Racing: Troubled Winston mines Lincoln Gold

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The Independent Online

Redemption comes in a variety of guises. For troubled jockey Robert Winston, he may just have taken his future in both hands as he gathered his reins two furlongs from the line here yesterday and kicked his mount Stream Of Gold clear to win the 146th Lincoln Handicap.

Redemption comes in a variety of guises. For troubled jockey Robert Winston, he may just have taken his future in both hands as he gathered his reins two furlongs from the line here yesterday and kicked his mount Stream Of Gold clear to win the 146th Lincoln Handicap. In racing terms, the three-length margin of success provided a thoroughly classy performance, a very easy victory in the season's first competitive handicap by a horse clearly destined for better things.

For the man, there is the hope that the moment may have been similarly seminal. Winston, 25, is one of a clutch of riders currently on bail as part of a long-running police investigation into race-fixing, accusations he has always strenuously denied. His has also been one of the names in the frame to fill Kieren Fallon's boots as stable jockey to Sir Michael Stoute. Yesterday was his first significant booking by the master of Freemason Lodge, the Newmarket stable that houses one of Europe's most powerful strings, and he did his cause no harm at all. After Cardinal Venture and New Seeker led through the early exchanges on the stand side of the £100,000 contest down the straight mile, and Resplendent One and Divine Gift dominated proceedings on the far side, the result was never in doubt once Winston sent Stream Of Gold, the 5-1 favourite, about his business. New Seeker plugged on for second place, a length ahead of Common World, with Resplendent One fourth.

It was Stoute's first success, at the sixth attempt, in the first leg of the Spring Double, though he was not present to witness it. Supervision of his Classic contenders on Newmarket Heath during the morning took precedence over a trip up the A1 to a sunny Town Moor. Stream Of Gold, a lightly-raced, unexposed four-year-old brother to high-class Spectrum, runs in the famous pale blue colours of the Weinstock family and current expectations are that he will, in time, prove a cut above the company he left struggling in his wake yesterday. "It would be nice if he could emulate his brother by winning the Champion Stakes," said his owners' racing manager Peter Reynolds yesterday, only half in jest.

Winston's road from his Irish roots, where he honed his early skills by racing gypsy ponies round burnt-out cars in the rough Dublin suburb of Finglas, to the threshold of glory has not been long, in career terms, but has been rocky. Before his most recent brush with the law, there was an unwelcome flirtation with alcohol and the career of the champion apprentice of 1999 was in the balance. Then, as now, it was Stoute who proved an anchor.

"Eighteen months ago I was letting things slip," said Winston. "Sir Michael had booked me to ride a horse of the Queen's at Nottingham and there was some unwelcome publicity over my behaviour. But he stood by me. All he said at first was to make sure I turned up sober. And the horse won. And later, he took me aside and gave me a talking to. He told me I was talented, but I had to respect that talent."

Winston advertised his attributes in the autumn, when he made the most of a chance ride on Brian Meehan-trained Magical Romance in the Cheveley Park Stakes to win his first Group One race. Though Yorkshire-based, he has been riding out for Stoute, on a voluntary basis, through the winter. "I've kept my head down and am putting the work in, and I hope that the rewards will come," he said. "I love riding so much, it is almost a hobby for me to do it. I knew this was a good horse I was on today and to win was important to me. And I have to admit, I said a prayer for the Pope on the way to the post."

Thirty-seven years ago, the Lincoln was a turning point for another young man. In 1968 Barry Hills, then a senior stable lad, landed such a monster punt on Frankincense, trained by his boss John Oxley, that he was ultimately able to start his own business. Yesterday, back at the scene of his life-changing day, he celebrated his 68th birthday by winning the Cammidge Trophy with La Cucaracha.

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