When Quito won the Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday it was like a flashback, to the times when David Chapman's horses did an awful lot of flashing. To the times of Soba, Chaplins Club and Glencroft, cheaply bought and steadfastly created, sprinters which threaded victories like beads on a necklace.
Quito has a little way to go to match them, as he has won just the eight races for Chapman, and, in trusted style, he did not find his box at Mowbray House Farm near York decked with laurels on his return from Scotland. The six-year-old will be back on the wagon this weekend when he contests the Tote Trifecta Handicap at Ascot. "There's no point hanging about," the 70-year-old trainer said yesterday.
That too has been the motto for the man's horses, largely sprinters who have outrun their purchase price. When Chapman goes to the sales it is to buy jumble. Quito was no different, an apparent wreck of a horse after a run of juvenile promise for Marcus Tregoning.
There was eventually a win in the homeland of his breeder, Sheikh Mohammed, but it appeared easy to let him go for 3,200gns two years ago. Quito soon learned what to expect from the Chapman hothouse, as he ran 17 times in his first season back in Britain. This hard labour was designed to improve the horse's demeanour.
"When we got him he was really nasty," the trainer said. "He was a rig and he's still got one ball up in his body. It can make them very vicious because it pains them so. The head lad said I had to get him cut before he killed somebody. He used to let fly with his front legs and strike out so quickly you couldn't see them coming.
"We gave him a lot more work than you'd normally do and that got him settled down. He's changed completely."
The Ayr Gold Cup inevitably brought Chapman into conflict with his old jockey and perhaps natural heir, David Nicholls, who was going for his fourth consecutive training success in the race. Dandy won 13 times on Soba, but was not just concentrating on the riding. His methods are borrowed hugely from the old mentor.
Had it not been for the intervention of Seel Of Approval, it would have been Nicholls's Fire Up The Band which followed Quito home. "In a way I was glad he wasn't second," Chapman said, "because it would have been a beggar to have been the one to spoil his wonderful record."
The trainer is not careless with his gear, as evidenced by Quito's weekend tack, which included Chaplins' Clubs half blinkers and Soba's breastplate. Neither will he be neglectful with the day's memories. "Saturday was better than winning the Derby because there are so many laid out for it," Chapman added. "And it was a more pleasant experience than Soba winning the Stewards' Cup. I thought we'd about win at Ayr, but we went there with not many giving us a chance. When we went down to Goodwood all those years ago she'd been favourite for a long time and there was a bit of pressure on us.
"What made Saturday as well was all my friends and family. There were 18 messages on my mobile and it packed up half-way before we got home with people ringing. It was so emotional after the race it did me. I felt so bloody bad on the Sunday. I rang David Nicholls and he knew I'd be awful. He tells me I won't come right until Christmas."Reuse content