Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Off the wall

I'm still buzzing after today's Royal Ascot action. Tremendous performances in every race. The finale, the Windsor Castle, was, predictably, relatively low-key, but it was still nice to see a very professional Pastoral Pursuits colt win for the respected Richard Fahey/Paul Hanagan combination. The highlights for me had to be that two of the winners (Goldikova and Canford Cliffs) are in my XII to follow and, while Nicconi and Gold Trail didn't give us quite as much to cheer about, my favourite two-year-old Elzaam (pictured on Warren Hill last month under his regular rider Martina Cachova) ran a blinder when just touched off by Strong Suit in the Coventry. On the subject of two-year-olds, it was strange to see money for Wesley Ward's Windsor Castle Stakes contender Metropolitan Man: he had been one of the horses whom Jackie Panizza and I saw on our ride on Sunday morning, and he certainly didn't make a good impression on me then. In fact, I was surprised to discover today that he is a colt rather than a filly, because there's not much of him.

When mentioning our visitors previously, I omitted to record a very pleasant group of people who came to the stable yesterday morning. We received a delegation from the Swedish Jockey Club, headed by the senior stipendiary steward Lars Tiberg and also including the Club's former president as well as the ex-jockey Hans Inge Lindulf. I took them (seen here on the Limekilns) on a tour of the Heath, the highlight (or lowlight) of which was that we bumped into the man who was formerly Sweden's (the world's) oldest apprentice, our very own Darren Williamson (Squeak) who currently adorns Luca's string, in which he was riding down Warren Hill. Unsurprisingly, Squeaker (pictured here annoying Luke Dittman, who has coincidentally decided to return to Queensland) gave Lars, who has given him numerous fines and suspensions (mostly for repeated infringements of Sweden's relatively stringent whip rules) in the past, a predictably cheeky greeting! Squeak, by the way, seems to widespread surprise (and localized dismay, particularly among the female sections of the Bedford House Stables workforce) to be getting his feet quite well under the table. He galloped a Breeders' Cup winner last week (Man Of Iron) while the most recent time I saw him heading over towards the gallops on racecourse side, he was on recent Zetland Gold Cup winner Forte De Marmei. Luca must be getting more tolerant in his middle age!

Continuing the theme of off-the-wall people, it might interest some readers to know that another of our heroes, Richard Sims, has followed up matrimony by landing a part in a movie. I'm sure that Woody Allen would have found a use for our Dickie, but he's actually in a racing movie, the film (which I think is going to be called 'The Cup') which is being made about Media Puzzle's Melbourne Cup victory in 2001. Dickie plays Beekeeper's strapper, Beekeeper being the Godolphin-trained and Kerrin McEvoy-ridden fourth place-getter in the race. Some of you might never have marked Dickie down as movie star material, but apparently it's a bit like the story of Sean Connery being spotted on a building site in Edinburgh. Dickie was, so it seems, walking down Swanston Street, barking into his mobile phone (presumably selling an ad) - and he was spotted by the director, who took one look at him and decided that he seemed to resemble the archetypal Godolphin employee. Have a look at this photo and you'll see why. Anyway, Dickie's signed up to the method acting school, so if you hear him referring to some incident involving Beekeeper or Saeed bin Suroor, don't be fooled - he means the actors who play them, not the real people. The whole thing, incidentally, has got me wondering where they found unbranded thoroughbreds to play Media Puzzle and Beekeeper etc., but I'm sure that there's a simple answer to that one. Dickie'll probably be able to provide it.

Another off-the-wall character who has loomed large on our radar recently (as always) is our neighbour Dave Morris. You might have noticed that his mare Sleep Over (owned by the Duke Of Beford and, like Anis, a five-year-old maiden) was among Anis' opponents on Sunday. This provided much pre-race banter about which would beat the other - so imagine the general delight and amusement when Anis, flying home from the rear, passed one of her rivals two strides from the post, that rival, of course, being none other than Sleep Over (pictured in the parade ring with Dave, dwarfed by the mare, about to throw Paul Hanagan aboard). Dave's still chuntering about it!
On a more serious note, another off-the-wall character on everyone's radar at present is Harry Findlay. One could write 10,000 words about the situation, but I think I'll just sum it up by saying that I hold the opinion - shared, I believe, by most but not, intriguingly, by the President of the ROA - that he's been extremely harshly treated. I think that the BHA's disciplinary committee made a rod for its own back by giving out what has to rank as an extremely lenient punishment last year to Nicky Henderson, so it is inevitable now that when it hands out more severe punishments for seemingly lesser offences it will find itself open to criticism. It's just a pity that Jack Logan isn't around to write his former column in the old Sporting Life, because I'm sure that he'd have had something pertinent to say on the subject.

Finally, just so that we don't end on too down-beat a note, I should draw your attention to one of the more amusing recent snippets from the Racing Post. Someone (and I'd hazard a guess that it might have been Nick Godfrey) wrote a very good 'Googling a runner' item the other Sunday when the Roger Ingram-trained handicapper Buxton ran at Brighton: "A spa town in Derbyshire, Buxton is the gateway to the Peak District National Park. It boasts Poole's Cavern and St. Ann's Well, fed by the spring whose waters are bottled and sold. Famous Buxtonians include author Vera Brittain, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Dave Lee Travis, and musician Lloyd Cole, who may have acquired perfect skin from taking the spa waters". Excellent! Two of our favourite off-the-wall characters, the Angels, have clearly taken this to heart as they've been spotted swigging Buxton water on several recent occasions. It's worked too, because this pair of Lloyd Cole fans has been at Royal Ascot today and both, apparently, fared very well in the fashions of the field competition - which is no less than you'd expect, with their perfect skin complementing their immaculate attire.


neil kearns said...

re your comments three blogs back (i tend to read in batches) on starting stalls and issues

it seems to me inherently unfair that there is no prescribed order of entry into the stalls in my opinion the order of entry should coincide with the draw number so in a ten runner 1 and 6 go together then 2 and 7 etc and possibly should reflect any perceived draw bias ie a sprint at chester load from inside out etc

in maidens i dont believe that ANY horse who has not run in a race should go in before a horse which has already run

i also think it is grossly unfair that it is correct that trainer/jockeys are allowed to ask for late entry as it seems to me that there can be a definite advantage in this tactic and that the stalls are an integral part of the race .it is interesting to see the number of times that Mr big trainer or Mr star jockey is on a horse going in late where old trainer one horse and the raggy arsed apprentice go in first .

doubt it will ever happen but i fell in it certainly a topic worthy of debate

Nathan said...

Buxton is just a stones throw from me John and i visit the town now and again. There is a spring in the town and you can bottle your own water. It always amazes me watching people fill up huge containers; ask them why? They bath in it of course! Now why didn't i think of that. It's a lovely town in the summer though, well worth a visit if you get the chance.

The MG said...

They could have got the unbranded TBs from the States, where they use lip tattoos instead. Or they could have used QHs with high TB input that look pretty much like TBs (like my horse).