Inveterately humble though he is, Aidan O'Brien might just be starting to goad his mentor. Jim Bolger, of course, is entitled to comfort himself that the genius now stretching the boundaries of their calling was first nourished by his own lore. But he may also sense that the time has come to remind his former assistant exactly who was boss.
O'Brien has won three Group One prizes during the last week, taking his score for the season to 16, and needs 10 more during the remainder of the year to beat Bobby Frankel's world record. In the circumstances, Halfway To Heaven could hardly be better named as the filly entrusted with maintaining the stable's momentum in the Blue Square Nassau Stakes at Goodwood today. But Bolger has always held the road to paradise to be long and steep, and Lush Lashes will increase the gradient today.
It seems a long time since Bolger was provocatively suggesting that both Lush Lashes and New Approach would miss Epsom and run at the Curragh instead. In the event, for one reason and another, the reverse applied. And as a result LUSH LASHES (nap 3.15) comes to Goodwood rather fresher than might have been the case.
In fact, she has still made only six starts in her life and has twice suggested herself to be perhaps the most talented filly of her generation – outside France, at any rate. After that rather flat finish over a mile and a half at Epsom, she was dropped right back to a mile to win at Royal Ascot, but this intermediate test looks ideal.
The extra distance may well suit Muthabara, who stayed on late after meeting traffic at Ascot, but Halfway To Heaven's pedigree makes her by no means certain to stay. She had the run of the race when just edging out of a crowd scene in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, and would be a much bigger price if housed anywhere but Ballydoyle.
Goodwood is itself halfway to heaven for those who cherish this week on the Downs as one of the high points of their year. The other big prize on the meeting's final card is the Blue Square Stewards' Cup, for which Prime Defender is favourite after a fine effort in no less a race than the July Cup.
But 16-1 with Totesport against Barney McGrew (next best 3.50) is far more the ticket in a headlong stampede like this. He has long looked the type that needs things to fall right, but that is exactly what might happen here, with the leaders going too fast and setting it up for one that travels and pounces late. All this season, his first with Michael Dods, he has been hinting that his present rating may not do him justice.
Panorama fails to reveal a new view
The irony will have been lost on few at Goodwood this week that they were able to admire the Turf's finest panorama at a time when "Racing's Dirty Secrets" were ostensibly being divulged to the world beyond. The clear inference of the BBC documentary on Wednesday night was that here was a place where "every prospect pleases and only man is vile". In reality, of course, Panorama dealt largely with material that might well have been recorded by Herodotus.
Deservedly, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) emerged from this examination in fair shape. Those who produced the programme, however, surpassed even the usual, grotesque self-importance of television in presuming to give a sinister hue to events already tested by the due processes of law.
The majority of their attention was devoted to the notoriously flimsy "race-fixing" trial that collapsed at the Old Bailey in December. Among the six defendants who walked free that day was Kieren Fallon, the multiple champion jockey whose prosecution was always going to guarantee headlines, one way or another.
Many who attended the trial were scandalised that the police and Crown Prosecution Service could ever have got it into their heads that the "evidence" might support a charge of criminal conspiracy. But the BHA has since been trying to establish whether any licensed individual might have breached its own rules. Its lawyers were already considering every matter raised by Panorama, so far as possible, but the police and CPS had repeatedly denied requests for access to important trial evidence. In the meantime, however, the same sources had proved willing to pass some of the material sought to the BBC.
(Funnily enough, Panorama proved mysteriously reluctant to share the general condemnation of a prosecution that apparently cost the taxpayer over £10m. A coincidence, no doubt.)
As for the fresh material offered by Panorama, such as it was, much was made of an acoustics expert's interpretation of a taped conversation between Miles Rodgers, the man cleared of orchestrating a conspiracy, and Fergal Lynch. The jockey's lawyers have already strongly refuted that Lynch might have betrayed a corrupt relationship with Rodgers.
But nobody seemed to register the significance of another exchange between the same men that was never, certainly so far as this bystander can recall, played to the jury. On an audio probe, planted by police, Rodgers is heard telling Lynch how one of his associates wants to see "KF" – presumed to be Fallon. Now, if anything became obvious from the trial, it was that Rodgers would not be averse to amplifying the provenance of his information. And he is heard fretting to Lynch: "If they go to see KF, he's going to say 'Well, I never had owt to do with that Miles'."
In other words, all along the police had been sitting on evidence that Fallon – as he always told them – never had any witting relationship with Rodgers.
Big Brown back to disprove doubters
Perhaps racing folk should not be surprised if outsiders make cynical assumptions about the sport. After all, it is no more than they do themselves.
As soon as Big Brown had walked over the line in the Belmont Stakes, all but pulled up by his jockey, we started saying he would never be seen again. He would be packed off to stud while some vestigial glory still clung to his CV, which had been immaculate until that point. Yet here he is, resurfacing in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park tomorrow. No convincing explanation ever emerged for the abrupt end of his Triple Crown quest that day, and his connections have shrugged their shoulders and resolved to persevere. That warrants due credit, after all the criticism they endured as their fairytale unravelled – notably over his trainer's use of steroids, and generally arrogant deportment.
Not that they have suddenly become bashful. Michael Iavarone, the owners' managing partner, declared this week that his work suggested him to "be better than the Big Brown leading up to the Kentucky Derby".
Only five rivals dare to test that confidence, and success would probably set Big Brown on course for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga and then, perhaps, the Breeders' Cup Classic itself. Coral make him 4-1 joint-favourite with Curlin, whose connections' strategy remains uncertain, from Henrythenavigator on 9-2.
Ricketts honoured as a true gentleman
As a venerable race, on a gorgeous stage, the Sir Tristram Ricketts Memorial Richmond Stakes was a fitting way to remember a delightful man. But none of the juvenile races this week have yielded a colt likely to disturb the slumbers of Rip Van Winkle's backers, and yesterday's was a case in point, Prolific just thwarting the late finish of Gallagher in what looked suspiciously like a gathering of pure sprinters.
Regardless, the winner's name does due credit to the relentless consistency of his trainer, Richard Hannon, who believes that loose ground contributed to his defeat at Newmarket last month and may now send him to the Gimcrack Stakes at York.
The card also featured a sixth winner of the meeting for Johnny Murtagh in the Coutts Glorious Stakes, Sixties Icon's return to form after a poor run at Ascot reflecting a general trend in his stable. Jeremy Noseda may well target him at the Breeders' Cup Turf, for which William Hill offer 11-1. Blue Square, incidentally, are offering very tempting odds of 6-1 against Duke Of Marmalade.
As for Ricketts, sadly missed since his death last year, it is edifying to remind ourselves that there have always been true gentlemen on the Turf – and not, as some would have you believe, just vagabonds and blackguards.Reuse content