Racing: One Cool Cat uses up another life

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The Independent Online

To the Nunthorpe Stakes winner here yesterday, Bahamian Pirate, the spoils belonged. Everything else went to a beaten horse, the enigmatic Irish colt One Cool Cat. The attention, the analysis, and, once again, the excuses were provoked by a horse reputedly as fast as anything which has flashed up the gallops at Ballydoyle.

To the Nunthorpe Stakes winner here yesterday, Bahamian Pirate, the spoils belonged. Everything else went to a beaten horse, the enigmatic Irish colt One Cool Cat. The attention, the analysis, and, once again, the excuses were provoked by a horse reputedly as fast as anything which has flashed up the gallops at Ballydoyle.

One Cool Cat's enduring problem is that he seems to run faster in trainer Aidan O'Brien's mind and across the tongues of those in his local at McCarthys in Fethard than he ever manages on the racecourse.

There was an undoubted surge from the colt yesterday, one which took him from last to third, but when the tents were cleared last night and the Ebor caravans pulled out, the bald truth was that One Cool Cat had finished behind Bahamian Pirate, a nine-year-old winning a first Group One race on his 68th run. There was, it seems, just enough to ensure we can turn another page in the One Cool Cat fable. "He was finishing fast. Another half furlong today and he was there," O'Brien said. "He couldn't have done any more without winning."

There were dark clouds over the Knavesmire yesterday and metaphorically also over Ballydoyle, which has not managed to send out a single Group One winner in Britain this season. O'Brien and the Ballydoyle moneymaster, John Magnier, brooded over the decision about whether to let One Cool Cat take his chance on the chewed ground until the last possible moment.

The horse himself was treated like something you might clean with a feather duster. Pat Keating, the yard's travelling head lad, patted the precious hero gently. O'Brien took a turn on the brush.

Eventually, though, One Cool Cat would have to get his pretty little feet dirty. He was dropped in stone last by Jamie Spencer as Airwave, the only filly in the race, took a rare turn up front. Avonbridge had a shot on the lead, but then Bahamian Pirate's noseband appeared down the far side as The Tatling made his move on the near. They would be separated by a neck, but the focus was on the beast that passed four others in the last 100 yards to finish a length further back.

One Cool Cat, his head slightly to one side, had little nibbles taken out of his momentum as he had to thread his way through rivals. He was heaving on return, almost as much as his trainer. "I don't think the trip itself beat him today," O'Brien said. "It was more the shock of coming back to five furlongs in that bad ground."

O'Brien was hyperventilating, relieved that One Cool Cat had at least showed something. He blames himself for running the horse over a mile twice at the beginning of the season, a distance now recognised as beyond his compass.

"The worry I have is about the trainer making a dog's mess of it," O'Brien said. "I made such a mess of him early and when you mess up with a horse you feel bad. When you see him every day you know you're seeing a different horse. His pace is so much above every other horse's."

O'Brien is not the only Ballydoyle figure under pressure. Jamie Spencer, the young stable jockey, is perhaps the most scrutinised rider in these islands at the moment. As the yard's bluebloods continue to flounder at the top level excuses are sought and Spencer knows that when things go wrong you can hardly fire the horses.

"He ran a good race," the Irishman said. "I couldn't be happier with the horse because in another 100 yards he would have won. When we got in behind there it was like Vietnam for the horse with all the kickback roughed up by three days of racing. He was shellshocked by that. But once he got past halfway he really put it on those last three furlongs. You can imagine what he's like in the mornings.

"I thought I wouldn't get anything like Hawk Wing to ride again, but he's faster. I might never get to ride something like him again." Spencer might be right if he is not careful.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Literatim

(Sandown 3.05)

NB: Scurra

(Ayr 2.55)

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