Racing: Guest counts on an old stager to nurture Joy

In any racing yard, they also serve who regularly get sand kicked in their face. There is no horse who earns either his corn or gratitude from his trainer more than the reliable workman, the sort who will turn in the same performance on the gallops day after day, towing the superstars along. In a way, those stalwarts are worth as much as the bright talent it is their lot to nurture and eventually bow to.

If all goes to plan, Rae Guest will have a Classic runner 17 days hence, when Moments Of Joy contests the St Leger. And every step on the way to Town Moor, the filly has been escorted by her distant relative Montecristo.

The 10-year-old gelding is now on his second generation of high-class wards, for he not only looks after Moments Of Joy but did the same thing for her dam My Emma. "He is a blessing," said Guest. "He can be silly and stupid, he'd jump at a mouse on the way to the gallops. But once he's there he's the most sensible of horses and knows exactly what he has to do. Although he has to come from off the pace on the track he loves to lead at home and he'll set off in front and keep going at the same pace and you know exactly where you are with him."

Montecristo and My Emma, who share their grand-dam Patosky, were among the first batch of horses sent to Guest by owner Ian Matthews, and the filly, winner of the Prix Vermeille at three-years-old and the Yorkshire Oaks at four, remains the best either man has been associated with.

Moments Of Joy, in fact, gets her name from the pleasure given by her mother and like her is a late developer. She is a huge filly, nearly 17 hands high, and unsurprisingly did not race at two. But when she did make her debut, at Kempton in July, it was a winning one, and followed up in the Gladness Stakes over the St Leger distance at Goodwood earlier this month.

"She was just too big and backward to race last year," said Guest. "We went steady-steady with her early on this year, just going through the motions, though she was showing enough to make us think she'd be all right. Then in June she really began to pick up and we realised she'd be more than all right, that she could go a bit. We decided to go for the Leger after she won at Kempton and she's taken both races very well indeed, never even thought about them and improved markedly for each outing.

"She might lack race awareness at Doncaster but she's got enough ability to warrant going there. The course will suit her, as she has to come with a long steady run. She's more of a stayer than My Emma, but like her she's got a good turn of foot. She's much bigger than her dam but they're not unalike in temperament; plenty of energy and liking to show off a bit."

Despite his years, Montecristo is much in the same mental mould. But he not only acts as uncle to the equine inmates at Chestnut Tree Stables, but the humans as well. He is a regular conveyance for apprentices and amateurs and the veteran gelding, hero of 18 victories in his own right, is a firm yard favourite.

He will carry on doing his day job for Moments Of Joy next year too for, win or lose at Doncaster, the daughter of Darshaan is to stay in training. "If she proves not to be up to that level, so be it," said Guest. "A race like the Park Hill Stakes is open to her next year but you get only one shot at a Classic."

There already is a St Leger in the family; My Emma's half-brother Classic Cliche won it in 1995. Moments Of Joy, one of 23 horses left in the 227th running of the oldest Classic yesterday, will complete her build-up to her tilt at the contest with a racecourse gallop, possibly at Yarmouth next Tuesday. Accompanied by faithful Montecristo, of course.

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