Racing: Beatrix beats boys in race for honeypot

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The Independent Online

The attempt to twin golf and racing here yesterday may not have achieved mutual comprehension - it was always going to be difficult to explain to a golfer how a horse in the second race managed to end up with a handicap of 102 - but one thing was obvious to everybody. If they are playing for pride and honour down the road at the K Club, here they were brazenly after the cash.

Even if Declan McDonagh holds on to his lead in the Irish jockeys' championship he will never surrender to a more exultant grin than the one he wore after the inaugural running of the Shelbourne Hotel Goffs Million. Having been in front long before the line on Miss Beatrix, McDonagh was asked when he had started working out his winning percentage. "Well before today, anyway," he smirked.

Confined to graduates of the sale renewed at Goffs next week, this race was engorged with a total of €1.6m (£1.1m) in prize-money.

All races of this type raise slightly grotesque anomalies. They offer so much more dough than open races that they threaten to dilute the prestige of the Pattern. And it is largely hoarded from the owners, through huge pools of stake money.

And this is now the biggest honeypot of the lot. But at least it was won by a Group One performer in Miss Beatrix, who won the Moyglare Stud Stakes, and was narrowly beaten when taking on colts in the Phoenix Stakes. Indeed, her target next spring will be the 1,000 Guineas itself.

Moreover, you never hear the result of a photo for second greeted with the same euphoria as the one that divided Regime (€300,000) and Drumfire (€150,000). Goffs are entitled to congratulate themselves if that kind of gusto nourishes the quality of their catalogue, which had stagnated in recent years. In racing, after all, it is avarice that makes the world go round. By any measure, the €180,000 William Durkan spent retaining Miss Beatrix when she failed to reach her reserve has proved an astute gamble.

And the other theme of Ryder Cup Raceday was also vividly favoured by this result. The hosts had gone to theatrical lengths to introduce visitors to their achievements with horses. Their slogan was: "Irish racing - winning the world over". There were ceremonies to honour great Irishmen of the Turf, while Istabraq led a parade of nine champion jumpers to have humbled the British, but none of these formalities expressed the message as pertinently as Miss Beatrix.

The death of Durkan's son, John, was mourned throughout racing, but he left an indelible legacy when discovering Istabraq at the sales. Miss Beatrix is, meanwhile, trained by Kevin Prendergast, who had earlier been on the podium on behalf of his late father, "Darkie", a man with a priceless instinct for a horse. In 1952 he won the Irish Derby and Oaks with horses that cost less than 1,000gns between them.

His son showed fine judgement himself, in electing to take on colts for the Million rather than settle for half the money in the Fillies Five Hundred. That left the way clear for Silk Blossom, who had advertised the Goffs sale by winning the Lowther Stakes at York last month. Wait Watcher was not quite so obliging, however, and passed the post in front after all but putting the favourite over the rail. Her connections went through purgatory as the stewards debated half an hour before opening the trapdoor into hell, and finally reversing the placings.

Silk Blossom was well bought at €50,000 but might not have fetched even that had she fallen over in the sales ring, as she did in the paddock here. "The surface is too smooth and there were too many horses in the ring," Barry Hills, her trainer, said. "I feel sorry for the people with the other filly, it's not nice to win a race in these circumstances. But our filly was denied her chance when the other one did not keep straight, and rules are rules."

As for connections of Wait Watcher, they will have to settle for €150,000 and sympathy. Who knows? Her trainer may even intrigue some American golfer by illuminating the dark arts of horsemanship with such clarity. Asked how he picked the filly as a yearling, Paul Blockley reflected. "Well," he said, "we liked the walk on her, and she had gorgeous ears."

Chris McGrath

Nap: Dannabelle

(Goodwood 2.10)

NB: Greek Renaissance

(Goodwood 3.20)

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