Racing: Fanshawe tries a tough course to further the feast

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The Independent Online
MOST OF the trainers in Newmarket can only dream of a 25 per cent strike-rate, but there is one among them who is doing far better even than that. Over the last two weeks, James Fanshawe has a 25 per cent failure rate, with three-quarters of all the horses he has saddled making it into the frame. Fanshawe used to advertise with a drawing of a skeleton - "I'm hungry for winners" was the punchline - but in this form, he risks being damned for gluttony.

Little wonder, then, that when bookies priced up the two big handicaps at Ascot this weekend, horses from the Fanshawe yard were made favourite for both. Family Man, second at Newmarket this month with Grangeville, the Ayr Gold Cup winner, behind him, is an 8-1 chance for the Tote Scoop6 Handicap on Saturday, while Musician, who has won her last four races, is the same price for the 12-furlong Ritz Club Handicap the following day.

"The horses are running really well," Fanshawe said yesterday, "but it's a tough place to win, Ascot. My strike-rate isn't very good there. I never give any pre-race build-up to my horses, but they both seem in good form. Family Man has been consistent all year, his form has worked out well and we're just hoping for a good draw - I'd like to be on the stands side. Musician is well, but you can never tell where fillies are going to go at this time of year."

Quite why his horses have suddenly started winning, no-one can say, Fanshawe included. "We had a really good year last year," he said, "and I just tried to keep everything exactly the same. Even though we had a quiet start, we stuck to our rules and things have come right again. The main thing is not to change. There are many other trainers in Newmarket doing different things, but we've stuck to our guns and it's paying off."

A patient approach may have something to do with it, not least at a time of year when many horses may be feeling the effects of a long campaign. "I try not to bugger them up as two-year-olds," the trainer said. "We try and keep them fresh all the time and make it fun for them. If you've got a nice, scopey sort, it pays off in the long term." And for Fanshawe, the long term suddenly seems to be the here and now.

It has been a difficult season for Pat Eddery, who missed six weeks after a fall in Austria. It could yet end with a flourish, though, since the Irishman was yesterday booked to ride one of the more interesting outsiders in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday week, when a fifth victory in the race would make him the most successful jockey in its history.

Dark Moondancer, who won the St Simon Stakes for Peter Chapple-Hyam last year, is now trained by Alain du Royer-Dupre. He is a 25-1 chance for the Arc, but he has two Group One victories to his name this season, in the Prix Ganay and Gran Premio di Milano, and is proven on the soft ground which seems sure to prevail on the big day.

"The race has been very good to me and I am looking forward to having another crack at it," Eddery said yesterday. "Since Dark Moondancer has gone to France he seems to have thrived. He stays well but he's got speed, too."

When the Arc is on the horizon, the jumpers cannot be far behind, and one of the most durable chasers of recent years makes his seasonal debut at Listowel today. Dorans Pride, third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1997 and 1998 but tailed off in eighth this year, will carry top weight of 12st in the Kerry National, a race he won two years ago. He faces 10 rivals, including the Velka Pardubicka-bound Risk Of Thunder.