Racing: Rajeem win vindicates Brittain's shock tactics
Thursday 13 July 2006
Down in the capital, the end of a blazing afternoon offered no respite to those attempting to deal coolly with the fires of scandal burning on the Turf. At the headquarters of the Horseracing Regulatory Authority, in Shaftesbury Avenue, the panel presiding over Kieren Fallon's appeal against the suspension of his licence was perspiring over its verdict deep into the evening. At its spiritual home, however, it had been a day to restore belief and innocence to the sport.
Only Goodwood surpasses the bucolic qualities of the July Course at Newmarket, where the first day of its biggest meeting had a quality of Eden. Never mind the flowers that bedecked the rustic unsaddling enclosure and parade ring, and the frocks and straw hats. The most rampant bloom of all was on the racecourse itself, where two fillies came gloriously into flower.
Both Sander Camillo and Rajeem prompted such effusion from the men around them that the shadows over their world suddenly seemed trifling. One was ridden by Frankie Dettori, for instance, the Italian tricolour on his cheeks melting into the dimples of his smile, while the other was trained by Clive Brittain, a septuagenarian who finds perennial joy in his vocation.
"The point is that I'm the most fantastic trainer!" Brittain announced happily to the press after Rajeem won the UAE Equestrian & Racing Federation Falmouth Stakes at 50-1. Though he has many times demonstrated the earnest purpose behind what seem to be dreamy entries at Group One level, after 34 years he still catches people by surprise - this time at the expense of Soviet Song and Nannina, both scintillating winners at Royal Ascot last month.
"It was a hot race on a hot day, but she's one hot filly," Brittain said. "She had no run at Ascot last time. In fact, her one bad run was in Germany, when she lost 29 kilos during the journey and ran like a wet doll. It was bad ground and she was devastated.
"It took two months to piece her together again - not just in her body, but in her mind. I had to persuade her that it wouldn't always be like that. People will try to knock the race because I won it with a 50-1 shot and the pace was slow, but I know she's a classy filly."
He is perfectly right, of course: people were knocking the result before her number was on the board. Even as the race unfolded, it had been obvious that the timid gallop would produce a finish shaped more by haste than speed. Under the sort of deft tactical ride that has become so familiar from Kerrin McEvoy, Rajeem gained first run on Nannina and held on by three-quarters of a length, while Soviet Song never managed to get herself involved after being settled at the rear.
Having won the race twice before, indeed, she ended up beating only one home this time, much to her trainer's alarm.
"Last year was a similar sort of race, with no pace, and she really picked up," James Fanshawe said. "Today she didn't. She hasn't given her running, so we'll have to see how she comes out of it."
Immune to the doubts of others, Brittain will plough on to Goodwood for the Vodafone Nassau Stakes. His has certainly been a benign presence in Newmarket over the years, and he is demonstrably not done with yet.
Sooner or later, however, seniority among the town's racing stables will be passed on to the next generation, among which none seems more eligible than Jeremy Noseda.
Noseda impressed once again in the preparation of his team for Royal Ascot, but it now seems that Sander Camillo's success in the Albany Stakes there was only a beginning.
Certainly her five-length success in the Chippenham Lodge Stud Cherry Hinton Stakes yesterday sets a formidable standard for the rest of the juvenile fillies this season, and she is no better than an 8-1 favourite for the 1,000 Guineas next year.
Dettori soon had her in front and it was remarkable to contrast her relentless rhythm with the increasing clumsiness of her pursuers. Noseda found her at a breeze-up sale in Florida but she is no mere precocious monster, for all her professionalism.
"She is far from the finished article," Noseda said. "She is not just a two-year-old. She has wonderful scope. I know she has all that speed, but I am sure she will get a mile. In fact, she could probably get it already. With a bit of luck, she has everything to go the whole way."
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