In February 2007, a series of bizarre coincidences led to my eventual unlikely association as advisor to the well-known divorce lawyer and racehorse owner, Raymond Tooth, writes Tony Stafford. Being selected as the intended victim of the then prevalent “gold ring” scam in St John’s Wood, near where I first played cricket at Lord’s just after my 16th birthday in 1962, was followed later that day with an introduction to the great man after his Punjabi had run his opponents ragged in the Adonis Hurdle.
For the initial connection I have my friend Peter Ashmore to thank. As usual on a Saturday I was being conveyed on the short run to Kempton Park, always one of my favourite tracks, as I was, temporarily, without a car.
The so-called gold ring must have had some credibility as members of the Ashmore family – we went en bloc – and later Derek Hatter, a regular racegoer I’d known over the years, had not entirely condemned its authenticity.
I’d cleared out my worldly goods – something approaching £3 in cash – to get the rather fierce-looking Middle European giant to leave me alone. He reluctantly let me go having been assured that there was no cashpoint in the Kingdom that could have stretched his return for something that eventually turned out to be worthless.
But Derek, and then after the race in the champagne for the winning owner’s room, another racing friend Broderick Munro-Wilson – The Drunken Duck or The Cad to you – spontaneously ignited the touch paper that within a month earned me a place in the Tooth Organisation, as Derek always referred to it.
That first year, Ray had Indian Ink and Punjabi with Messrs Hannon and Henderson to win big races, and David Elsworth also had a number of decent horses for Ray. Indian Ink’s six-length Coronation Stakes romp was the stuff of wonder for all of us and the well-being continued when she was sold at the end of the year to Hamdan Al Maktoum.
Two years later Punjabi won the Champion Hurdle and other top races and he was followed by the bargain buy – sourced and brilliantly trained by Nicolas Clement – French Fifteen, who won five races as a juvenile in France including a Group 1 at Saint-Cloud.
By the time he was giving the Coolmore boys and Camelot some anxious moments before being beaten a neck in the 2,000 Guineas, he was in different ownership, once again proving the maxim that often the best deal is the first deal.
The switch to more serious breeding at the Kempsters’ Kinsale Farm in Shropshire was well under way at that point. Raymond had plenty of big winners long before my lucky adhesion to the team, notably the filly Sarcita, winner of the Portland at Doncaster and Ayr Gold Cup the following week in 1991. She produced some decent performers, including Snow Kid.
Sarcita’s descendants were initially the main element in the Tooth breeding programme, but then the filly Lawyer’s Choice, who won two races in my first year when trained by Pat Eddery, came into the equation. Her first two foals never made it to the track, but fortuitously a decision to mate her and an unraced home-bred mare, Nicoise, with Dutch Art, then at the start of his career at Cheveley Park stud, was to be significant.
Dutch Art’s first mating with Lawyer’s Choice produced a colt Ray sold for 42,000gns at Tatts Book 2. Re-sold as a breeze-up two-year-old he joined Paul Cole and, as Dutch Art Dealer, has been a nice handicapper for owner Richard Green.
The following year, his full-brother was condemned to Book 3, and a late decision was made to withdraw him, luckily, as he turned out to be Dutch Law.
I can honestly say that for all Raymond Tooth’s big-race wins since 2007, none has given me as much satisfaction as Dutch Law’s win in the £80,000 Albert Bartlett Handicap at Ascot on Saturday. This was the best win yet for a Tooth homebred and it came less than two months since he was being regarded as a serial under-achiever.
There are a number of unlikely statistics regarded this gelding. Although a winner at three on the July Course at Newmarket, he’d often looked wayward and by the time he finished second (for the sixth time in 14 starts) under Pat Smullen at Ascot seven weeks ago, the frustration was clear, especially from his trainer.
After that race, Hughie was almost apoplectic. “It’s a waste of time,” he said. “This horse has so much speed. Very few horses have his ability, yet all he does is finish second and go up the handicap.”
Smullen’s assessment was less negative. “He feels like a Group horse when he’s in behind, but when he came to challenge, he decided before me he wasn’t going to win. You have to ride him like that – from behind – so you’re always a hostage to fortune, but I’d love to ride him again.”
Four runs later, the opportunity for Smullen to get back on again at Ascot last weekend was dashed when he was required for his boss Dermot Weld at Navan. When Smullen rode Dutch Law, he was the ninth different jockey in the saddle in the previous nine races.
Among them had been Morrison’s apprentice Charlie Bennett, who missed a winner for Johnny Portman in the boys’ race at Ascot in the spring, on Dutch Law’s return to action. Hughie understandably claimed him and Charlie ruefully watched Balmoral Castle skip clear by five lengths in a big field.
Charlie had to wait one more race for his chance, Oisin Murphy joining the Dutch Law riding clan as number ten with a last-gasp nose win back on the July Course. Oisin was elsewhere when the gelding returned to the same track for his next run and Charlie was in the saddle, conjuring a flying late run having been going nowhere fast a furlong out.
A slow pace back to a mile brought a less brilliant third, again at Newmarket, but having digested another of Smullen’s priceless thoughts – “he’ll be much better in a better race” – Hughie pointed him to Ascot.
The quietly confident Charlie came into the paddock looking calm beyond his experience. He said: “At the five pole I want to be pushing him. At the three, I want to be doing the same again and then at the furlong, we’ll be off!”
He did and they were, shooting past some high-class opponents so quickly that the first proper mention by the course commentator came when he was already in front, going, as Bennett related afterwards “faster than them sideways as they were going forward.”
Amazingly, for a Morrison horse, Dutch Law has run nine times this year in a 17-week spell, more than any other horse in the yard. Domestically he has won more than twice as much as any of the 50-odd horses Hughie has raced this year, but admittedly his earnings have been exceeded by dual French (Listed and Group) winner Nearly Caught. Racing Post Ratings have given him a higher mark for each successive 2016 race while Timeform were already into the 100’s before Saturday.
We’d like to go back to Ascot on October 1 and hopefully his regular rider, Corey Adamson, will be there – he missed Saturday. Hughie said: “Basically Corey trains him, telling me when he’s right and more importantly when he’s not”. Thanks Corey and the whole Morrison stable. It’s great to beat the big boys, but Ray’s been doing just that for years.