Walter Swinburn will be kicking himself with his flip-flops after winning yesterday's John Smith's Cup at York with Fairmile, yet letting the opportunity of maximising the publicity slip away by being on holiday in Spain. Swinburn, a trainer only since 2004, is the public face of one of the best organised, most businesslike stables in Britain and terrestrially-televised, Saturday afternoon successes in £150,000 races are perfect for converting more owners to the cause.
That Fairmile was ridden by the 17-year-old apprentice Adam Kirby would have deftly reminded those deficient of memory or historical knowledge that among Swinburn's many achievements as a jockey, partnering the first of his three Derby winners as a teenager aboard Shergar in 1981 was his most notable moment.
The connection with Swinburn's great days in the saddle remains one of the stable's selling points, although a (now out of date) offer on the Hertfordshire stable's website to refund the full purchase price of any horse bought through them if England won the World Cup will have attracted some with misplaced faith.
Yesterday, though was all about Kirby's cool in his biggest test to date on a horse that, like many from the stable, was heavily backed and plunged from 10-1 in the morning to 6-1 joint-favourite at the off.
Peter Harris, Swinburn's father-in-law, the stable's former licence holder and now the assistant trainer, said: "Fairmile was given a great ride and Adam was wise to come up the outside because in a big field it is quite risky trying to get a run. It's an important success for Walter."
Fairmile, a son of Spectrum, found a tremendous turn of foot to take up the running inside the final furlong. He bounded three-quarters of a length clear of Nick Littmoden's Bravo Maestro, who stayed on strongly to take second. Boo belied his 50-1 starting price by grabbing third, a half-length away, with Gerard Butler's strong-finishing Forgery (8-1) having to settle for fourth.
"I didn't want to go the brave man's route and get stuck on the inner," the teenage jockey said. "I followed Eddie Ahern [on Great Plains] through on the outside and I just wanted to get a clear run at it. It's great to ride a good horse like this. He's gutsy, and turning in I was confident."
Kevin Darley, one of the most senior figures in the weighing room, had even more responsibility in riding the best-backed horse of the day, Linas Selection, in the John Smith's Extra Smooth Silver Cup. Backed from 11-8 to 8-11, Mark Johnston's charge enhanced his growing reputation as one of the season's leading staying three-year-olds with a smooth victory against older horses and has the Great Voltigeur Stakes as a possible target before consideration is given to a tilt at the St Leger, which is this year also to be run at York.
"He's in the Leger but he's just won a Listed handicap," Johnston said. "He's got to step up into Pattern company first."
Kieren Fallon, who demonstrated with a Group-race win for André Fabre at Longchamp on Friday night that his skills have not been dimmed by off-course travails, partners Alexandrova in today's Irish Oaks at the Curragh. Described by the filly's owner, John Magnier, as the man he would name to take Ireland's fifth penalty at the World Cup, Fallon has what many would regard as the racing equivalent of a penalty kick on the odds-on favourite who was so impressive in the Oaks at Epsom. It would be no surprise, though, if Fallon endured the Frank Lampard experience as Scottish Stage, trained by his old team-mate Sir Michael Stoute, is improving fast enough to shade victory.
Another leading rider, Darryll Holland, will be out of action for several weeks after confirmation yesterday that he broke his wrist in a fall at York on Friday. The injury came when Holland tumbled from Blackheath coming on to the track before the Fit As a Butcher's Dog Handicap.
BETS OF THE DAY
Pianoforte (Haydock 5.00) has tumbled to an attractive handicap mark and proved it in style at Ripon on Monday.
Shes Minnie (Haydock 3.50) has been second in all of her last three turf races and has not yet gone off the boil.