Monday, April 04, 2011

Good results

We might be in the 'phoney war' stage of racing in Britain between Cheltenham and Aintree, and between the end of the Flat winter season and before the traditional turf season comes to life with the Craven Meeting (and, no, I don't feel guilty about thus under-playing the Lincoln meeting bearing in mind that the course this year seems to have served up a succession of sub-tarriff races on a track in disgraceful condition, described by Ryan Moore as the worst ground he'd ever seen at Doncaster, which thus appears already to be suffering from the absence of its former clerk of the course David Williams, under whose care the racing surface was usually in first-class condition) - but, even so, there is always interest in any day's sport. I found Saturday a really interesting day, a day on which three results stood out for me. Closest to home we had Eton Forever crediting Roger Varian (pictured, with his wife Hanako) with his first winner as a trainer by taking the Spring Mile (ie the Lincoln consolation race) at Doncaster. Roger, as you probably know, is a former Josh Gifford conditional jockey who has been working as Michael Jarvis' assistant for several years. Over the past couple of years, Michael's deteriorating health has meant that Roger has been taking on ever more responsibility - to the extent that by the time that Michael recently felt obliged to stand himself down completely and hand over the reins to Roger, the transition was as seamless as any could be. It really is business as usual at Kremlin House Stables with Roger, plus Michael's wife Gay, ensuring that all is continuing exactly as it would be if Michael were still well enough to be on duty - and the fact that Roger's two runners to date have seen Laaheb running a cracker to finish fourth in the Dubai Sheema Classic and now Eton Forever winning the Spring Mile is as good a proof as you could want. Michael has long maintained that Roger would make a first-class trainer when the time came for him to take on the role, and the start which Roger has made to this phase of his career shows that Michael's judgement will be proved once again to be spot-on.

Next closest to home came the victory of the David Pipe-trained E Street Boy at Chepstow. There was nothing particularly remarkable about this son of Kayf Tara winning an ordinary handicap hurdle per se, but the fact that this was his third victory of the week made it a remarkable achievement. Winning three races - and particularly three jumps races - in a row is easier said than done however much or little ability the horse has, irrespective of the class of race; but to win three jumps races in the same week speaks volumes both for horse and trainer. I was thus delighted to see this achievement posted by a son of one of my favourite stallions, coming from one of my favourite stables. Good on 'em.

The third victory on Saturday to give me great pleasure (well, chronologically it was the first) was the win in the BMW in Sydney of Cedarberg. As the race is Australia's premier 2400m weight-for-age contest, one could justifiably liken it to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe or the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. That, though, would be to disregard the fact that few of its winners would have any chance at all in these European equivalents; and it would certainly be very misleading to liken Cedarberg to a Harbinger or a Workforce. However, that's by the by: it is a great race, as its prize fund of two and a quarter million dollars would imply, and so I was delighted to see it won by a horse trained at Mornington by Pat Carey (pictured, watching two of his charges do stalls practice). Any pommie visitor to Mornington is guaranteed a warm welcome as several of the trainers there are real anglophiles, most obviously Tony Noonan (pictured in the red waistcoat with another of the track's trainers, Mark Riley) and Quinny Scott (pictured below), both of whom are great friends with the Balding family and have been visitors to Kingsclere in the past. Tony, in fact, reinforced that connection during this past winter by having the very good jockey Liam Keniry - who was, of course, apprenticed to Ian Balding and who still rides regularly for the stable - spend some time with him on a working holiday. Compared to these two brahma-meisters, Pat has not been a frequent visitor to the UK. In fact, he has only been here once, having come in 1988 with John Meagher, for whom he was working at the time, to buy horses for Lloyd Williams (who, coincidentally, owned the runner-up on Saturday, the 2009 Irish Derby third Mourayan). That was a successful visit because one of the horses with whom they returned home was Nayrizi, who was only beaten in a photo in the following year's Caulfield Cup. And it was clearly an enjoyable one because it left Pat with great enthuasiasm for Britain, which reveals itself in the welcome which he gives to any wandering poms who happen to show up in Mornington. Pat trained the VRC Oaks winner in 2007 with Arapaho Miss, who had cost $22,500 as a yearling; and now he has won another Group One race with a horse who failed to reach his $35,000 reserve as a yearling. And, just as winning three jumps races within a week is easier said than done, achieving results like that with horses with that kind of price tag is a fine achievement.

The other great result on Saturday, of course, came when Sepoy won the Golden Slipper. Not only is it always a pleasure to see, even from afar, a really good horse reinforcing his claims to greatness; but in this particular case it was lovely to watch (courtesy of ATR, of course) Kerrin McEvoy ride the Golden Slipper winner on a horse who hails from Woodlands Stud, one of the loveliest properties and one which it was my pleasure to see a couple of years ago on a never-to-be-forgotten visit. Kerrin made many friends and admirers, and I would presume no enemies, during the seasons which he spent riding in Britain, and I would imagine that I am merely one of many people on this side of the world very pleased any time he rides a big winner back home.

At a much more mundane level, I hope that we can take pleasure in a result in Britain tomorrow - in particular in the result of the 4.50 from Kempton. It'll be nice to be having a runner at Kempton in daylight - and it will be even nicer if Kadouchski can salute the judge. I would guess that he will be favourite to do so, on the back of his victory over course and distance 11 days ago, but it will certainly be tougher for him this time, running off a rating 6lb higher in what, to my eyes, looks a slightly more competitive race. However, he seems very well still, despite a relatively busy past month or so; so I would like to think that he will acquit himself with credit again tomorrow. I'd hope that these two photographs, taken today, imply that he remains in good form. In fact, the second photograph might almost make one wonder if he isn't too fat for a horse about to run over two miles - but as in the past five and a bit weeks he has won at Sandown, been second at Towcester and won at Kempton, all over the same two-mile distance, one would like to hope that, if he does fail tomorrow, it won't be for lack of fitness!


password1 said...

Great shots mate

John Berry said...

Thank you. My digital camera is my favourite toy!