Another taste of victory for Hern

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The Independent Online
The old and the new met here yesterday as Dick Hern, the veteran trainer, won Britain's first Sunday Classic, the 1,000 Guineas, with Harayir.

Although these momentous events took place at Newmarket, this was not the Rowley Mile as we know it. The wind has been locked in a box this weekend, and the dominant features have been shorts, ice-creams and marquees. It was almost like Wimbledon.

But Newmarket is still Headquarters and in such an arena it was particularly apt that the 1,000 Guineas should go to an establishment trainer of the old school. He will now have cause to celebrate on consecutive evenings as tonight he hosts a VE party. It was 50 years ago that Major Hern, commander of a Churchill tank in the mechanised North Irish Horse regiment, was enjoying the moment of victory in an Italian barn, sharing a whisky bottle with a fellow officer.

Already a dedicated horseman, Hern had his first training licence by 1957, six years before the birth of his winning jockey yesterday, Richard Hills. Since then the honours have been consistent. Harayir's success represented his 19th Classic, a record which includes three Derbys.

There have been bad times, too, however. The Major broke his back in a hunting accident, suffering injuries that put him permanently in a wheelchair, and, in the late 1980s, he was ungraciously thrown out of the West Ilsley yard that had spawned his great victories. Yesterday's was his first Classic since moving to Kingwood House Stables on the outskirts of Lambourn.

The tide of popular support behind Harayir would have been enough to have swept her well clear. However, during the race itself it soon became clear that the filly needed little outside aid, coasting in behind the leaders with no apparent effort.

When Hills asked his relaxed mount for some vigour the effect was immediate and final. The battle became for second place, a contest Willie Carson, on Aqaarid, won from Moonshell.

Carson could have ridden Harayir and maintained the rather odd but enduring relationship between the Major and the banana packer's son from Stirling. He chose instead Aqaarid, and missed a winning Classic opportunity for the first time since he has been asked to pick between mounts on the most important of days.

Hern was not upset that Carson had deserted his filly, and the jockey's disappointment was tempered by his affection for his long-time boss.

When Hern entered the unsaddling enclosure there was rapture from the congregation, a noise the 74-year-old assumed was for the returning Harayir. It was not. It was for him. "I wouldn't have believed it possible," Hern said. "The crowd were very kind."

The trainer has a deserved reputation as an impatient tormentor of journalists, but here there was evidence of the man his friends claim is as effective an ice-breaker as the vessels Ernest Shackleton commanded. Hern doffed his Panama, accepted the acclaim and eased out a smile.

The first three may now meet again in the Oaks, although Harayir's participation will be confirmed only after consultation with the filly's owner, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. There are those who believe the more stoutly-bred Aqaarid will reverse this result at Epsom, where the staying qualities of Moonshell will also come into play.

The last-named again upheld the Dubai experiment, acquitting herself with distinction on only the second start of her life following success in a maiden last season. Moonshell was one of the batch of horses that spent the off season in the hothouse of the Emirates, and she further vindicated the winter techniques of Sheikh Mohammed.

"She's run a lovely race. To be third in a Classic on only your second run is a remarkable achievement," Lanfranco Dettori, the filly's jockey, said. The most remarkable achievement of the day, however, belonged to another. It was achieved by the man who will be raising his glass to history and the future in Lambourn this evening, Major William Richard Hern CVO.

THE OAKS (Epsom, 11 June): Ladbrokes: 5-2 Aqaarid, 4-1 Harayir (if confirmed a runner) & Moonshell, 10-1 Jural, 20-1 Pure Grain; William Hill: 4-1 Aqaarid & Harayir, 5-1 Moonshell, 16-1 Jural, 20-1 Shapely.