Racing: Odd ending to Nautical tale

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The Independent Online
IT IS only a few days since the man leading the race for the amateur riders' championship was unmasked as a former professional jockey from America, but anyone on the lookout for a "ringer" at Epsom yesterday would have left disappointed. The biggest race of the amateurs' year, the Moet & Chandon Silver Magnum, was its usual blend of overexcitement and inexperience, and while a few punters will have been congratulating themselves after backing the winner, Nautical Star at 14-1, bafflement was a more widespread emotion.

Take, for instance, the ride which Michael Rosport gave to Night City, the second-favourite at 100-30. Rosport's low-slung posture in the saddle is vaguely reminiscent of Lester Piggott, but when it came to the more important matter of judging the pace, he turned out to have as much class as Leicester Square. Night City set off at roughly the same rate as the five-furlong sprinters who were trying to break the world speed record half an hour earlier, and was utterly exhausted with half of the 12 furlongs still to run.

Then there was the reluctance of the Epsom stewards to inquire into the use of the whip by Patrick Pailhes, a French doctor, on the eventual winner, not least because he seemed to smack Opera Buff, his only challenger through the final quarter mile, squarely on the nose just under two furlongs from home. An unfortunate accident it may have been, but if Pailhes' stick did indeed make contact, it is hardly surprising that Opera Buff then proved very reluctant to quicken when asked to overtake him.

That aside, Pailhes was also walloping Nautical Star with the sort of Gallic gusto which no-one bothers about on the other side of the Channel, but would normally earn a British jockey an instant suspension. Futile though an inquiry would ultimately have been - a few days off is not much of a penalty for a non-professional rider - this was just the sort of inconsistency which drives people mad. Pailhes enjoyed the greatest moment of the life in the saddle, but it was Nautical Star that appeared to pay the price.

A more stirring spectacle was the sprint handicap, in which Repertory failed by just 15 hundredths of a second to lower the track record and claim the unofficial title of the world's fastest horse. Had he been drawn in stall 12, on the rails, rather than number four, he might well have done so, but it took a vital moment or two for Russell Price, his jockey, to tack across to the rail, and the pounds 50,000 bonus on offer for a new record remained unclaimed.

At Ripon, meanwhile, there was a first Listed race victory for Chris Fairhurst, whose Boldly Goes beat horses trained by Paul Cole and Jack Berry to win the Two-Year-Old Trophy.

This race has helped to highlight some very useful horses, not least a year ago when Arkadian Hero beat Land Of Dreams. Both of those have made up into excellent sprinters this year, and both will line up with every chance for the Group One Stanley Leisure Sprint at Haydock this Saturday.

The favourite with the sponsors, though, is Elnadim, the July Cup winner, who ran deplorably behind Lochangel, another probable runner on Saturday, in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York's Ebor meeting. A return to six furlongs could coax Elnadim back to his beat form, but he looks a very short price for a horse who disappointed so badly last time out.