Racing: Toller's chestnut in good shape for Oaks

If Oaks fancy Hanami was moving as awkwardly as her trainer, those who have backed her to third favouritism for the distaff crown would have cause to worry. Happily, though, the pretty chestnut's progress towards Epsom since her fine fifth in the 1,000 Guineas has been trouble-free.

It is only James Toller who is sporting the sling and strapping, the result of a disagreement with his hack on Newmarket Heath on Monday that resulted in a broken collarbone and slight concussion.

The accident does, however, give him the chance to prove he can train a Classic winner with one hand tied, even if not quite behind his back. In four days he has certainly become quite efficient at coping with the computer, paperwork and coffee-making at his Hamilton Road base, under the constraint.

Toller, 49, is one of life's natural pessimists but even he admits that a flicker has been there almost since day one where Hanami is concerned.

"It's what it's all about, isn't it?" he said yesterday. "Every year you look at your two-year-olds and hope that one of them is going to be special. On paper she was going to be late- maturing but she was one of those few who, right from the start, always did everything - cantering, going in the stalls, all the things they have to learn - so easily and without fuss. I'm used to disappointments and things going wrong and I'm trying not to get too excited. But she's great for morale in the yard."

The Hernando filly's juvenile success in a mile contest at her local course in early November, and her pedigree, spoke of middle-distances. "I trained her dam to win a two-mile handicap," said Toller, "and I couldn't really imagine she'd produce something with pace and gears.

"But early in the spring Hanami did a couple of very good bits of work with Duck Row which confirmed that perhaps I wasn't totally wrong and I was hopeful that she wouldn't disgrace us in the Guineas." Indeed she did not. Starting at 50-1, she had only the four high-class juveniles Russian Rose, Six Perfections, Intercontinental and Soviet Song in front of her and the subsequent Irish Guineas heroine Yesterday behind.

And like a few others, she had a troubled passage up the Rowley Mile. "I told Darryll [Holland] not to use her too much too early," said Toller. "But you can't expect your jockey to control what everyone else does and when two horses collide in front of you there's not much to be done. With a better run she might have been third but on the positive side she ran a good trial for the Oaks without having had too hard a time."

Hanami further warmed up last week for her Epsom experience by going the wrong way down the Rowley Mile from the seven-furlong marker, a trick that Toller learned in his days with Luca Cumani, used to prep 1977 Oaks second and third Freeze The Secret and Vaguely Deb. "Going that way brings in a left-handed bend and quite a downhill stretch," he said. "Hanami coped with it fine. She should cope with the Oaks atmosphere, too; she's quite full of it, but only in a nice, exuberant way."

Victory at Epsom would strike a blow for the so-called little man, for Hanami is home-bred by her owner, a publicity-shy (at this stage) banker currently based in Japan, the first foal from a mare who cost just 5,200 guineas, and Toller trains just 32 at Eve Lodge, his stables since his return to Newmarket three years ago.

His only Group One success to date, the Duke of Devonshire's 50-1 July Cup winner Compton Place, came during a five-year stint at Whitsbury, in Hampshire.

Toller would like more horses, but admits that he may only have himself to blame. "Maybe I don't put enough effort into it," he said, "but I'm a realist where horses are concerned and I don't like bullshitting, and perhaps owners who are taken in by bullshit aren't worth having anyway. Being back in Newmarket, where the facilities and infrastructure are so good, helps, but on the other hand someone looking to place a horse will have heard of M Stoute, not J Toller." A week today, that may well change.

OAKS (Epsom, 6 June) William Hill ante-post odds: 9-4 Yesterday, 7-2 Hi Dubai, 7-1 Hanami & Hammiya*, 12-1 Casual Look, 16-1 Halawanda & Ocean Silk, 20-1 Geminiani, Mezzo Soprano & Waldmark, 33-1 Lady Catherine, L'Ancresse & Summitville, 40-1 Gonfilia, High Praise & Snippets, 66-1 Hearts 'N Minds, 100-1 Inchberry, Moonsprite, Magnificent Bell & Thingmebob. (* needs to be supplemented).

sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor