Tag Archive for: Mark Crehan

Monday Musings: Treatment of Trainers and Jockeys Chalk and Cheese

On the fateful Saturday evening of July 17 this year, an apprentice seemingly with the world at his feet made a misjudgement for which he is still paying, writes Tony Stafford. Had he been able to maintain the income per month with rides and percentage of winners of the first half of the year he would have added around £7,500 to his earnings so well was he progressing. Instead, Mark Crehan was given a 28-day salutary suspension in the manner of the old Army traditions which historically governed the Jockey Club’s total domination of racing.

On that Saturday, having only his fifth ride for Sir Michael Stoute – three of the previous four had won – he thought he was passing the winning post in the lead on Aerion Power, when he was in fact just at the half-furlong pole.

Replicating the same mistake that many riders have made down the decades, he eased his mount and was immediately horrified when two of his rivals continued urging theirs and went past him. He rallied Aerion Power to good enough effect to claw back second place, but Connor Beasley riding Colony Queen had a neck to spare at the line.

That was 51 days ago, and it was precisely one day before that when he last rode a winner. He has yet to add to the 38 he had clocked up from 225 rides in the first half of the year. Since his ban ended his ten rides have been sprinkled with near misses, one for Sir Michael who showed his support in the best way possible, and George Boughey his boss with five.

It is not just the loss of earnings but the complete halt to his momentum that is so frustrating. The late John McCririck was always most vociferous in cases like Mark’s: “Ban them for life,” might have been his coda such was his one-eyed concern with the men in the betting shops and their small daily wagers.

It seems, though, that there are mistakes and mistakes and, depending on who is making them, the penalty can be way out of proportion. The same month as Crehan’s blunder, Jessica Harrington’s course representative allowed the three-year-old filly Aurora Princess rather than the two-year-old Alezarine to run in the 2yo maiden at the Galway Festival. She finished first, unsurprisingly, but the error was discovered and she was automatically disqualified, the race going to the favourite from the Aidan O’Brien stable who had crossed the line second.

Later Mrs Harrington said it was an “indefensible blunder” and got a ticking off and a €2,000 fine. Life goes on for the top people, Aurora Princess winning as herself at Clonmel the other day. Alizerine made her “real” debut early in August and was unplaced.

A more amazing error – one described by Aidan O’Brien as “a million-to-one chance” was the mix-up in caps for two of the trainer’s runners in Deryck Smith’s purple colours in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last autumn. Mother Earth, the subsequent 1,000 Guineas and Prix Rothschild heroine, ran as Snowfall, called over the line third in this Group 1 race, while Snowfall in eighth was identified throughout as Mother Earth.

Considering the pair has now won five Group 1 races between them and Epsom, Curragh and Yorkshire Oaks winner Snowfall heads betting on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, a £4,000 fine was, with hindsight, hardly swingeing. I doubt the penalty troubled Aidan’s liquidity any more than Jessie’s two grand or even the bargain-basement £1k handed out to their similarly high-powered UK counterpart William Haggas this weekend.

A last fortnight tally of 15 winners from 50 runners with around £316,000 in first prizes alone is testament to his talent, power of stable and ability to find races all the way through his team. Winning Saturday’s September Stakes at Kempton with his father Brian‘s Hamish, brought back to fitness after a long absence for a tendon injury, was the emotional highlight of an eventful weekend, crowned by the fifth and finest success for the unbeaten Baeed in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp yesterday. Useful yardsticks Order Of Australia (Aidan) and Victor Ludorum (Fabre) followed this late challenger for Europe’s champion miler status over the line in Paris.

But over at Ascot on Saturday all was not well. There was a £38k handicap on the card and Haggas horses Chalk Stream and Candleford crossed the line in the first two places, Chalk Stream well ahead of his much longer-priced and apprentice-ridden stablemate. On weighing in, however, Candleford’s rider drew light and Haggas admitted that when saddling him he left the weight cloth on the head lad’s bucket and simply forgot about it.

