'Brute' Junior ready for Ascot freak show
Tuesday 07 June 2011
A week today, on the opening afternoon of the Royal Ascot meeting, stand by for what seems to be developing as a freak show. First up will be the explosive 2,000 Guineas winner Frankel, a horse who has attracted that particular f-word more than any other this season. And on the same bill is Junior, to whom that and other f-words have been applied for some time.
Junior, despite his name, is no ephemeral young comet but a remarkable veteran of 31 races over five years. Next week he will defend his title in the Ascot Stakes, a classy handicap run over the Gold Cup distance of two and a half miles. And therein lies part of his claim to distinction, for the last time he appeared in public it was to triumph at the Cheltenham Festival.
The eight-year-old's bounding victory in the Kim Muir Chase made him only the eighth horse in a century to have shown the class and versatility to score on both Flat racing and jump racing's greatest stages, a list that includes legends such as Brown Jack and Trelawney.
"That alone would make him a bit of a phenomenon," said Tim Palin, manager of the Middleham Park Racing syndicate whose colours the gelding carries, "but it's more than that. We bought him at an auction sale, and when we first saw him, that was it. He wasn't just walking round, he was strutting round with attitude, this massive brute of a bright chestnut.
"When we got him he was a serial underachiever, considering the talent that the trainers who had previously had him – top men like Brian Meehan and Alan King – knew he had, and he'd been called many things, most of them uncomplimentary.
"He's by the Flat sire Singspiel and he's now one of the long-term favourites for next year's Grand National. And I think that all does make him more than a bit of a freak."
Junior, who cost £35,000 when he went under the hammer 13 months ago, won the Ascot Stakes on his first outing under the care of his current trainer, David Pipe.
"I won't say we were clever, because no one can count themselves clever in this business," said Palin, "but the luckiest decision we made was to send the horse to David. There is no one better than the Nicholashayne team in finding the key to a quirky mind and sweetening a horse.
"For the last year we've seen him do nothing but get better, he's been turned inside out mentally and physically. He'll be top of the weights for sure next week, but if he's made the same improvement on the Flat as over jumps, then I think he'll still be ahead of the handicapper.
"If I was a bookmaker, I'd want him on my side."
* Chris McGrath's Nap
Ryedale Dancer (3.00 Redcar) Stepped up on previous efforts in her handicap debut last month, despite showing signs of inexperience. With only four outings under her girth, she should have scope for further progress for her bang-in-form yard.
* Next best
April Fool (3.20 Salisbury) Is at home in this lowly grade and at this distance, to which he returns after failing to cope with better company and a shorter trip last time.
* One to watch
Nationalism (John Gosden) produced an eyecatching debut at Group level at Epsom on Saturday, just missing third place as he bounded home on his first run for seven months and his first since being gelded.
* Where the money's going
Australian sprinter Hinchinbrook was the punters' Royal Ascot target yesterday, cut from 25-1 to 14-1 by Totesport for the Golden Jubilee Stakes on Saturday week.
Latest in Sport
Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo: Compare the Barcelona and Real Madrid players in El Clasico
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo
Tim Sherwood: The mavericks have always needed special handling – but Balotelli is not delivering his side of the bargain for Liverpool
Manchester United vs Chelsea: Modesty of Louis van Gaal makes nice contrast with his old pupil Jose Mourinho
Real Madrid analysis: Toni Kroos control may give extra edge that enables Real Madrid to retain Champions League crown
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...