Racing: Kinane and Europeans make their mark in the Turf

Magic moments that made 2003 memorable
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The Independent Online

Santa Anita, California Saturday, 25 October

The greatest racing moments, or series of moments, occurred at the Santa Anita racetrack this autumn while the Los Angeles environs were ablaze. It must have been started by the hooves of the European runners.

California at the end of a long season on this side of the Atlantic is usually a warm graveyard for the visitors. Not this time though, and victory is never sweeter than when it is least anticipated. The Europeans found this and so, to their chagrin, did the Americans.

Smiles were thin as the European jockeys recovered themselves from a position close to laughing stocks in the United States. Kieren Fallon and Michael Kinane had been christened variously moron and pinhead among the domestic sages. This was the response.

In the Filly & Mare Turf, Fallon was nothing less than an ogre. He would have ridden Islington uphill and through a lava flow rather than let the home side's Edgar Prado on L'Ancresse by him. The Irishman cut a distinct comparison with his Peruvian-born colleague, working away violently as Prado was close to motionless, flat over his mount's withers. It would have been no surprise to see him return with an arrow in his back.

The Turf has become an even greater race now with the subsequent exploits of Falbrav, who made a nonsense of supposedly world-class opposition in the Hong Kong Cup earlier this month. Falbrav almost won in California. Almost. His front-running defiance lasted until the final 50 yards, when he was joined and passed first by High Chaparral and then Johar. Those two then joined each other on the line. It was a dead heat in the searing heat.

For 10 minutes, Kinane, High Chaparral's rider, did not know the result as the protagonists milled around in front of the grandstand waiting for the judge.

It was soon to be the end of his reign as stable jockey to Aidan O'Brien at Ballydoyle, but Santa Anita had been a birth for both him and the whole of the European contingent on America's west coast. The idea that a man and a continent could perform in this locale had been brought gloriously to life.