reports from Town Moor
There are times after a big race when the winners' enclosure would feel like a Savile Row tailor's shop, were it not for the fact that the men in the smart suits exude even less charisma than the average mannequin. The aftermath of the Portland Handicap here yesterday was most definitely not one of them.
Refreshingly oblivious to either fashion or co-ordination - vertical striped shirt, diagonals on his tie and a brown leather jacket straight from the Seventies - Brian Mitten leaned back on the paddock rail and reflected on the achievement of his colt Hello Mister, who had just become the first horse since 1936 to win consecutive runnings of the Portland. Win, in fact, is something of an understatement. From almost last place with two furlongs to run, Hello Mister came with a blistering run down the centre of the track, and at the post his lead was three and a half lengths and rising.
Mitten spends most of his waking hours compiling a private handicap and then backing his opinions. Hello Mister undoubtedly won him a considerable sum yesterday, but his first thoughts were for Pat McCabe, his apprentice jockey, and Jack O'Donoghue, who even in his 89th year still trains the colt with great skill.
"Believe it or not, Jack's still fit enough to go out there and kick people's backsides," Mitten said. "And there's not a single senior jockey who has won on this horse. He needs to be ridden just right, and fortunately I found the right person to ride him in the right way." Twelve months ago, Mitten said that he expected O'Donoghue to celebrate with a fish supper. "This time," he added, "it'll be double fish and chips."
It was a hugely popular victory - Hello Mister was, after all, the 7- 1 favourite - but further down the field a more famous name than McCabe had rather less to celebrate. The stewards decided that Lanfranco Dettori, on Jayanpee, was guilty of irresponsible riding when bumping Lord High Admiral and Michael Roberts two furlongs out. Since Lord High Admiral was dropping away swiftly at the time, and Jayanpee too had no chance of finding a place in the first half-dozen, the decision seemed harsh. None the less, Dettori will now miss five days' employment from 15-20 September (17 September, a Sunday, does not count), which rules him out of Ayr's Western meeting and a valuable card at Newbury.
Just what those meetings will miss was vividly displayed earlier in the day. In the Mallard Handicap, Dettori rode a perfect race from the front on Grey Shot, keeping enough back to hold the desperate late challenge of Saleel. Seventy minutes later, riding Noble Rose in the Park Hill Stakes, he cruised up to the pacemakers, went for home with two to run, and then did well to keep Luca Cumani's filly up to her work to repel assaults by Misbelief and Saxon Maid.
Somewhat frustratingly, Noble Rose never finds her form until the season is approaching its dog-end. "It's very strange," Cumani said. "She hates cold weather and she normally keeps her winter coat all the way up until Royal Ascot, and doesn't shed it until she's 100 per cent sure it's going to stay warm."
Nowadays, of course, there is an obvious answer to such problems, and Cumani will recommend to Sheikh Mohammed, her owner, that Noble Rose joins the Godolphin organisation's exodus to Dubai this winter. If only all employers could be equally understanding.Reuse content