Racing: Brittain remains a Classic romantic

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The Independent Online

If the vibes emanating from Dubai and the betting market are correct, then the putative Godolphin star Dubawi is past the post already in the 197th 2,000 Guineas. If they are wrong, the received wisdom is that the winner of the first Classic of the season will be either of the pair deemed unlucky in the Craven Stakes, Rob Roy or Iceman. Or perhaps Footstepsinthesand, reputedly burning up the Ballydoyle gallops.

But Clive Brittain did not get where he is today - which is the master of a 120-horse yard in Newmarket, with nearly 50 top-level races all over the world to his credit - by being cowed by reputation or hype. He has three runners entered for Saturday's mile showpiece on the Rowley Mile, and all are at 33-1 or longer in the bookmakers' lists. But horses know nothing of betting, and being a 500-1 shot did not stop Brittain's Terimon beating all bar Nashwan in the 1989 Derby.

The Carlburg Stables trio are headed by the remarkable Party Boss, who has traced an unconventional route to his date with destiny. The colt - a grey, like his trainer's 2,000 Guineas winner, Mystiko - has won his last six races, all of them on all-weather tracks. On his sole previous try on turf, at Kempton back in September, he finished a distant last of eight.

But that was on his juvenile debut, in the days before his interest in his job was kindled. When he was first introduced to the concept of being a racehorse, the laid-back son of Silver Patriarch was less than impressed, and it took some typically original thinking by Brittain to wake him up. In a string, colts invariably exercise in front of fillies, lest animal instincts get in the way of work, but where the uninspired Party Boss was concerned, Brittain used the forbidden fruit to his advantage.

"He used to go along in a dream," he said, "and it took a sex act - well, not actually a sex act, more the thought of one - to get him going. We exercised him behind the fillies, near enough to look, but not near enough to touch, and he started to pick up the bit and work with a bit more enthusiasm, chasing after them, and the penny finally dropped."

Party Boss has swept all before him this year as he has progressed up the ladder from handicap to Listed company, his trademark style being catch-me-if-you-can, and has earned his owner-breeder Michael Clarke more than £100,000. The gap in class he must bridge on Saturday is wide, but he is tough and progressive and is sure to give each-way supporters a run.

"He has been on the go all year, but keeping a horse like him at his peak is not too difficult," Brittain said. "He now wants to race and he wants to win, and you can go a lifetime looking for one like that.

"He travels at six-furlong pace from the stalls, and he is the one they will have to get past. But at home, he still doesn't worry about anything. He just doesn't turn a hair, and so doesn't take anything out of himself, and I haven't yet seen an end to how far he could go."

It perhaps should be noted that Brittain regards Party Boss as a better Guineas contender than the other topically named (in view of the imminent general election) entry in the yard, Kandidate, who split the much-vaunted Rob Roy and Iceman when finishing third 10 days ago in Democratic Deficit's Craven Stakes at Newmarket.

His performance that day, though, was virtually ignored by the pundits. "I thought perhaps I had trained a non-runner in the race," Brittain said wryly. "If we had finished second, I would certainly have objected, because the winner laid on us for half a furlong, and it is to the horse's credit that he didn't spit the dummy out."

Kandidate may yet be diverted to one of the longer Derby trials. Tony James, who is also owned by the long-standing Carlburg patron Tony Richards, did not shine at Nad Al Sheba during the winter, but his close fourth under top-weight in the Free Handicap 11 days ago booked him his place on Saturday. "That was no mean feat," said Brittain. "He hated the sand in Dubai, but running on grass again has rejuvenated his interest."

Brittain, who is now 71, started out as an apprentice with Sir Noel Murless in 1949 and is now in his 34th year with a licence, but he has only to walk out into his yard to know why his own fascination with the sport has been maintained, even after more than half a century in the business.

As well as his young Classic hopes, he has the wonderful warrior Warrsan in his care. The seven-year-old will start his build-up to a unique third Coronation Cup in the Jockey Club Stakes a week today. "Horses like him, who give you their hearts," he said. "How could I leave them?"