Racing: Golam and Turner, apprentice sorcerers

Jamie Spencer seals the jockeys' championship but two young riders show immense promise

The duel between the young pair provided a spark on a day than is often not so much a damp squib as a waterlogged entire municipal pyrotechnic extravaganza. Yesterday's occasion was once celebrated as the last day of the Flat season; nowadays it is merely the end of racing on turf and the arbitrary cut-off point for championships. The year-round all-weather circus reassembles at Wolverhampton tomorrow.

Golam and Turner, both 22, went into yesterday on 44 winners apiece and ended it the same. Both had seven rides, six on the sand at Southwell and one here; Turner, beaten in two photo-finishes at the first venue, came closest to breaking the deadlock. But perhaps a draw was the fairest result. Golam, attached to Mark Tompkins's yard, spent nine months out of the saddle last year after fracturing two vertebrae in a track fall, and Turner, Michael Bell's protégée, has overcome the sport's long-standing prejudice against females in the saddle.

Golam, a London-born Muslim who first spotted racing on holiday as a child in Mauritius, will leave on Tuesday to spend the winter riding in Dubai. "The accident was frustrating, but it never put me off," he said. "The only worry was if my weight went up during the time I was lying on my back. But it didn't. In fact I came back lighter. And, I think, more mature, as I had a lot of time to think."

Golam, still eligible for his allowance, will have another crack at the apprentice title next year but Turner, a graduate of the Northern Racing College, must take her chance in senior company, having ridden out her claim. She intends to further hone her skills on the domestic circuit over the next few months. "It's been a fantastic season and I've had great support. I think the girly barriers are coming down."

Though neither Turner nor Golam was able to celebrate yesterday with a winner, Spencer did, with a textbook ride from the front on 33-1 outsider Strawberry Dale in the fillies' Listed contest. There was also the time-honoured spray of champagne and cream cake in the face from his weighing-room colleagues.

Spencer, 25, was a 33-1 shot at the start of the season. Having been a high-zooming, precocious talent in his early years - he was champion apprentice in his native Ireland six years ago and courted by the best - he experienced the downswoop of the roller-coaster with a split from Aidan O'Brien this year. He returned to Britain as a freelance, and yesterday's satisfaction was a long way from the forlornness of Newmarket in the spring when he watched Kieren Fallon win both Guineas on Ballydoyle horses.

"To win this is beyond any dreams," he said. "But it has been the result of a long, hard season. It's not that I didn't work hard when I was here before, but riding for the big yards it was a bit easier. It's not that I'm lazy, but this time I've had to graft a bit. I doubled my number of rides and if there were two meetings, I was at both." Strawberry Dale was Spencer's 163rd winner on his 1,072nd mount of the season.

Spencer finished runner-up on Akarem in the day's feature, the November Handicap, with Golam sixth on Lets Roll and Turner 18th on Rawdon. But nothing had a chance with the seven-length winner Come On Jonny, ridden by Nelson de Souza and trained by Ralph Beckett.

The trainers' championship, won by Sir Michael Stoute for the eighth time, is based on earnings, but numerical suprem-acy, though academic, is a matter of some pride. A double by Richard Hannon with Ordnance Row and Presto Shinko levelled the scores at 138, but his great rival Mark Johnston nicked it by one when Crosspeace won the last turf race of the year.

The confrontation at Down Royal between two of Ireland's best chasers, War Of Attrition and Beef Or Salmon, was called off after a security alert at the Northern Ireland track forced the abandonment of the card. More than 7,000 racegoers had to leave the course after the discovery of a suspect package.

At Wincanton, the team of Martin Pipe, Timmy Murphy and David Johnson dominated proceedings. The high-class handicap hurdler Celtic Son announced himself as a chaser of infinite promise with a flawless display to beat Napolitain in the Grade Two novices' race and the old stager Iris Bleu bounced back to form in the stayers' handicap chase, beating another Paul Nicholls inmate, Red Devil Robert.

BETS OF THE DAY

Serious bet: Wild Is The Wind (Market Rasen, 2.20) breezed home a week ago and is expected to defy his penalty.

Fun bet: Hoh Viss (Market Rasen, 3.50) has shown tasty enough form in the past and could earn a crust today.

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