gasp winner, Eastern Racer. With the Oaks victory, he now has twice as many wins in England this year as in Ireland where his only success from 16 mounts was on the Tara Lee Cogan-trained Bobby Jean at Limerick.

That track was the scene last night for another Aidan O’Brien-trained winner, Rosshaven Lady, in the concluding mares’ bumper. Owned and bred by Maurice G O’Brien, (any relation?) she won comfortably in the hands of another up-and-coming Ballydoyle rider, Sara O’Brien, who with mum Anne-Marie and sister Ana was in the Epsom paddock earlier in the day. Talk about hard work. No 9-5 for them, more like 5 a.m. to midnight!