Chris McGrath: The late great George sired just one filly. Pray that she does him proud

Inside Track
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The Independent Online

You couldn't make it up. Nor, then, should you try.

Just what are the odds against this happening? Over 30,000 thoroughbreds were foaled in 2007. One was christened My Wife Knows Everything. The other, The Wife Doesn't Know. Last Sunday, they both showed up at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. In the same race. And finished first and second.

The artfully schizophrenic race call, by Larry Collmus, has gone viral on YouTube and this lowly claiming race is reckoned to be giving the American sport a bigger push than the combined careers of Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. Collmus has been interviewed on breakfast television by CBS, and the race replayed across several national networks.

That's the thing about the best stories. They could never be scripted in advance. The people at Racing For Change can try to enhance their reach, but the abiding charm of racing is that you never know what horses – as the fickle agents of fortune – might have in store.

That's why Date With Destiny could be the start of something big. This is the one and only foal produced by George Washington, the virile champion who proved a flop at stud. George Washington was the most charismatic of thoroughbreds. He was wilful, boastful, a physical paragon. Only when it came to asserting his rights, as herd leader, did he disclose his mortal frailty.

His death in the Breeders' Cup Classic – in a ghastly slop at Monmouth Park – was one of the most harrowing moments in modern Turf history. Even then, he seemed able to transcend the tragedy, suggesting himself as the final, unanswerable rebuke to the old culture of US dirt racing, already reeling at the graphic breakdowns of two Triple Crown stars in Barbaro and Eight Belles.

As things have turned out, that battle is a long way from being won. Last week Santa Anita, having introduced a synthetic surface in 2006 to redress such unconscionable stains on the sport's conscience, announced the restoration of dirt racing by Christmas. As ever, then, there is no point scripting a fairy tale when men can view the welfare of these noble animals through a prism of self- interest. On the one side, that might describe the powerful interests vested in the survival of dirt pedigrees; on the other, perhaps, are the unprecedented dividends discovered for our own horses during consecutive Breeders' Cups at Santa Anita.

For now, then, George Washington's one tangible legacy remains this young filly. In giving 320,000 guineas for her as a yearling, it might be argued that Julie Wood got herself a bargain regardless of her ability on the track. As the sole conduit for George Washington's genes, Date With Destiny represented a uniquely precious breeding prospect.

As things have turned out, she seems to have inherited something of her sire's class. Making her debut at Newbury seven weeks ago, she travelled strongly throughout and won readily. Today she seeks to upgrade her value with a Group Three win at Goodwood, though her trainer, Richard Hannon, admits that he has no idea how she will cope with the testing ground. George Washington loved fast ground and his daughter certainly seemed at home with conditions at Newbury.

She is ridden by Pat Dobbs, with Richard Hughes instead going to Newmarket to ride Zebedee, who holds outstanding form claims in one of the valuable series of Tattersalls sales races. Hughes was electrifying on this colt at Goodwood last time, and presumably his daring is viewed as critical in harnessing Zebedee's speed for this, his first start over a sixth furlong.

Races like this could prove critical in Hannon's quest for the trainers' championship, which is determined by prize-money, while Hughes himself is eager to keep making hay in his own title challenge – not least with Ryan Moore nursing that wrist injury. Hughes and Hannon suspend their campaigns tomorrow, however, when they take Memory to the Curragh for the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

She has looked an authentic Group One filly in all three starts to date, and should prove at least as effective over seven furlongs this time. Laughing Lashes showed useful form over course and distance last month, but possibly just lacks Memory's touch of brilliance.

Earlier on the card, incidentally, Lush Lashes makes her return to the fray after losing a foal by Sea The Stars earlier in the year. Presumably she will be having another liaison next year, making a race between Lush Lashes and Laughing Lashes a remote contingency. But there is at least one commentator around who would be equal to the challenge.

It seems safe to say Collmus would far sooner his one immortal call had instead involved Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, respectively America's poster girls for dirt and synthetic tracks, as well as east and west coasts. Rachel Alexandra, having kept her head down this year, finally risks Grade One company tomorrow in the Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga, against four rivals. Zenyatta is expected to put her 18-race unbeaten streak on the line at Hollywood Park on 2 October, before facing her toughest challenge in defence of the Breeders' Cup Classic – this time on dirt at Churchill Downs.

You would like to think that Rachel Alexandra will finally meet her there. Destiny has long seemed to draw them inexorably together. But you know what they say about leading a horse to water. Not even marketing men can make them drink.

Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpSmprqptSk for Collmus's call

Time to free Tote from threat of privatisation

The apocalyptic timbre of recent pronouncements on the state of the racing nation will scarcely be diminished by the first major yearling sales of the European circuit. First at Deauville, then this week at Doncaster, the Maktoums have been conspicuous by their absence – and a corresponding queasiness has infected vendors as they look ahead to bigger auctions at Keeneland and Newmarket.

They may just be keeping their powder dry. But it would do no harm for professionals to be reminded of their debt to the Maktoums, who have protected the breeding industry from the iciest draughts of recession. There must be times when they feel rather taken for granted.

The only way racing can avoid excessive reliance on the Maktoums is to make sure that they get value for their money. Because that will ensure that the top end of the market will also appeal to any investors disposed either to take them on, or fill a void.

In turn, that will require racing to become much smarter in the collection and distribution of funds. For once one of the bookmaking chiefs got it right this week, when William Hill's chief executive announced another fat set of profits. "The Levy is an anachronism, supporting uneconomic racecourses," Ralph Topping said. "It needs a radical solution."

Unfortunately, he then threatened to respond to proposed fixture cuts by increasing the alternatives for punters, with cartoon racing and the like. That's why the Government needs to abandon its larcenous claims to the Tote. At the moment, the interests of punters and racing are being dragged in different directions. Run the right way, the Tote could bring them together, and instead put the pressure on racecourses, bookmakers and betting exchanges. Run the right way, in fact, it could make an anachronism not just of the Levy, but of the bookmakers.

Turf Account: Chris McGrath

Chris McGrath's Nap

Class Is Class (6.40 Windsor)

May have needed the run after a break at Haydock last time, but has shown new focus in a visor this summer and has been comfortable on easier ground, too. Above all, looks an ideal partner for Kieren Fallon with his no-nonsense, organising style.

Next best

Bullet Train (6.10 Windsor)

Lingfield Derby Trial winner was disappointing when last in the Derby and again at Royal Ascot but is said to be working well after his break, and still has very few miles on the clock compared with most of these. Needs to improve on his strict form but seems sure to do so as he matures.

One to watch

Lady Bluesky (A C Whillans)

Represents a yard in good form and suggested herself capable of contributing soon when staying on for fourth at Ayr during the week. A useful mare in bumpers, she has a low Flat rating and just needs a stiffer test of stamina.

Where the money's going

Hurdlers have a good record in the Totesport Cesarewitch and Alan King's Manyriverstocross is in early demand for the old race, cut to 12-1 from 16-1 yesterday by both Paddy Power and William Hill.

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