So Candleford ran with a much lower weight than required and the trainer’s immediate worry was whether the BHA handicappers would take that into consideration especially as the £18k second prize was forfeit. Trainers receive a higher share of winning prizes than jockeys and William can expect more than £30k to go into his Weatherby’s account just for the last fortnight’s work.

There is absolutely no complaint intended about the trainer, apart from an unexpected lapse, just that the three examples I’ve listed are so blatantly lenient in comparison to the draconian treatment of Mark Crehan. I was pleased to see Frankie Dettori joining Sir Michael Stoute in pledging his support for the lad, but as with prizemoney and the scandal of the Cambridgeshire, referred to last week, something seriously needs to be done.

I note that while the Cambridgeshire, traditional first leg of the Autumm Double in the days when bookmakers were prepared to risk a few quid in case someone might get them both – in my time on the Daily Telegraph I managed it a couple of times – is worth £61k to the winner, the Cesarewitch over twice the distance, carries more than twice the money – £128K.

The top weight in the first leg has a handicap mark of 109 and there are 121 entries. Top weight in the Cesarewitch is 108 and 94 have been entered. It seems ridiculous given the tradition that there should be such a disparity. Among the latter race’s entries and now with a 4lb penalty after her €40k free kick in France the other day is the 2020 Triumph Hurdle winner, Burning Victory.

Yet to run on the Flat either in her now home base of Ireland or in England, she has two Flat wins in France to her credit for Willie Mullins this summer. I was gratified to see that the BHB handicapper thought she merited 96 rather than the French 88 when Cesarewitch entries were made and the 4lb more as against the French 11lb for Deauville brings them in line. How about her being the one from his 14 entries that is most fancied – he usually lines one up in particular for it? The fact she is only 12/1 suggests the guess might have some mileage.

As the ink was barely dry – yes I’m still living in the dark ages, but at least I don’t talk about quill pens! – on last week’s article, I started reading a book that has been on my shelves for years and one I have always assumed I’d read. I hadn’t!

Called Horsetrader, it was written in 1994 by noted author Patrick Robinson, with Nick Robinson, and outlined the 20 years of Coolmore stud dominance in racing and breeding and then the challenge made to them by Arab owners, particularly Sheikh Mohammed. Unexpected meetings in life can propel our future in a totally unexpected direction, and it was such an unlikely eventuality that years later brought Robert Sangster, heir to the Vernon’s Pools fortune, into a partnership with John Magnier and his father-in-law, Vincent O’Brien.

In his schooldays at Repton College, Sangster had an opinion that Vincent O’Brien must be the greatest trainer of racehorses in the world. “Had the Irishman not won three consecutive Grand Nationals and three Gold Cups and Champion Hurdles in the post-war era before turning to the Flat?”, he reasoned.

Later, as he was feeling his way in the family firm, Sangster used to meet up with several of the other well-connected young men in Liverpool where Vernon’s was based. There he met Nick Robinson, grandson of businessman Sir Foster Robinson, once a top cricketer and now a horse breeder outside his commercial interests.

Sangster’s chosen hobbies were golf on the Hoylake links where father Vernon would become Men’s Captain and mother Peggy, Lady Captain, and more seriously boxing. He won a dozen fights unbeaten before going into the army as a private soldier and another dozen in the service as a heavyweight. His godfather had taken him under his wing, often travelling down to London for big fight nights and for tuition with the great middleweight British champion, Freddie Mills.

But racing under Robinson’s prompting came into his life and it was with a horse trained locally by Eric Cousins, who was to be his first trainer before he graduated to Vincent, that he became enraptured by the sport.

On one of their Kardomah coffee house meetings, Nick Robinson told the gathering that Cousins’ horse Chalk Stream – I knew the name was familiar when seeing Saturday’s race – would win the Lincoln. It was 1960 and young Robert became captivated by the thought of a horse being “laid out” to land a big gamble, especially when his friend knew chapter and verse and also “everything it seemed” about racing.

Chalk Stream lost that race but won the Liverpool Autumn Cup in the days when Aintree still staged Flat racing, and from then there was no stopping him. Derby winners, stallions, champion owner and eventually breeder accolades all followed in great profusion over the next four decades.

