Ascot: Shergar Cup: Green Baze fails to fire
Stewards take firm line with nine-time American champion on his first ride in Britain
It is self-evident that a man with a career total of 10,234 victories – more than any other jockey bar one in the history of the sport – on his CV has an above-average will to win. Yesterday, unfortunately, that very trait provided a less than cordial welcome to Britain for the nine-time US champion Russell Baze. In trying to galvanise an unmotivated sprinter named Mac Gillie Eoin, he fell foul of the stewards here at Ascot and earned a four-day ban on his very first ride in this country.
Even more galling, Baze was not even striving for success, but for three measly points for fifth place in the annual novelty four-cornered international competition that is the Shergar Cup.
His efforts on behalf of the spurious Rest of the World team may now cost him the ride on the star filly Indyanne in a Grade One contest at Saratoga later this month. There would have been a cogent case for the authorities to have merely wagged a discretionary finger at Baze, a stranger and a guest, but instead a heavy hand was clamped to his shoulder.
He must apply to the British authorities by tomorrow to have a day of the suspension deferred if he wishes to ride Indyanne. The California-based rider has been there, seen most – in the States at least – in his 34-year career, and was diplomatic about a punishment that most observers regarded as an unnecessarily pedantic interpretation of the rules, given the occasion.
The horse was not marked by the whip, nor did his trainer have any complaint; on the contrary, he had warned Baze beforehand that considerable stoking would be necessary. "It was a bit of a surprise to be called in," the rider said.
"The horse was responding and I thought they might have given me a warning. But rules are rules, I suppose. Right now we're just racing at the fairground tracks [in America], so if I miss a couple of days it's no big deal. But I'd hate to miss the Grade One." The Dubai Duty Free-sponsored day, a six-race affair with a draw for choice of mounts, is meaningless in the greater scheme of the sport, but jockeys apparently love such fun fixtures.
So, it seems, do racegoers; the crowd of 33,000 was considerably more than that which turned up to see last month's top-level King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. "I used to ride on international days all over the world," said Walter Swinburn, trainer of Sprint winner Shifting Star, "and it's not before time that we have one here now. For the foreign riders, they were a great opportunity to showcase talent. And in truth, most of us would always rather have ridden a winner than been on the winning team."
Neither Baze nor the other five-figure star, Jorge Ricardo – the Brazilian is the all-time world leader on 10,299 winners – did either. The nominal European team of Frenchman Gerald Mosse, the day's top jockey, Turkish star Halis Karatas and Italian Mirco Demuro scored 94 points with the Rest of the World, with Baze, Ricardo and Japanese Yutaka Take on 57.
The weather was foul, but neither it nor the sour start could remove the ever-present genial smile from Baze's face. In alien conditions – it was his first time on a right-hand track – he took the runner-up spots on Al Muheer in the Sprint and Ace Of Hearts in the closing Mile. "In just one afternoon, in the rain and mud, it was difficult for me to make a proper comparison between racing here and in the States, and for the fans to have a proper look at me," he said.
"The ground felt really soft and we wouldn't be racing in conditions like this back home. But it's been a challenge, and a lot of fun. I was just getting the hang of it in the end."
The best finish of the day to thrill the ranks of first-time racegoers who were lured to Ascot by the prospect of a post-sport pop concert (a 1980s timewarp with Bananarama and friends) came when Hayley Turner, the home captain, inched out Mosse in the two-mile Cup.
At Newmarket, a new market leader for next year's 1,000 Guineas emerged through the murk in the petite shape of Rainbow View, six-length winner of the Sweet Solera Stakes.
The daughter of Dynaformer had impressed when taking her debut maiden on the same seven-furlong course last month, and she did so again with her successful step up to Group Three level. And in some fairness to the race stewards, she picked up a one-day ban for her use of the whip.
And in Chicago, there was a European double as Winchester (Dermot Weld) beat Plan (Aidan O'Brien) in the Secretariat Stakes and Spirit One (Philippe Demercastel) scored an all-the-way win from Archipenko (Mike de Kock) and Mount Nelson (O'Brien) in the Arlington Million.
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