Racing: Cape wins the crusade for Hong Kong
Far Eastern challenger moves from fourth to first in four days to give Kinane his fifth win
Sunday 19 June 2005
The traditionalists among southern racegoers had been determined all week to spurn the lure of a race meeting which was wrapped in the Royal Standard, but which they regarded as something else entirely.
But even that jaundiced bunch would have approved, you suspect, when Cape Of Good Hope, named after the former British colony and trained by David Oughton, British-born but based in another colony, Hong Kong, claimed the Golden Jubilee Stakes on the final day of the meeting in course-record time. The horse covered the six furlongs in 1min 08.58sec, lowering the previous best by 0.24sec.
It would have evoked memories of times when Britain was a power and nobility congregated at the Berkshire course. Yet this performance from a seven-year-old which earlier in the week had finished fourth in the King's Stand Stakes transcended such parochial debate on the social stakes which has too often in the last five days tended to provide a distraction from the excellence of the equine stakes.
In a week during which foreign interest, be it from France, Ireland, Germany or Australia, has provided an extra fascination to the meeting, just as it had at the Royal course currently being refurbished at a total cost of £185m, the triumph also provided Mick Kinane with his fifth win at the five-day meeting to take the riders' award. He went on to make it six later in the afternoon when Notable Guest won the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes. His mount extended his already sizeable lead in the Global Sprint Challenge by winning the second of two British legs in the six-race series.
Kinane had been booked to ride Somnus, but switched to Cape Of Good Hope when Tim Easterby's horse was one of five late withdrawals from the Group One contest because the ground was riding too fast.
Under the Irishman, Cape Of Good Hope was always travelling smoothly as Galeota attempted to make all the running. Richard Hannon's charge looked as though he might prevail, but under Kinane's handling the winner proved too strong in the closing stages, getting home by a head. Balmont, the 9-2 favourite, was third, a further length and a half away.
"I knew he'd come on for the run on Tuesday, but I have committed to Tim Easterby's horse for the season. But when Tim took his horse out, David let me back on him," Kinane said. "It turned into a bit of battle in the last 100 yards, but I just got there."
The British-born Oughton was saddling the first Hong Kong winner in Britain. "It's a great day for me, to come home and have a winner," he said. "It means an awful lot. He's so tough, and marvellous to train. He's been all over the world - to Australia, Japan and England twice - and he's just a really tough horse."
Oughton added: "I wouldn't make a habit of running him twice in a week. He's now done it twice at Ascot, but normally in Hong Kong he would have six weeks between races. But after coming all this way we had to take a chance and run him twice in a week, and it's come off."
Oughton trained for five years in his home county of Sussex before relocating to Hong Kong, where he has been based for 19 years. Similarly, Cape Of Good Hope started out life with David Elsworth before being sold privately to join Oughton in the Far East at the end of his three-year-old career.
Richard Hannon Jnr was bullish about the runner-up's future, claiming: "That was a monumental performance for a three-year-old. He just about had them all beat after five furlongs, and it was a massive run. He is a champion sprinter in the making. The July Cup is a possibility and he'll get better and better. He's the sort of horse who could take you all over the world."
But nowhere like this, where even a banner proclaiming "Welcome to Royal Ascot", stuck like an Elastoplast across the normal signage, couldn't deceive anyone that they were anywhere but the grand Yorkshire venue. It was, quite simply, a week of highly competitive sport on a course, and for the most part, with an audience, which bore very little resemblance to the real thing.
A few forgot quite where they were, though. "Oh, my god, I forgot the quails' eggs," wailed a voice, with that wonderfully British sense of putting things in proportion, from the rear of a four-wheel-drive in Car Park A as the elements did their worst and the rain teemed down midway through the week.
There was snobbishness, from those not present, inverted snobbery from some of those who were. But those who attempted to turn it into a Southernites versus Yorkshire spat were way off the mark. It is less than 250 miles between Ascot and York, not much more than two-and-a- half hours from King's Cross by train, and three-and-a-bit hours by car. We are scarcely talking of an intrepid journey through the wilderness. No longer is it several days' arduous travel by stagecoach. Only the Queen uses that method these days, and only for the Royal procession down the course.
Ascot may well not be ready for next year, either. Word has it that Newmarket may provide an alternative venue, which would be an insult to York which, but for doing the impossible and organising traffic efficiently through such a city, have done everything it has been asked to do.
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