Racing: Oughton returns to Ascot with faith in Hope

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The Independent Online

Never mind Federico Tesio, the 17th Lord Derby and the old Aga Khan. The man who has arguably done most towards the development of the thoroughbred is Frank Whittle. The jet engine is the phenomenon that has revolutionised the sport, made it the global village it is today. Once it became possible to transport horses over long distances easily, intercontinental competition and cross-breeding became the norm.

Never mind Federico Tesio, the 17th Lord Derby and the old Aga Khan. The man who has arguably done most towards the development of the thoroughbred is Frank Whittle. The jet engine is the phenomenon that has revolutionised the sport, made it the global village it is today. Once it became possible to transport horses over long distances easily, intercontinental competition and cross-breeding became the norm.

Next week at Royal Ascot, there will be challenges from Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and possibly Australia, in addition to the more commonplace invasion from France, Ireland, Italy and Germany. The meeting will be the most cosmopolitan ever staged in Europe.

For David Oughton, the Englishman abroad, it is a return to the place he no longer regards as home. Oughton left Findon, Sussex, for Hong Kong 17 years ago and is now one of the former colony's leading trainers. He has brought two high-class horses to next week's extravaganza, Cape Of Good Hope for the King's Stand Stakes and Bowman's Crossing for the Queen Anne Stakes. They will be his first runners at the meeting since the outsider Running Flush finished unplaced in the 1986 Royal Hunt Cup.

Both horses are back near Oughton's old stamping ground, lodging for the past week with Amanda Perrett at Pulborough. "I went to Hong Kong for the challenge," said Oughton, 49, yesterday. "I was young enough to make the move. It took a while to get used to it - circuit training is very different from the Downs - but I certainly have no plans to come back."

Cape Of Good Hope, a six-year-old son of Inchinor, would be Hong Kong's champion sprinter but for the presence of local superstar Silent Witness, by whom he has been beaten in Group One contests on his three most recent runs. The chestnut is entered in the Golden Jubilee Stakes on Saturday week, but only as a precaution. He will not be asked to "do a Choisir" and win both prestige contests. "The plan is to run him just in the King's Stand Stakes," Oughton said, "and then if he acquits himself well, take him on to Newmarket for the July Cup. I think six furlongs is probably his best trip, but Ascot is a stiff five so it should suit. It's difficult to assess the sprinters in Britain, but he's shown good form against horses like Nuclear Debate and The Trader when they came to Hong Kong."

The five-year-old Bowman's Crossing finished third in the International Cup at Kranji last month. "He's probably unlucky not to have won a decent race," Oughton said, "but he'll be in at the deep end next week. I'm looking forward immensely to the meeting but I cannot emphasise enough the spirit of the owners to be involved. No disrespect to British racing, but we race for the same sort of prize-money as Royal Ascot every day. The horses are here just for the prestige."

The purse for the Chairman's Sprint at Sha Tin in April, in which Cape Of Good Hope earned £71,000 for finishing second, was £325,000. The prize fund for the King's Stand Stakes is £140,000. The total prize-money available at European racing's summer showpiece is £3,215,000.

With the Australian speedster Exceed And Excel under a cloud in Newmarket, there may be no successor to last year's wizard from Oz, Choisir. But the star Japanese stayer Ingrandire is up for the Gold Cup, and Lydgate will add a California dream to the mix in the King's Stand.

The whole of the Royal meeting will be shown live on attheraces, the dedicated racing channel which resumes broadcasting tomorrow. Douglas Erskine-Crum, the Ascot chief executive, yesterday revealed his track, one of the heavyweights in the scrap for media rights, had weighed in with attheraces rather than its rival broadcaster UK Racing, albeit in a temporary agreement.

* Ei Ei, winner of 15 of his 62 races, was killed yesterday in a fall at Market Rasen, just across the road from the stables of his trainer, Michael Chapman. Ei Ei was 25 lengths clear when he came down at the final hurdle.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

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