I’d only got to page 6 when I saw fit to text Robert’s son Sam saying: “Now I know why you and your brothers are who you are!”

The book ends in 1994 when our hero is still intertwined with Coolmore, preparing to keep his massive new investment in Manton along with his 100 broodmares and breeding rights to some of the best and most highly valued stallions in the world. The latter chapter, just as successful but now with Michael Tabor and Smith joining Magnier and Aidan O’Brien, equally deserves telling.

I did a little research about Patrick Robinson, born in Kent but who now lives in the USA and is 81. Initially I assumed he must have been Nick’s son, but now am prepared to guess he was his elder brother as Nick is 77. As usual there’s nobody to ask once Wikepedia fails me at 3 a.m. on Monday morning.

Sadly I heard at the sales at Newmarket last week that Nick Robinson hadn’t been well. Robert Sangster of course died impossibly long ago in 2004 aged only 67. Two Derby wins – although he had owned Dr Devious before selling him too – 27 European Classic races and more than 100 Group 1 horses fell to his colours. Happily they are still seen on a number of the Sam Sangster syndicates based at Manton under Brian Meehan.

Quite a few were in action at the recently concluded Racing League where Brian, Alan King and Roger Charlton joined forces. Despite a paucity of publicity outside Sky Sports racing’s coverage, Meehan reckons it was a very good initiative that should be persevered with.

Six evenings of six races with £25k to each winner has been a target for some of the leading trainers and he believes there is scope for an expansion next year. “When it happens you should come along. You would enjoy it!” As I enjoy anything to do with racing or sales, I’m sure I would.

- TS

Crehan suspended for 28 days after failing to ride out Aerion Power for first place

Apprentice Mark Crehan has been suspended for 28 days for failing to ride out Aerion Power for first place in the LMD Vacuum Excavation Handicap at Doncaster.

The 3lb claimer mistook the half-furlong marker for the winning post when in front on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained three-year-old.

Colony Queen, trained by John Mackie and ridden by Connor Beasley, took advantage to score by a neck. Spanish Archer was just a nose away in third place.

Crehan is banned from July 31 to August 27 inclusive.

The stewards report on britishhorseracing.com read: “Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found he had mistaken the ½ furlong marker for the winning post and as such had stopped riding prematurely. Crehan was found in breach of Rule (F)37 and guilty of failing to ride out on a horse that would have finished first and was suspended for 28 days.”

Oscula in Royal Ascot picture after continuing golden run of Boughey juveniles

Royal Ascot could be the next port of call for Oscula following an impressive victory in the Cazoo Woodcote EBF Stakes at Epsom.

Third on her racecourse debut at Kempton last month, the Nick Bradley Racing-owned filly went a couple of places better at Brighton five days later to earn herself a step up in class in the opening race on Oaks day.

A quick start enabled apprentice rider Mark Crehan to navigate the 15-2 chance to the front and it was clear with a couple of furlongs still to run that her rivals would struggle to peg her back.

Flaming Rib did best of those attempting to close the gap, but Oscula passed the post three lengths the good – providing trainer George Boughey with yet another juvenile winner this season.

“It was a pretty good performance, I think,” said the Newmarket handler.

“Her work had been good and we intentionally took her to Brighton before coming here to give her a chance to come down a hill.

“We didn’t really have Royal Ascot aspirations before then. We thought we might go for the Woodcote and then go to the Empress Stakes at Newmarket, but Mark got off the horse at Brighton – he has ridden a lot of our two-year-olds this year – and he was very bullish.

“She’s by Galileo Gold and there’s plenty of stamina her pedigree – I think she will get a mile. She’s a long filly who is still quite immature and hasn’t really come in her summer coat yet – she’s got a lot of upside.”

Boughey added: “We’ll have a chat to Nick and see what the owners want to do, but the Albany Stakes (at Royal Ascot) has got to be a consideration.

“She made her debut at Kempton, five days later she won at Brighton and then 11 days later she’s done that day.

