Racing: Strategic aim keeps Ahern on target

For his trainer, Paul Cole, Strategic Prince represents a nostalgic return to the days when his two-year-olds were among the most feared in the land - never more so than when Generous won the Dewhurst Stakes in 1990. For his jockey, in contrast, the same race at Newmarket on Saturday could prove an overdue breakthrough.

In terms of ability, there has never been any doubt that Eddie Ahern belongs in Group One races. No rider on the circuit has better "hands", and few can aspire to the same marriage of balance and strength. He switches his whip like a card sharp. Some, familiar with his devilry in the hunting field and open, amiable disposition, may have wondered whether his application could conceivably match his talent. Yet these should consider his endeavours over the past year or so, and acknowledge that here is a rider, at 26, ripe for elevation far beyond Wolverhampton, where he rode another double yesterday.

Champion apprentice in Ireland, Ahern was brought to Britain in 2002 by Gerard Butler and for two seasons struck up a particularly subtle rapport with Nayyir. He lost that ride when joining Jeremy Noseda, and fully a dozen jockeys since have fallen out with Nayyir. But Ahern's link with Noseda became frayed last summer, not least because of costly suspensions, and they parted company.

Ahern plunged into the freelance jungle. "It was like getting off the plane for the first time," he said yesterday. "I had to start from scratch. I went back to basics: putting in the miles, riding out, building new relationships wherever I could."

His first dividend was the all-weather jockeys' championship, and Ahern has not released the pedal since. Only Ryan Moore and the specialist lightweight, Chris Catlin, have had more mounts in 2006 and his overall tally of winners now stands at 108.

"But while I have found it quite easy getting on good horses, it's harder to stay on them," he said. "Often I will get a chance because a stable jockey is suspended, or at another meeting. I rode Ouija Board in her first race. You always hope that this time things will be different, that you'll keep the ride, but it doesn't often work out."

Strategic Prince condenses that struggle, as well as Ahern's eligibility to win it. He first picked up the ride when Richard Quinn switched to another in the same Salisbury race. After all, the stout bloodlines in his pedigree hardly qualified the colt to win a sprint maiden in the spring.

"It just shows I'm playing a game where you need a lot of luck," Ahern said. "I was taken off him at Royal Ascot and Frankie [Dettori] rode, but the trip was sharp and I was able to get back on."

They have not put a foot wrong since, cutting down Group Two fields at Newmarket and Goodwood, and Ahern approaches their defining assignment with serenity. "When those stalls open, I ride a horse in exactly the same way, whether it's a seller here at Wolverhampton or a Group One race at Newmarket," he said. "I feel no extra pressure. I see some jockeys who ride handier than normal in Group races, because they dare not drop out, but I just ride every horse which ever way gives him the best chance - whatever the race."

Cole has specified that Strategic Prince will not run on soft ground but otherwise the camp is buoyant. "I worked him round Lingfield the other morning, and he showed a nice turn of foot," Ahern said. "He has such a good temperament: nothing bothers him, and he's always half-asleep in the parade ring. And it's the same in his races, he switches off, travels, picks up. I know we only won a neck at Goodwood, but he had got there very easily and had a good look round in front, and when Mick [Kinane] came to me, he went on again."

Ahern's wife, Diane, gave birth to their second son just a week ago. "We called him Niall," he said. "After the river." Clearly, his puckish spirits are equal to the most momentous responsibilities. No less plainly, however, Strategic Prince faces much his stiffest task on Saturday. Aidan O'Brien, reserving the option not to run Holy Roman Emperor so soon after winning at Longchamp, has eight alternatives with which to tackle Teofilo, who beat that colt at the Curragh last month, while the home defence includes Hamoody, like Strategic Prince unseen since impressing at Goodwood.

The other Group One race on a marvellous card is the Emirates Champion Stakes, for which Pride is 7-2 favourite with Coral from Sir Percy on 4-1 and Hurricane Run on 9-2.

* Soviet Song is to retire to the breeding paddocks. The six-year-old won five Group One races and £1,168,370 in prize-money for her owner-breeders, Elite Racing.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Cleaver (Newcastle 5.25)

NB: Barbirolli (Newbury 5.20)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Administrator

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sunroom / Conservatory / Extension Designers

£16000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Assistant

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the count...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence