In normal times it does not pay greatly to criticise the horses trained by David Elsworth. He guards their reputation and honour like Cerberus at the gates of hell.
Yet something strange happened here at the foot of a damp Trundle Hill yesterday. The Geezer won the Gordon Stakes for Elsworth and nobody had to suggest that the old boat was probably not quite good enough to win a St Leger. Extraordinarily, Elsworth did that himself. He came over all puppyish.
It was all rather odd, particularly as one interpretation of the Group Three race made The Geezer look fairly sporty. He was slow to go but faster where it mattered and it was five lengths and half a length back to Unfurled and Brahminy Kite, the latter having come on from fourth place in the Irish Derby. This was certainly a different geezer from the one that was never going in the Derby, the one which ran as if the wrong fuel had been pumped into his tank.
"He's a good honest sort of horse. I've always said he lacked a bit of class, but maybe I'm wrong," Elsworth said, before adding that The Geezer would probably attempt to knock off another Leger trial in the Great Voltigeur at York's Ebor meeting.
"He's got a chance [in the Leger], but I wouldn't get carried away. I hoped he'd win, but he was quite good today. I always thought he lacked a bit of class, but he's disproved it. He's run well behind Motivator on this sort of ground and, while the Derby was awful, that aside he's run to a fairly high level. I've probably underrated him, which is rare for me because I usually overrate them."
The history book, as much as its form equivalent, gives The Geezer a chance. In the past 11 years, seven Gordon Stakes winners have go on to run in the St Leger, producing two victories (Millenary and Nedawi), a second, two thirds and a fourth. At this point, the Classic horses are all chasing the Grand Prix de Paris winner, Scorpion, who is 5-4 in a place. Coral's 10-1 is the best you can get about The Geezer.
The afternoon's other Group Three contest, the Molecomb Stakes, was characterised by a touch of á la recherche du temps perdu, as David Nicholls doubtlessly observed. It was in 1982 that his pugnacious figure was in the winners' enclosure here as a winning jockey on Soba in the Stewards' Cup. His son, Adrian, had just celebrated his first birthday. He was small with only bare traces of hair on his head. And so was the boy. Yesterday it was Nicholls fils who was in the saddle, while Nicholls snr was both a proud father and trainer as Strike Up The Band powered home in the Molecomb. He might run again here on Friday in the Richmond Stakes.
The Lennox Stakes provided another triumph for a previous winner on the Sussex downs. Court Masterpiece, who was going well from some way out, eventually managed to overhaul Jack Sullivan, though, as he reeled him in, the runner-up turned from tiddler into a marlin. "The other horse gave me a bit of a fright as he kept finding more and it took me a while to get by him," Philip Robinson, the jockey, reported.
Ed Dunlop, the victorious trainer, issued a bulletin about Ouija Board, his winner of the Oaks and the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf last season. This time round, Ouija Board has not been so blessed. She was seventh and next to last in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes on her York return and took home a stress fracture to her near fore cannonbone. The game was almost up.
"She was on box rest for three or four weeks," Dunlop said. "She lost all weight and was in pain, but she's turned the corner now and she's back to herself.
"She's been back cantering three weeks and, if all goes well, she'll be back in faster work in the next couple. If she's ready, there's the September Stakes at Newmarket on the third. It's Group Three, she doesn't have a penalty, it's a mile and a half and on our doorstep.
"We're pleased with her. York knocked the hell out of her. She's back now as good as she's ever looked. We're a bit of a forgotten horse, but hopefully we'll be back. The Breeders' Cup is still very much in mind."
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