Racing: Irish find heroes in Coogans

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The Independent Online
ASCOT'S executive might not welcome the comparison, but it was more than just the chill breeze yesterday that put you in mind of a different course and code. As Up And At 'Em was led into the winners' enclosure after capturing the Cornwallis Stakes for Ireland, his connections indulged in the sort of unabashed jubilation that is normally reserved for the Cheltenham Festival, and few bar the gatemen would claim that Ascot's carefully controlled aloofness was not all the better for it.

Up And At 'Em could be called the winner two furlongs out, and the welcoming party afterwards presented a far larger problem than any of his 12 rivals had managed during the race, since Benjy Coogan was greeted by so much kissing and back-slapping upon dismounting that he was in danger of failing to weigh in. His older brother, Jimmy, who trains Up And At 'Em rarely enjoyed such a reception during his own career as a jump jockey, but could now reflect on the achievement of saddling an Ascot winner at the first attempt.

'He'll be back next year for the better sprints,' Coogan said of his juvenile, who showed ability on the gallops from the moment he arrived fresh from the Newmarket Breeze-Up Sales in April. Like another speedy two-year-old, Lyric Fantasy, Up And At 'Em was bought for a relatively paltry sum, in this case 6,400gns, and since his connections received almost three times that just for winning yesterday, it is hardly surprising that they seemed on the brink of staging a full-scale ceilidh on the members' lawn. It would have been quite a sight.

There was more talk of next season after Taos had shown an abrupt turn of foot to take the Autumn Stakes, a race which Nashwan won as a juvenile before going on to take the following year's Derby. The omen was not lost on the bookmakers' reps who were showing 20/1 for Epsom afterwards to anyone who looked gullible enough, but the colt's trainer John Gosden offered only his customary pragmatic mixture of caution and optimism.

'That's him finished for the Derby then,' was his comment when reminded of the precedent, but he went on to point out that Taos 'has the ability to quicken really well, he has shown it in all his races. Whether ante-post punters will get another chance to assess the colt's acceleration is now up to his owner, Sheikh Mohammed, who will have to find a supplementary entry fee if Taos is to contest the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on 24 October.

The owners of Cunning considered a similarly late entry into the field for last Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, but on the evidence of the filly's scrambling success in the Group Three Princess Royal Stakes they were wise to resist the temptation. Cunning looked sure to make her starting price of 8/13 seem almost generous when cantering up to the leaders with two furlongs to run, but the sustained challenge of John Reid on Anna Of Saxony forced Lanfranco Dettori to dig deep indeed on the favourite.

Though she has certainly had enough for this season, it would be rash to asssume on the evidence of one race that Cunning's previously exponential learning curve has suddenly switched into decline. The ground yesterday was the slowest she has encountered, and even now her log book shows just six starts.