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Monday Musings: Dark Clouds, Silver Linings

Monday musings 

By Tony Stafford

The thunderbolt came at the end of what had been a highly-satisfactory Friday’s activity starting early morning and concluding with a delicious scampi and chips in the Mayfair Fish Shop.

We – Steve driving, the boss and me - were in the car right after the feast when Rachael called from Kinsale Farm. “We’ve lost April Dusk”. The one consolation of the news was that Ray was able to talk to her, easing her pain while admirably controlling his own.

April Dusk was settling into his spring break in advance of going back for another season with Warren Greatrex, for whom he won successive races, over hurdles and then fences at Uttoxeter. We thought him a future star in staying chases.

Unfortunately, he and the stable had been coping within the restriction caused by a wart-like growth around his ear. Rachael did tell me the medical term – a sarcoid, one of twelve over his body, the worst of which was sutured and stitched - when I went up to the stud during Chester, but it was an ugly thing which had started to weep.

He’d come back together with the medication they’d been treating him with at Uplands, but clearly it was not working. The decision was made to laser it off. He had the operation, recovered from the anaesthetic, but then had a fall in the padded recovery room, breaking a shoulder, from which there was to be no recovery.

Proper racing and horse people are easy to spot. I talked about Kieren Fallon’s affection for the animal last week, and late last night after texting Warren and also Guy Anstey, the travelling head lad who first put me on to the horse, I got horrified calls back from both in rapid succession.

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Guy, in particular loved the horse’s quiet good nature. He does a lot of the clipping out when the coats get too long and told me a while back: “You don’t even have to put a hand on him. He just stands still and lets you get on with it.”

He’d been just the same at the stud, although as Rachael said last week: “Once he goes out in the field, that’s it. He comes in when he’s ready”.

The grass is luxurious as the weather warms up in Shropshire, but there will be a cold, empty feel to his few acres as summer approaches.

Earlier in the day, between lots on the Limekilns and then Warren Hill, I narrowly missed Rachael’s husband Richard Kempster. I was in the office at Cheveley Park Stud actually delivering the mating contract for the stud to countersign minutes before Nicoise was to be covered by Mayson.

The gap between the two actions was tight, clearly so as Richard was already preparing the mare for her hastily-arranged marriage of convenience while the ink was metaphorically drying on the contract.

When I saw his message, I was already on my way to Micky Quinn to see Nicoise’s two-year-old, Stanhope, too late to watch work on a morning of mismanaged appointments. Richard was also headed back to the A14 when we talked, saying: “Pity, you could have seen her being covered!” Not so sure about that, but then I’m no horseman.

Stanhope is a nice sturdy, indeed quite strong, colt by Equiano, and he’s coming along nicely in his work, so much so that the trainer, who will not be working at the Euros for Talksport - “There are horses to train!” - reckons he’ll be running in a couple of weeks.

Later in the morning, I caught up with my friend Noel Quinlan, who at the mention of the universally-liked Quinn, asked me whether I’d heard the story about him. Suddenly, I twigged, and it concerned the previous location of the colt before Mick strolled along Hamilton Road to pick him up after rookie trainer and owner had, in retrospect inevitably, fallen out.

Mick was just leaving when the young man, having talked about what Stanhope had done so far, called out: “He won’t make anyone famous!” to which the Scouser replied: “I’m already famous – I don’t need a horse to help me with that”.

Some may say – especially me – that my fixation with Mayson stems from the fact that he ran in the same red and white colours that adorn my office in the shape of the hurdler Tangognat and his exploits at Cheltenham in pre-Festival races 30 years ago.

David and Emma Armstrong have done more than justice to them, but as I’ve said before, they still give me the feel of part-ownership, unsurprisingly as I had them for more than 20 years myself.

Mayson and Garswood are probably the best two to race for the Armstrongs and both are now standing at Cheveley Park. We already sent a mare to each of them this year, and were prompted for the change of mind by the unexpected well-being of Nicoise post the arrival of her Dick Turpin foal. Rachael says they’ve managed to keep the weight off her, as she has a recurring issue with her feet when overweight, and that she always is at her healthiest when she has a foal.

Since Global Applause, from the first crop of Mayson, exploded into the consciousness for Ed Dunlop at Newmarket on 1,000 Guineas day, the phones have been in constant use in Duchess Drive and more than 30 additional bookings have been recorded for the fledgling stallion. Global Applause was attempting to follow up on Saturday at Newbury, finishing a gallant second to the equally progressive Mehmas.

At five grand a pop such a reaction is understandable, but it’s hard to estimate how successful any would-be additional patrons of the wonderful Frankel might be after the excellent winning debut of his first runner, Cunco, on Friday. Frankel stands at £125,000, and there will be plenty of people itching to join the throng with that single piece of evidence to go on.

We’ve got two Mayson yearling colts, and a colt and filly foal each, with Lawyers Choice’s yearling colt and filly both standing out in what we hope will prove an excellent two years’ breeding programme. We repeated Cheveley Park visits for her in the past and Dutch Art Dealer, sold as a yearling, and Dutch Law, both conceived in the days when mere mortals could afford their sire, Dutch Art.

Now that stallion is in the 40 grand range, but the pair, now five and four respectively have similar profiles, so much so that they are both in the same race at Kempton on Wednesday night off the identical mark of 82.

Global Applause, should he live up to expectations, could help the young sire on his way onto that sort of upward spiral. In racing, while there’s life there’s hope. Of April Dusk, for the people that encountered him, there’s just sadness and fond memories.

