Chris McGrath: Fleet-of-foot Spirit outdoes Blast
Saturday 11 July 2009
If racing sometimes seems self-absorbed, then that is only because it is so perfectly self-contained. For much of the time, in fact, it seems as though some secret, enchanted garden is immured against the mad, bad world beyond.
When the Racing Post pictured the blazing World Trade Centre on its front page, the morning after 9/11, it was akin to propping a ladder against the wall and peering in bewilderment at the things people get up to out there.
For we have an entire moral and emotional spectrum of our own. Yesterday, in the course of one afternoon, we contemplated epic resilience, generosity, euphoria, anti-climax and villainy. Not to mention the fastest horse in the world.
Well, that was the idea, anyway. For one reason or another, Scenic Blast sagged wanly in the Darley July Cup, which was instead won by the filly he had whipped at Royal Ascot last month. The Australian speedball was palpably not himself, running on the spot through the second half of the race. So you see, you don't have to leave the garden, and deal with human beings, to know how it feels to be let down.
Fleeting Spirit was alert to her opportunity, tracking the pace under Tom Queally before making a decisive move over a furlong out. Once she got to the front, she began swaying to and fro, in the process hampering Main Aim, who was beaten a little over a length, and King's Apostle. The stewards spent a few tense minutes pondering these tangles before resolving to let the result stand. Main Aim's trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, felt that he had taken "a heck of a bump" and seemed disappointed with the stewards' verdict.
J J The Jet Plane had meanwhile ensured some involvement for the Southern Hemisphere by keeping on for third, followed by Paco Boy, who had been set rather a lot to do for a horse dropping in trip. Jimmy Fortune, his jockey, felt that he could not gather his stride until he met the rising ground. Scenic Blast trailed in 10th, his jockey reporting that he already knew he was in trouble at halfway.
There was a remarkable symmetry here with Queally's maiden Group One success, on Art Connoisseur in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Ascot last month. He only picked up that ride because Jamie Spencer was suspended, and Hayley Turner prohibited from riding for a year after suffering head injuries in a gallops fall in January. This time Spencer was back to replace him on Art Connoisseur, who finished tailed off, but Queally was able to pick up the mount on Fleeting Spirit after Ryan Moore was claimed to ride Main Aim.
Jeremy Noseda, the winning trainer, felt that Queally might have committed too soon, and that Fleeting Spirit was idling in front. "If she hadn't jinked in front I think she would have won by three lengths," he said. "She was the winner on merit, and these days the stewards are reluctant to demote those. Big thanks must go to Sean Murphy, who rides her work at home. When he rode her 10 days ago he said she had come on a huge amount for her run at Royal Ascot."
Be that as it may, the fact that she could win must have made Scenic Blast's tame effort all the more dispiriting for his enthusiastic connections. Noseda, however, was sparing in his pity. "It's good to send the Australians home packing!" he said. "I am all for international runners in these races but I don't think they should be subsidised when they come over. They should compete on equal terms."
That is hardly a sensation familiar to John Ryan, who only has 10 horses in his care but saddled one of them, Silver Grecian, to win his first Group race in the Meydan Superlative Stakes. Now unbeaten in three starts, the colt quickened impressively through a congested field – including the Ballydoyle raider, Emperor Claudius, whose jockey, Johnny Murtagh, picked up yet another suspension for careless riding.
Disturbing as they are, Murtagh's disciplinary problems pale compared with those facing Karl Burke, a trainer enjoying the best season of his career but tensely awaiting the outcome of a protracted inquiry into his role in the events that preoccupied the nonsensical "race-fixing" trial at the Old Bailey in 2007. Burke was not among those who had to clear his name there – unlike Fergal Lynch, whose subsequent, brazen admission of corruption was treated with mysterious indulgence earlier in the week.
The same panel's decision on Burke was expected yesterday, but he must now endure another weekend of uncertainty.
It has been a curious week for the regulators. On Thursday night a medical review panel upheld Turner's appeal against her enforced exile, and she promptly resurfaced at Ascot yesterday. Her ecstasy was very nearly compounded, moreover, when her comeback ride was foiled only in a photo.
After this brief postponement, the blossoming of Turner is again going to achieve much for the sport. Her employer, Michael Bell, has a flourishing career of his own – he saddles Sariska, his Oaks winner, in a rematch with Midday at the Curragh tomorrow – and her recent frustrations will doubtless fortify her in a calling full of trials.
In the long history of the riding thoroughbreds, however, few have had the physical and mental resources of Richard Dunwoody, the former champion jump jockey who was warmly saluted by the Newmarket crowd as he completed his famous epic of pedestrianism. As everyone agrees, he must be crazy. But then you should see the guys on the other side of the wall.
Seeking The Buck has the draw to cool Fahey's jets
Two noble institutions share a significant anniversary at York this afternoon. The 50th running of the John Smith's Cup extends the world's oldest sponsorship of any Flat race; while down the road at RAF Linton-on-Ouse they are celebrating 90 years since the foundation of the Flying Training School. They will be marking the occasion with a flypast, and quite right, too.
Richard Fahey will deserve one in his own right if he manages to win the big race for the third year running, and his three candidates will presumably be primed to run for their lives. They meet a couple of progressive types from Newmarket in Riggins, who must prove his stamina, and Kingdom Of Fife, up 9lbs for beating a lesser field last time. Moonquake has an awkward draw, also an issue for Sweet Lightning who looked one to follow on his reappearance. The solid each-way choice is Seeking The Buck (3.10) – well drawn, ill-served by a sprint finish on the all-weather at Lingfield last time, and only 2lbs higher than when winning at the Derby meeting.
Osteopathic Remedy (2.35) has slipped back to a good mark and an unlucky defeat at Newcastle last time suggests that he is poised to take advantage, while Warringah(3.45) can improve past even the exacting standard set by Friston Forest.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Act Of Kalanisi (4.40 Chester) Rattled home in a sprint finish here last time, and though he might ideally prefer a more galloping track, this longer trip will enable him to summon the stamina in his pedigree.
Alsace Lorraine (4.00 Ascot) Very well bred filly, handled with typical patience by James Fanshawe, and rapidly on the upgrade now. Raised 8lbs for winning at Doncaster last time, but that is more than fair, such was the way she settled the issue.
*One to watch
Class Is Class (Sir Michael Stoute) was caught out by a slow pace when making his handicap debut at Newmarket on Thursday. Left with too much to do as the pace finally picked up, he stayed on well for third, despite betraying inexperience, and a stiffer test would seem to guarantee success.
*Where the money's going
Prohibit, who finished strongly for fifth in the Wokingham, is 8-1 from 10-1 with William Hill for the Blue Square Stewards' Cup (Goodwood, 1 August).
Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax
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