The campaign was over and the victor had been crowned, but the fighters weren't giving up. Kieren Fallon and Frankie Dettori had spent seven months battling it out for the jockeys' championship title, and although the outgoing champion had been forced to hand the laurels to his Italian rival, he showed he still had something left in the tank at Doncaster yesterday, with a memorable win in the November Stakes.
The last day of the season was also an occasion to remember the many successes of one of racing's most popular and successful trainers, Toby Balding, who was retiring after 47 years in the business. Balding, who took over the yard at Weyhill at the age of only 20, after the premature death of his father Gerald, has not only taken most of jump racing's top prizes - including two Grand Nationals, two Champion Hurdles and a Gold Cup - but is also widely respected for his tireless work for the National Trainers' Federation, from which he stepped down as president earlier this year. His many well-wishers were hoping he would be able to go out with a win; but sadly last year's November Stakes winner Turbo, although backed to 4-1 favouritism, never showed a sign of the turn of foot that landed him the race last year.
Instead, victory went to Carte Diamond, ridden by Fallon, after seeing off a determined last-minute challenge by Dettori and Distant Prospect. Carte Diamond's success more than vindicated the judgement of trainer Brian Ellison, who bought him only two weeks ago out of the Mark Johnston stable for 105,000 guineas at the Doncaster Sales. The Malton handler, who also saddled sixth-placed Artistic Style, said of the winner: "He cost a lot of money, but I knew he was a good horse. I spoke to Kieren at the start and he said that Carte Diamond had given him the feel of a good horse. He was always going to win once he hit the front."
Ellison, who had previously won the race in 2000 with Batswing, also in the colours of owner Ashley Carr, was going to have the three-year-old gelded, but added: "Kieren said we shouldn't as he is such a good horse, so we won't! We were going to run him over hurdles, but I don't think we will now and next year we will train him for the Ebor at York."
Fallon said: "Carte Diamond travelled really well, and I think he will improve and be a nice horse next year. I didn't know it was Frankie behind me, but my horse would have picked up again if anything had come to us. It is nice for Brian - nearly everything he puts me on wins. It has been a good end to the season for me, winning at the Breeders' Cup and having a few winners back home this week, including this big one today."
The new champion, who had driven his wife and four children to the course to see him regain the crown he last won in 1995, failed to add to his many glittering victories of the season yesterday, but it seemed unlikely that anything was going to bring him down to earth as he was soaked with champagne by his envious and appreciative colleagues. Dettori was even philosophical about his controversial 31-day ban earned from the Australian authorities during the Melbourne Cup. "I'm going to put my feet up for a month," he said with a trademark grin.
On the other side of the Irish sea, Beef Or Salmon proved that he still deserves to be seen as the Republic's best hope for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. His lustre had been diminished in October when, running off a staggering mark of 168, he conceded 2st and defeat to Colca Canyon in the Munster National; but yesterday the Michael Hourigan-trained eight-year-old never even looked stretched as he saw off not only his Munster conqueror, but also old rival Harbour Pilot and young hustler Kicking King in the Grade One James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase at Down Royal.
"I was never worried coming into the race and I was very pleased with his performance today," said Hourigan. "I'm not exactly sure where we will go next as he had an over-reach during the race and has cut the heel of his near-fore, but it is more than likely we will go to Leopardstown [for the Lexus Chase]." Beef Or Salmon is now 7-1 with most bookmakers to take Best Mate's crown at Prestbury Park in March.Reuse content