Not since a Grand National winner had butter rubbed into his hooves to help him act in a snowstorm has a dairy product played such a pivotal role in a major race. By tradition, the connections of the placed horses in the Roodeye's main event receive an immense Cheshire cheese. When Barry Hills's Hickleton finished second in 1970, a piece of the prize was passed to a youthful Williams. 'It captured my imagination,' he said, 'and I've wanted to win the race ever since.'
Williams went on to work for Hills for six years before taking out a licence of his own. In 1983, he was due to saddle the favourite for the Chester Cup, Alpha Omega, but the race was abandoned. As a result of widespread doubts about her enthusiasm, Doyce was rather less popular with the punters yesterday, starting at 14-1, but her trainer was quietly confident.
'She ran some cracking races last season,' Williams said. 'She was a close fifth in the Cesarewitch, and I've always considered her very genuine. I knew she'd handle the turns, and as she was meeting her Cesarewitch opponents on better terms, I couldn't understand why she wasn't favourite.'
If the weights were in Doyce's favour, so too was the rub of the race. Gary Bardwell, her jockey, sat tight on the rail as Welshman cut out the running, and trusted that a gap would open. Welshman made him wait, but a furlong from home Jimmy Quinn's mount drifted right. There could be no doubts about Doyce's appetite for a tussle as she quickened through the narrow opening, and then held off Moidart's late challenge by half a length.
For Bardwell, too, this success was overdue. 'I was booked to ride Old Hubert when he won the race,' the jockey said, 'but the meeting was postponed for a day and I had to go to Salisbury.'
While the finish was gripping, with barely a length covering the first four, punters were casting their eyes back towards Ritto, the favourite, and scratching their heads. Michael Kinane's mount was a long way off the pace until the final lap, and finished seventh without getting into the race. The stewards, commendably, asked Ritto's trainer - Barry Hills, by coincidence - for an explanation, and were satisfied that the colt did not enjoy the fast ground.
Hills enjoyed better fortune in the Cheshire Oaks, sending out Bolas to beat State Crystal, but the race's poor recent record as an Oaks trial will continue since the winner is not entered at Epsom. In fact, it provided more clues about the Derby, since Bolas's rider, Pat Eddery, found time to discuss the leading contenders while waiting to collect his prize.
The champion jockey is not convinced that Mister Baileys, the 2,000 Guineas winner, will stay another four furlongs - 'he runs very free' - and has so far seen only two three-year- old with enough potential for the greatest prize. 'Alriffa (who is not entered) and Broadway Flyer are the only ones I like,' he said. 'When you want Broadway Flyer to go he just goes, and I haven't seen anything else do what he has done.'
Shortly afterwards, as chance would have it, Broadway Flyer contracted sharply in the ante- post market. He is 8-1 from 10-1 with Hills, just one point behind Mister Baileys. If a serious rival does not emerge from next Wednesday's Dante Stakes at York, Broadway Flyer will probably start as favourite on 1 June.
A possible runner in the Dante is John Gosden's Linney Head, winner of the Sandown Classic Trial, but the Prix Hocquart at Longchamp on Sunday is an alternative target. A definite British runner on the same card is Turtle Island, who was forced out of the 2,000 Guineas by fast ground. Peter Chapple-Hyam's colt will contest the French equivalent, the Poule d'Essai des Poulains.Reuse content