Racing: Prize Giving puts on a pique performance

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The Independent Online
If you want to frighten the children, there are few mechanisms more successful than taking them racing when Prize Giving is among the cast list.

Geoff Wragg has had his share of savage animals in the past - the stayer Arcadian Heights used to enjoy sinking his teeth into the flesh of man and beast alike - and he now trains a worthy successor to the line of dragons at Abington Place.

Prize Giving runs with his head menacingly in the air and lays his ears flat in the attack posture when confronted. He does not enjoy much input from his jockeys. "You daren't move too much on him because he growls," Michael Hills, his regular rider, reports. "He's saying 'leave me alone, it's me that's doing all the work'.''

This combativeness, though, does not detract from the chestnut's effectiveness on the racecourse. Yesterday he collected the Dee Stakes at the Roodeye, a race which Wragg and Hills have farmed in recent years with the victories of Beneficial and Pentire.

Prize Giving, apparently, compares well with those that have gone before him. "He's as good as the others at this stage," Hills said. "He's quite awkward and you have to be careful on him because he's quite an angry horse. To the eye he looks as though he's not really trying, but he actually gives you everything.

"It was a good gallop all the way today and I think it will turn out to be a good race.''

Prize Giving would not be without a chance in the Derby but for one small point. He is not in it. Wragg may still regret the omission of Pentire from last season's Blue Riband, but he is probably correct about his stablemate. "He's a nice horse and he'll win lots of races but I don't think he's Classic material," the trainer said.

Wragg, incidentally, is no great advocate of the proposed wild card system which would allow a single horse into the Derby at a late stage. "It's a stupid idea because you could have three or four horses who are capable of being given the wild card," he said. "They should have a supplementary entry 10 days before the race for pounds 50,000.''

Prize Giving may well now take the Pentire route and contest Goodwood's Predominate Stakes before following the top hats to Royal Ascot.

The Hardwicke Stakes at the Berkshire course is now the target for Oscar Schindler, yesterday's winner of the Ormonde Stakes, named after the great horse of the 19th century. In 1886 Ormonde won the Triple Crown and just about every race worth having and a measure of his superiority can be gauged from the fact that he started at 1-100 for that year's Champion Stakes.

Oscar Schindler may never be that overpowering, but good prizes appear within his compass now that his fortunes have changed. "He was a good horse from the word go but he hasn't been the luckiest in the world," Kevin Prendergast, the colt's trainer, said. "He should have won the Irish Derby. He's got an awful lot of ability and a great cruising speed.''

The Prendergasts seem to be have been saddling winners here since the crowd was composed of centurions and Kevin's success in the Ormonde added to the three of his father, Paddy snr. Kevin himself is pretty senior these days at 63, and has to go back though a few scrapbooks to locate his first Chester winner, Hulahul in 1964.

It seems almost that long ago when Alhaarth was last winning races, and there was little encouragement yesterday for those who still harbour thoughts that he will change his season round in the Derby.

"It may be that he was racing on the worst ground in the [2,000] Guineas, but what I didn't like was the last furlong when the other three were going away," Angus Gold, the racing manager to the colt's owner, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, said.

"He wouldn't have won in another mile, never mind half a mile and you couldn't say he looked like winning a Derby on that. To me he showed no speed, and what speed we've seen out of him was last year.''

The champion two-year-old of 1995 may pull himself together if informed about the fate of another celebrated animal. Ormonde himself was exported to the Americas after winning all 15 of his races, but the locals did not take too kindly to the revelation that he was impotent. They destroyed him.

Results, page 24

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