Holding Court keeps Jarvis in the spotlight

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The Independent Online

There are not too many gaping holes on Michael Jarvis's cv when it comes to the list of major races he has won.

There are not too many gaping holes on Michael Jarvis's cv when it comes to the list of major races he has won.

True, he has not won a British Classic, although he was head lead to Gordon Smyth when Charlottown won the 1966 Derby, but Group One events including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the Coronation Cup, the July Cup and the Nunthorpe are all there, along with handicaps like the Ebor, the Stewards' Cup and the Wokingham. He has also won the Sprint Cup at Haydock -- another Group One -- three times, and yet when he arrives there on Saturday with another live contender for the same race in Lincoln Dancer, it is likely that most racegoers would struggle to pick him out of an identity parade.

After 32 years with a licence and more than a dozen victories at the highest level, a ratio which very few trainers can ever hope to match, Jarvis's profile among the public remains somewhere between low and non-existent. This, clearly, is the way he prefers it -- let the horses do the talking, and all that -- but by Sunday evening, even he may find it impossible to dodge the limelight.

There are three important Group One races this weekend, and in two of them, the Sprint Cup on Saturday and the Grosser Preis von Baden -- the latest leg of the Emirates World Series -- at Baden-Baden the following day, Jarvis's horses hold favourites' chances. Lincoln Dancer, who was just a short-head behind Agnes World in the July Cup at Newmarket, is 5-1 joint-favourite with its sponsor, Stanley Leisure, for the Haydock race, while in Holding Court, the brilliant winner of the French Derby at Chantilly in June, Jarvis has a three-year-old colt who could yet prove to be the finest performer even of this outstanding Classic generation.

The one certain winner is Jarvis's travel agent, who must organise a weekend which starts and ends in Newmarket, but also takes in Lancashire and Germany's finest spa town.

"It's tiring, but getting good horses is what it's all about," Jarvis said yesterday. "Baden-Baden would be a lovely place to stay, but with all the racing there is these days, we never get the chance to stay anywhere."

British punters have never been the most broad-minded of creatures, and tend to view German Group One races as the rough equivalent of a Listed event at Newbury or Epsom.

Sunday's race, though, fully deserves its status, since in addition to Holding Court, its field is likely to include Mutafaweq, last year's St Leger winner, Daliapour, the Coronation Cup winner, and Fruits Of Love, who took the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. The prize-money of DM1.7m (£530,000) is also a match for most British Group Ones.

Nonetheless, if he could reproduce his six-length romp at Chantilly in June, Holding Court would be difficult to beat. The obvious worry is that his latest outing in the Irish Derby resulted in a bitterly disappointing sixth behind Sinndar.

"With hindsight, I think he perhaps had a pretty tough race in France," Jarvis said, "and he hadn't fully recovered from his exertions. People often think that because a horse has won a long way, he's had an easy race, but sometimes it can be the reverse." Eight weeks on from Ireland, Holding Court is a fresh horse again and, providing the ground is no faster than good, is expected to go close on Sunday.

Baden-Baden's gain, though, is Doncaster's loss, since Holding Court might otherwise have been a runner in the St Leger on Saturday week. "We considered the Leger," Jarvis said, "but while we know he gets a mile and a half well, the extra two and a half furlongs we weren't quite so sure about. He is a half-brother to Tomba, who's a six or seven furlong horse, and it might just be open to question whether he'd get the trip."

Nor is it likely that the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will figure on Holding Court's schedule, since he would need to be supplemented for the race. The colt's owner has already paid a hefty sum to get him into both the French and Irish Derbys, and with a record which reads won one, lost one, Jarvis feels that a third punt might be pushing their luck. Since Holding Court is expected to stay in training at four, there is always next year.

In the immediate future, though, Jarvis has two Group One races to worry about, and the odds against him completing the double are probably no worse than 16-1. But would it mean that the racecourse punters might start to recognise him? Don't bet on it.

McGrath discharged

Richard McGrath was yesterday discharged from Preston Acute Hospital where he had been taken by helicopter on Monday with suspected head injuries after a fall at Cartmel. Meanwhile, the amateur rider Trevor Radford, 64, is reported to be still in a "stable" condition in Southampton General Hospital following a fall at Goodwood on Saturday.