Trainer Stats: 26th July 2012

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The Sunday Supplement

Tony Stafford's Sunday Supplement

Tony Stafford

For those of you who don’t know who I used to be, I was variously the racing editor, chief tipster and correspondent for the Daily Telegraph for 30 years after rather shorter spells at the Walthamstow Guardian, Greyhound Express (chief reporter age 21) and the Press Association.

During the Telegraph days I also edited the weekly and much-respected Racehorse newspaper, produced by Raceform – entailing an eight and a half day week! – before trying to advise the odd trainer like Michael Dickinson, Jim Bolger and Rod Simpson among others.

Later, with the Telegraph’s kind co-operation, came some globe-trotting work for the Thoroughbred Corporation and wins in the Derby with Oath; Juddmonte with Royal Anthem; Kentucky Derby and Preakness with War Emblem; Preakness and Belmont Stakes with Point Given and loads of Breeders’ Cups and European Group 1’s.

Now, I’m a semi-geriatric has-been, helping lawyer Raymond Tooth with his empire and it was in the guise of his Racing Manager that I was at York on Saturday to witness once highly-promising Fair Trade’s latest disappointment in the John Smith’s Cup.

Straddling the Telegraph – TCorp days, I owned quite a lot of horses, some winning nice races in a rather striking livery, a picture of which proudly sits in my living room aboard my first ever winner Charlie Kilgour and a remarkably young Simon Whitworth. The race date is June 13, 1984, the course, my luckiest-ever Beverley.

In those days as racing editor I rarely got out of the office and racing was only televised on BBC and ITV, so we never saw the race, but just listened as Charlie won on what I’m sure was his first race for me. The colours look pristine enough, and Whitworth, who I saw at Royal Ascot the other day looking maybe two years older than in the picture, gave him a brilliant ride for a 7lb claimer as he was then.

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His father Eric, a Blackburn-based lawyer, who I was delighted to hear remains in great heart as is Simon’s amateur dramatics-loving mum, asked me to find Simon a job after he had broken his leg when initially working for Michael Stoute.

Simon went to Rod Simpson, as later did Dean Gallagher after his father Tom, then travelling head lad with Jim Bolger, also availed himself of my employment agency talents.

It was Rod who found Charlie Kilgour, owned then by Alan Spence, then fledgling freight forwarding and travel agent, later brilliant entrepreneur who sold his business for bundles. The buyers soon realised nobody was better qualified than Alan to run it, so he did and continued to get the 75 per cent off first class fares to York as his right. I got Charlie Kilgour for £1,000, had a nice bet, took some prize money, probably more than you’d get for winning a seller 28 years later, and Rod let him go at the auction. A nice day’s work.

Alan – now a very major owner and also a vice-president of Chelsea FC - might have been at York for the John Smith’s meeting on Saturday, but if he was I didn’t see him, and if he had availed himself of his cheap-travel perk it would have been no bargain as his Hurricane Higgins was withdrawn after being unruly in the stalls before the Silver Cup. Am I wrong, or do the authorities seem to take pride in finding even more reasons for eliminating horses once they get to the gate these days?

Mayson silks

Mayson silks: they used to be mine!

Anyway, while I was away with the Yorkies on Saturday, my old colours, as they often have been these past two years, were being worn by Paul Hanagan, in the July Cup on Mayson, and came home five lengths clear.

When I parted with them during one of my many impecunious periods – which naturally coincided with having no horses or even the prospect of one – it was through the medium of the Weatherbys sale of Cherished colours. No, all red, white spots on cap might seem OK and £22,000 for the privilege more so, but Weatherbys took a chunk, as did the sales company and a very nice former client of my tipping service with Centaur – whatever happened to them? – put in a claim for another lump of money I’d borrowed from him, so I ended with less than £10k!

To call him unsporting was an under-statement, especially as over much of the previous year, he’d called every morning and made me go minutely through the days’ action, even though he’d curtailed his subscription without bothering to tell me. We (me and a mate) did get a day at Wimbledon’s Centre Court, but what with watching him creep up to Sir Cliff and Virginia Wade and make eyes at the attractive young waitresses, it was all a bit of an ordeal.

The great thing about the colours is that they were bought by proper owners, David and Emma Armstrong. They will be fed up by now that every time they have a winner, this old geezer comes along as if he had something to do with it. Luckily on Saturday I was 170 miles away and Emma could enjoy her first home-bred Group 1 win.

I digress, often it seems. The benefit of being a racing manager is that unlike a pressman, you can go home right after the race, and with my trusty mate and driver Roger on the case, we made it back to Newmarket – that’s where he leaves his Yarmouth-bound car for our morning reconnoitre -  just as they were turning out of the July Course.

Refuelling next to the White Horse, who did we see but Noel Quinlan, who trains one of Mr Tooth’s less co-operative steeds? We were prevailed upon to join in with a quick drink, and as it turned out an equal share in a monster and delicious burger, cooked on a barbecue outside the pub.

By this time (6 p.m.) the sun was out, as were most of Noel’s owners and staff, all delighted at Our Gal’s fortuitous Newbury win if sorry that it brought a 24-day ban for post-mistaking Lee Newman. Noel, already buoyed by the performance of his stable star Lewisham’s second in the July Stakes on Thursday, was philosophical. “We were lucky today but unlucky when it mattered so much on Thursday. Lewisham should have won. Then the bids would have been flying in for a Group 2 winner.” Nil desperandum, Noel, by all, accounts they’re coming in any case.