Racing: Football cash aims Pitt at the big league
Thursday 14 September 2006
It is just as well that Tim Pitt developed such an immediate rapport with his boss. One winter morning, the rookie trainer worked three of their horses together. As the gallopers were pulling up, his mobile rang.
"What was that one that started off third?" Willie McKay demanded. Pitt told him it was Les Arcs, and asked where he had been watching. "In my bathroom."
All that can be observed at Martin Grange Stables now is naked ambition. When Pitt was first shown the site, between Doncaster and Bawtry, he had to wade through nettles to find a few crumbling stables. Nonetheless, McKay was certainly talking a good game. That, after all, is what he is paid for, as agent to several Premiership footballers.
"He had a lot of ideas about what he wanted to do," Pitt remembered. "But I came here with my eyes open. I thought I'd be training a handful of waifs and strays, and went to the yearling sales as a nobody. So when Willie sent a fax arranging £500,000 credit with the sales company I nearly choked on my coffee."
His next surprise came when a helicopter arrived directly from Manchester City's training round, with eight wealthy footballers aboard. Two, Joey Barton and Trevor Sinclair, invested in a yearling.
Pitt, 32, might have reminded himself that McKay's other professional knack is discovering talent. From over 40 applicants, he was one of only two who did not already hold a training licence. With no background in the game, he had served under Peter Chapple-Hyam, John Gosden and Gerard Butler, and was now working for Colin Tinkler.
But the two men took a mutual leap of faith, and have not touched the ground since. No young man has been in such a hurry since Pitt's namesake became Prime Minister.
As well as 16 horses housed around the old stables, a new barn of 25 is full, and another one, with 38 capacity, is about to go up - including an office to replace Pitt's makeshift caravan. New residents include 13 yearlings, notably a 130,000-guinea Medicean filly, and also the top lot at Fairyhouse, a High Chaparral colt who cost €225,000 (£152,200). The source of much of this impetus, Les Arcs, is meanwhile being prepared for a race in Japan on 1 October, worth £500,000 to the winner.
This is the horse who somehow wrested the role of underdog from Takeover Target - the crippled Australian gelding, trained by a taxi driver to win the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Just four days later Les Arcs beat him in the Golden Jubilee Stakes, his itinerary just as outlandish - champion sprinters being no more common over hurdles at Cartmel than they are at Wagga Wagga. Pitt's only second runner when dropped in trip on the all-weather during the winter, Les Arcs completed his apotheosis in the July Cup and is now pursuing Takeover Target to the next leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.
"The Ascot footage is fantastic, John Egan's face erupting into a smile as it sinks in what's just happened," Pitt said. "He could have done with being taken along a bit longer, because he had to put Takeover Target to bed a furlong out and only does enough in front. The July Cup was more about satisfaction, seeing the form upheld. That night we had a runner at Chester, and our party watched in a Newmarket betting shop. We took the roof off and emptied the tills."
Yesterday Pitt took Les Arcs to Southwell. "The race in Japan is round a right-hand bend, so we worked him the wrong way round," he said. Such attention to detail is his cornerstone. "If you want the horses to give it back, you must give them 24/7. Cut corners and you lose lengths. This game demands a lot of self-belief, but I can't stress enough how much this is a team operation. Not just the triangle between Willie, John Egan and me. I need top people to go with Les Arcs to Japan, and top people here when I go out there."
With Les Arcs, Pitt has achieved the equivalent of winning the FA Cup with Doncaster Rovers. But it is not as if he has relied on one, freakish talent. He salvaged the derelict Admiral to win the Chester Cup, and his juveniles include Not For Me, who won a listed race at York, and Spirit Of The Mist, on target for the Goffs Million next Tuesday.
"There's a younger generation coming through now, and hopefully we can be one of those teams," Pitt said. "I'm so grateful to Willie. He put his neck on the line hiring me, and not just financially. Now I just want to keep the roller coaster going. It's still coming together. Rome wasn't built in a day."
Maybe so, but it will do Pitt no harm to have put up a Coliseum overnight.
Owners furious over Nannina test saga
Nannina, whose routine urine test after the Coronation Stakes came up positive, has been cleared and confirmed as winner of the Royal Ascot Group One race in June after the John Gosden-trained filly's independently-analysed second sample showed a negative result.
But connections of the Medicean filly, who runs for the Cheveley Park Stud, have reacted with fury over the handling of the affair.
There was a 40-day time lag before the owners were officially informed of suspicions, and the A sample result was leaked before the testing of the B sample.
"In our opinion," said Chris Richardson, the stud's managing director, "the HRA's management of this matter has been unacceptable. It has caused distress to all concerned and we would urge a review of procedures so that a debacle of this nature does not happen again."
Nap: Diggs Lane
NB: Dance A Daydream
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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