Racing: Judgement day for the Sangsters

Sue Montgomery says Revoque can spring an evocative victory in first Classic
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The Independent Online
There is probably no one in racing today who has been there, done that, worn the T-shirt more than Robert Sangster. He has won just about every big race, but his competitive instinct remains as sharp as ever. And a victory for Revoque in Saturday's 2,000 Guineas, the first Classic of the season, would bring particular satisfaction.

Not just because Sangster, the ultimate bloodstock businessman, has a substantial stake in the colt's sire Fairy King and owns his dam La Bella Fontana. Or even because he has had a serious punt at rewarding odds. The reasons are more personal. "My son Ben picked him out as a foal and bought him," he said. "He's a terrific judge of a horse - actually much better than me - and I'd be thrilled for him if he could win."

The intriguing story of Revoque typifies Sangster's present role in the world of racing, one he thoroughly enjoys. The days when he spent millions at the yearling sales in the quest for high-class colts to race in his own colours and turn into stallions have gone; he now breeds his own and sells as many as he keeps. He's a trader, with horses his currency.

He has actually bought La Bella Fontana twice in the past eight years. The first time, for 12,000 guineas, she was a prospective mate for Fairy King, but the product of that first union was not much good. After three years the formula was tried again, but by then La Bella Fontana has passed into the ownership of one of Sangster's partners, who in turn sold her the following year for 1,200 guineas to a small Irish breeder.

Meanwhile, Sangster jnr had acquired the second Fairy King colt - Revoque - for 36,000 guineas at auction. And even then it was only because nature intervened that he runs in the famous blue, green and white silks. "He was actually bought to re-sell as a yearling, but he just grew and grew and grew, and was far too big and boat-like to offer," said Sangster. "Just as well, really."

Last year Sangster tracked down La Bella Fontana and brought her back into his 100-strong Swettenham Stud broodmare band. It was at a cost of pounds 80,000 this time, but she is now carrying to Fairy King again, and who knows what that foal might be worth. "I enjoy dealing," said Sangster. "It used to be a matter of which one to buy; now I have to judge which one to sell. The skill is getting the balance right, and sometimes I'm wrong, but trading is fun."

Like most of Sangster's horses, Revoque, last year's champion two-year- old, has a price tag on his head. Bidding would start at $10m, but only after Saturday, as his owner is looking forward to claiming a fourth 2,000 Guineas after Lomond, El Gran Senor and Rodrigo de Triano. "In terms of confidence, I'd say I was more than with Rodrigo and less than with the Senor. The two favourites [Entrepreneur and Shamikh] are unproven at top level. One could be brilliant, but it must be long odds against them both being.

"Mine is the one with the runs on the board. He'll be spot-on after his run at Newbury - he sluiced up in his work since - and whatever the going is he won't mind it. I just can't see them kicking him out of the first three. At the price, he must be a cracking each-way bet."

Whether Sangster's confidence is justified or not, there is no doubt that his enthusiasm is as catching as ever. "Every race brings a different challenge, a different pleasure," he said. "And each win seems better than the last."