“It would be a pretty quick back-up from a big day like today, but we’ll certainly be looking at it.”

A delighted Crehan said: “She’s like an older horse, nothing bothers her. She went there lovely and came back even better.

“She handled Brighton well and that was the idea. If she handled Brighton she’d handle Epsom and she’s done that.

Mark Crehan and George Boughey celebrate
Mark Crehan and George Boughey celebrate (Mike Egerton/Jockey Club)

“I got racing early, but you can get away with that here. She’s very game. She keeps finding for you.

“I didn’t expect her to win that well. She’s certainly improving.”

Of a winner on Oaks day, Crehan, who claims 5lb, added: “I can’t explain (what it means). I only had one winner last year. All credit goes to my boss – he’s been very, very good to me. I can’t believe it.”

Hollie Doyle steered Corazon Espinado to his fourth win on the Downs in the Coral ‘Beaten By A Length’ Free Bet Handicap.

Corazon Espinado and Hollie Doyle after winning again at Epsom
Corazon Espinado and Hollie Doyle after winning again at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

Trained locally by Simon Dow, the 12-1 shot raced on the speed and comfortably pulled three and a half lengths clear of Hortzadar.

Dow said: “His stable is just across the road – he’s incredible.

“He loves Lingfield and he loves Epsom. It’s a tremendous achievement for the little horse to win on Oaks day twice.

“The draw and the easing ground was against us, so we were a little cautious – but he goes round there like he’s on rails.

“There aren’t enough superlatives for Hollie – it’s always a privilege to have her.”

Doyle said: “Everything went to plan, though he was over-racing early on. Franny (Norton, on Overwrite) and I had it pretty easy on the front end.

“He’s such a course specialist I just let go of his head coming down Tattenham Corner and he took me into the race beautifully.”

Blue Cup was a winner for Oisin Murphy
Blue Cup was a winner for Oisin Murphy (John Walton/PA)

Blue Cup came from the back of the field to win the Cazoo Handicap for Oisin Murphy and David Menuisier.

Data Protection and Dream With Me were involved in a protracted duel up front, building up a 10-length lead at one point before their exertions started to tell in the final couple of furlongs.

The field switched across the track to race up the nearside rail for the first time, as conditions continued to worsen, and Murphy took full advantage of the better ground – delivering his mount with around a furlong to run.

Blue Cup pulled further clear inside the distance, relishing every yard to come home five and a half lengths in front as the 9-2 favourite.

Victory Chime was second, with the game Data Protection taking third.

Murphy said: “I wasn’t sure how far the leaders had got in front of me.

“The kickback is obviously very bad, and it’s hard to see with the conditions.

“This horse isn’t easy. They’ve taken the ring bit off, which is a more severe bit, and put a very plain bit in his mouth – and he relaxed super today.

“David Menuisier is a very good trainer, and I think he’s found the key to this fella.

“I didn’t expect them to (come up the stands rail), but I thought it may happen at some stage today – so it was always a possibility.”

James Doyle guides Rhoscolyn home
James Doyle guides Rhoscolyn home (John Walton/PA)

Rhoscolyn completed a treble in smooth fashion under James Doyle in the Cazoo Derby Festival Handicap.

David Meara’s three-year-old burst through the pack to challenge long-time leader Paws For Thought over a furlong out.

Quickening nicely, the 9-2 winner soon had the race sewn up and crossed the line with a handy advantage over Shelir in second and On A Session in third.

O’Meara said: “We deliberated at length at Beverley a couple of runs back whether to run him on soft ground. We weren’t sure if he’d handle it, but we took a chance and he seems to enjoy it.

“He looks a very progressive horse. I thought today was a great performance.

“At Beverley and Goodwood he made the running and had everything his own way. Today he was in behind and was off the bridle a long way out.

“I didn’t think he’d find and finish off like he had done in his two previous races, but he showed a different quality today.

“He had form on quicker ground before he came to us. He seems to like these turning tracks and seven furlongs so I wonder if he could make up into a Lennox (Stakes at Goodwood) horse, maybe?

“It looked today like he could make that next step.”