Racing: Halmahera hat-trick breaks track record

There are faster horses than Halmahera, even though he broke the track record here on Town Moor yesterday, and many better ones too, but there is no other which has won the sprinting lottery of the Portland Handicap on three occasions.

There are faster horses than Halmahera, even though he broke the track record here on Town Moor yesterday, and many better ones too, but there is no other which has won the sprinting lottery of the Portland Handicap on three occasions.

But then the raffle of the St Leger meeting's first betting extravaganza is easier to predict when the nine-year-old is in the field. For the last three years, Halmahera has ambled out of the stalls, settled himself and then produced a teeth-chattering burst down the stands side. Prediction has never been so easy.

That is not to say the gelding is easy on connections. His mode of running meant that his part-owner, the former footballer and continual nice guy Niall Quinn, was more out of breath than his property yesterday. "Kevin [Ryan, the trainer] has aimed at this race all year and Halmahera is an absolute star," Quinn said. "We were so lucky to get him and while I used to get excited scoring a few goals for Arsenal and Ireland, this was as good as any day I've had in sport. I just floated down off the steps. I thought this was impossible." Quinn came across Halmahera three years ago, when he was bought out of Ian Balding's Kingsclere yard. "I met Mick Kinane in Ireland at the time and he asked me if I'd bought any yearlings," Quinn said. "I told him I'd got a six-year-old sprinter and he looked at me as if I'd been on the beer."

It might have been Ryan who had required a consoling swig when he ended up with an expensive horse but no owner. "He cost 40,000gns and that was a lot of money for me at that stage of my training career and when the guy I bought him for told me he didn't want the horse because he thought he was too old I was devastated," the trainer explained. "Luckily, John [Duddy, the other joint owner] and Niall came to the rescue and I'll never be able to thank them enough.

"Halmahera does not have a routine in the mornings. We just let him enjoy himself. I don't need to see him go up the gallop at 35mph. I know how fast he can go. I've stopped trying to weigh him up. I just try to keep him sweet and happy. I love all my horses to death, but Halmahera is such a special character. I think I'll kick the wife out and bring him in the bedroom."

The tale of the valuable sales race, the St Leger Yearling Stakes, was veni, vidi, vici, as the ultimately impressive Caesar Beware recorded a hat-trick of his own. It was something of a surprise that the gelding did not report for duty in a sling and plaster cast, such had been the worrying reports of his condition emanating from Henry Candy's stable.

"At one time I didn't think we'd even be here," the trainer said. "He went down with the cough and then trod on a foot at exercise, so he was three weeks doing nothing and he came here off two half-speed pieces of work. I was worried at half-way, but he didn't half pick up. He is a very classy beast and if he comes out of the race okay we will have to consider the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday week." Dane O'Neill, the victorious jockey, reported: "My middle draw did not help and it took me time to get across and find a rhythm, but he flew home and I had a job to pull him up. He's a bit special."

The overall riding honours belonged to Frankie Dettori, who rattled up a four-timer, highlighted by Echoes In Eternity's success in the fillies' St Leger, the Park Hill Stakes. It may well have been her last race before retreat to the paddocks. Dettori is now within four of the beleaguered Kieren Fallon and is down to 7-4 to wrest the jockeys' championship from the Irishman.

¿ Quiff, the 7-2 second favourite, may miss Saturday's St Leger because of the fast ground at Doncaster. Final declarations are made today and Teddy Grimthorpe, the racing manager to the filly's owner Khalid Abdullah, said that a decision would be left until the last moment. Quiff is also entered in Sunday's Prix Vermeille at Longchamp and Grimthorpe admitted that is still an option.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Buddy Brown

(Doncaster 3.35)

NB: Trojan Flight

(Doncaster 4.45)

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