Controversial career of Top Cees is over

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The Independent Online

It was the course which made him and yesterday the Roodeye became the course that broke Top Cees. The scourge of the bookmakers and the scourge of The Sporting Life was pulled up as he attempted to collect his third Chester Cup and we shall not see him again. One of racing's most intriguing tales is at an end.

It was feared at one stage yesterday that Top Cees would have to be destroyed. He was taken to the racecourse stables and fitted with a splint to his near fore. He had only just recovered from suspensory-ligament damage to the same limb.

Last night the 10-year-old was recovering at the Leahurst Veterinary Hospital. "The vets feel it isn't life-threatening but it is certainly career-ending," Andrew Balding, son of the horse's trainer Ian, said. "We just hope he will be okay to enjoy a happy retirement.

"He's just standing here looking at everyone, enjoying the attention, which makes it sadder. We are devastated because he is everyone's favourite. He is more like a friend than a horse."

Top Cees has not been a great racehorse, but he has occupied more newsprint than many of his superiors. He first won the Chester Cup back in 1995, after which comment in The Sporting Life embroiled the now defunct trade paper in legal action which saw them pay out substantial libel damages in the High Court.

The gelding also cost the layers money, winning the Cup again in 1997 by 10 lengths and the 1999 Cesarewitch, and even extended his skills to National Hunt racing, in which sphere he won the Coral Cup over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival.

Top Cees has enriched Kieren Fallon both on the racecourse and in the court house and the rider keenly felt the loss of an old friend yesterday. It was not a sorrow he kept to himself and officialdom bore the brunt of his misery. The vets who went down the far side of the track to where the Irishman had dismounted the gelding were given an earful and Fallon was subsequently fined £110 for using abusive language.

The champion jockey then had a go in another direction. "I thought the horse was going to come down with me," he said. "I was holding him up. It's the worst injury of that sort I've been involved with. I felt him go up the home straight but you've got to keep them going these days haven't you, like you've got to ride out exhausted horses as well."

It was ironic that after all this Fallon still managed to make a contribution to the winning effort. Gary Bardwell, on Bangalore, will go down as the victor, but the "Angry Ant" used tactics that were passed on to him by another in the weighing room. "Kieren was very keen on the horse, having ridden it at Kempton," Bardwell said. "He told me to sit in the first three, letting him enjoy it, and then kick on four or five furlongs out. I just kept increasing the pace all the way to the line but he wasn't really quickening. He's just a galloper."

The home straight here is 230 yards, which is the shortest in the land. Bardwell said that it did not feel like that as Francis Norton and Ansar fell on him inside the final furlong. "I didn't see Mr Norton come until the last 20 yards and I thought he had beaten me on the line," Bardwell said.

But it was Bangalore's day and a continuation of the recent good run which has returned to the former great racing stronghold of Coombelands. The days of Warning, Rousillon, To-Agori-Mou and the great Dancing Brave are now long gone, but pattern success returned to the Sussex yard for the first time in nine years recently with the Group successes of Indian Lodge.

Amanda and Mark Perrett bought Bangalore at the Newmarket sales with the intention of a pursuing a hurdling career. The colt did indeed win twice over the winter but it is in the rich man's game that he has earned his biggest pot.

Keith Dalgleish was a third jockey who could claim to be a Chester Cup winner. The 17-year-old apprentice did well to emerge unscathed after Star Rage clipped heels four furlongs out and sent the young rider hurtling to the turf.

Punters looking for Classic clues were left scratching their heads after Solaia won the Cheshire Oaks, with the Epsom entries Tanzilla and Abscond finishing third and last of five respectively. Solaia, unplaced in four outings since a winning debut at Newmarket last July, beat fellow 10-1 shot Inforapenny and is unlikely to be supplemented for the Classic.

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