Racing: Kinane gives the curiosity cup a timely kick
Sunday 08 August 2004
One of the raisons d'etre of the Shergar Cup, the annual international jockeys' team event that is the centrepiece of a day of fun and frolics, is to introduce newcomers, particularly youngsters, to the sport. And even the most fervent of non-believers might have been converted by the victory of Dorothy's Friend in the Stayers'. The four-year-old came into the straight plum last, but once balanced, aimed and launched by Mick Kinane, he ate ground, hit the front half a furlong from the line and crossed it, to a noisy reception, a length in front of Double Obsession.
The cheers were undoubtedly for the victory of a well-backed favourite rather than partisan enthusiasm for the success of a Great Britain & Ireland team rider over one representing the Rest of the World, the Australian Damien Oliver. As a spectacle, for the newcomer or the regular racegoer, the denouement of the two-miler was pretty to watch, and Jamie Spencer's daring run up the rails on Desert Quest to take the Challenge half an hour later was not bad either.
"That was one hell of a ride," said Dorothy's Friend's trainer, Roger Charlton. "He was so far out of his ground that I thought he could not possibly win, but I suppose you should not have those fears when someone like Mick Kinane is in the saddle." The performance confirmed the gelding as one of the season's most progressive marathon men. He is in the Ebor Handicap at York next week and has been cut to about 14-1, though Charlton warned he is not certain to run. "We thought a mile and six was a bit sharp for him when he was beaten at Goodwood last time," he said, "and the Cesarewitch might be more his target."
The inflated prize money and owners' perks on offer, far in excess of an "ordinary" Saturday, meant a decent standard of competition. Justaquestion, on whom Frankie Dettori took the Juvenile and off whom he delighted the crowd with his flying dismount, is bound for the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood later this month and Group One hopes, in the Haydock Sprint, are entertained for Tychy, winner of the Distaff under Gerald Mosse.
More than any other sport, racing does not lend itself to team tactics - which are actually forbidden under the rules - so the result of the Shergar Cup, in which mounts are partly decided by random chance, cannot be more than a curiosity. "You can't impede others in the race or anything like that," said Dettori, captain of the winning World side, "so all I can do is make sure that the boys who don't normally ride here know as much as possible about the horses."
None took any advice on board better than Weichong Marwing, the Hong Kong-based South African who had had only one previous ride in this country. Victory in the closing Sprint on Paradise Isle clinched him the award for yesterday's leading jockey.
The day opened with children's football masterclasses, overseen by the former Republic of Ireland star Andy Townsend, and ended with a pop concert by chart-topping girl band Sugababes. More than 22,000 came though the gates, happily sizzled in the sun and enjoyed the day for what it was.
So, the bread (the purses totalled more than £310,000) and a circus was yesterday; today is for the purists, with Group One contests in France and Ireland, featuring the sport's own sugababes. One of the motifs of the season has been girl power, in the shape of a series of top-class fillies, and this afternoon two of them step out against the boys. At Deauville, July Cup heroine Frizzante leads a powerful British challenge for the seaside meeting's sprint feature, the Prix Maurice de Gheest, one of nine cross-channel raiders in a field of 19.
The Queen Mary Stakes winner Damson, the best of her age and perhaps of either sex, faces colts for the first time in the year's first juvenile top-level contest, the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh. The daughter of Entrepreneur, unbeaten in three outings, carries the familiar dark- blue colours of Coolmore boss John Magnier but is trained by his son-in-law, David Wachman, rather than Aidan O'Brien. Three from Ballydoyle - Oratorio, Carnegie Hall and Russian Blue - are among her six rivals.
With her regular rider, Jamie Spencer, on Russian Blue, Damson will be partnered by Kieren Fallon. "Meeting colts is a huge challenge," said Wachman, "but if she is beaten we can always go back to running against fillies. She's in good order, though." Last year's winner, One Cool Cat, is now better-known for his defeats than his victories. The colt who was expected to be a Ballydoyle flagbearer this term has one last chance to redeem himself as he drops in class and distance in the six-furlong Phoenix Stakes.
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