Ahern in search for Elusive victory

Talented Irish jockey aims to end flat season on a high at Doncaster on Saturday
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The Independent Online

Those who have tried to keep up with him in the hunting field identify Eddie Ahern as a talent for all seasons. But while he has the nerve and verve of a jump jockey, the neatness of his build and style instead qualify him as one of the top Flat riders of his generation. It would be fitting, anyhow, were the last elite prize of the British Flat season to be won by a man who would have been no less at home in the big steeplechases that will soon dominate the agenda.

Ahern rides Elusive Pimpernel, impressive in both starts to date, in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday. The colt is trained by John Dunlop, whose admiration for the Irishman's talents is echoed in another of the Turf's most seasoned judgements – that of Henry Cecil. Another supporter is Brian Meehan. All in all, a Group One breakthrough for Scarlet Pimpernel on Saturday would be perfectly commensurate with the standing nowadays enjoyed by his rider.

"Riding good horses fills you with confidence," Ahern said yesterday. "And they're easier to ride, anyway. But it's great riding for trainers like those three. They have such an understanding of the game, they all know it inside out, and don't tie you down with instructions. I'm just glad my style of riding seems to suit them. You're talking about some of the legends. And for everything he has been going through [with his health] Henry Cecil is amazing – he's always in good form, always chirpy, every time I go in to ride work. He's a very impressive man."

Elusive Pimpernel began by beating a field saturated with subsequent winners, on the July Course at Newmarket, and then won the Acomb Stakes at York in August. He was flat out at halfway that day, but found top gear inside the final furlong to run down several rivals who have once again gone on to advertise his form in the meantime.

"The York form is very solid," Ahern said. "And the maiden form is good, as well. But Saturday's race looks red hot, with St Nicholas Abbey and Al Zir both looking really impressive juveniles. Apparently my horse is working well, and while he was outpaced at York, they went off way too quick that day. And it was greenness as much as anything. It took him a long time to get organised, but once he did so, and got into a rhythm, he made up a lot of ground and he was going very quickly at the end. The extra furlong is going to suit him really well, and the galloping track as well."

Ahern is looking forward to riding Caracciola in a hugely valuable race in Japan in December – an assignment, as the venerable horse approaches his 13th birthday, that places in perspective even that Royal Ascot success in June. Caracciola is likely to warm up over hurdles, himself being just as comfortable in both codes. For those who like their jumping undiluted, meanwhile, every day brings greater interest – not least with a drop of rain around at last. Yesterday Tataniano made an immaculate debut over fences at Exeter and, following Sizing Europe at Punchestown last Thursday, became the second star novice in a week to be nominated for the race sponsored by The Independent at Cheltenham on 15 November.

Paul Nicholls, his trainer, was relieved to see the 1-5 favourite outclass a small field, coasting home by a distance under Ruby Walsh. "We can now have a go at the other good ones," he said. "He has done it well, but has a long way to go to prove it at the next level. He has only been in the indoor school at home, so that is his first time jumping fences on grass, and his first piece of fast work. It was a perfect introduction, and he couldn't have made a better start."

Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Ballydub, rated no less highly by Philip Hobbs but beaten already when putting in one poor jump too many, at the second last, later on the card. Nicholls, meanwhile, is already swinging along. The champion trainer had already saddled a French import, Rebel Du Maquis, to win a novice hurdle by 17 lengths and today starts another top chasing recruit, Pride Of Dulcote, at Worcester.

Turf account: Chris McGrath

Nap

Bauhaus (4.50 Worcester) Seemed to make immediate improvement for his new stable after changing hands 18 months ago, and made a promising resumption after a long absence at Gowran the other day, going best before tiring. Should come on for that and take care of some exposed rivals.

Next best

Maristar (2.40 Southwell) Disappointing that she failed to build on her promising debut at Lingfield last time, but worth another chance now that she switches to the deeper surface here – she has some top-class American dirt genes in her pedigree.

One to watch

Cloone Stream (C F Swan) is an unexposed hurdler over 3m, having looked unlucky on his first attempt at the trip, and stayed on powerfully up the hill when dropped back in distance at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Where the money's going

Coordinated Cut is 6-1 from 7-1 with Coral for the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday.

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