Victory at Doncaster yesterday in the domestic Flat season's last feature handicap was probably scant consolation for the loss of a trip to the Breeders' Cup in Santa Anita. But despite having to settle for stark black branches and soggy leaves underfoot in south Yorkshire instead of a backdrop of palms and the San Gabriel mountains in California, Jimmy Fortune handed out a lesson in dignity to those in other sports who so readily flounce at the mere thought of being confined to the bench.
During the week Fortune had been replaced by Frankie Dettori – more experienced on US tracks – on his retaining stable's Dar Re Mi, one of the fancied contenders for last night's Turf event at the $25.5 million meeting. At Doncaster he put that disappointment to one side and gave the filly's John Gosden stablemate Charm School a peach of a ride to take the £95,000 November Handicap.
With the four-year-old travelling strongly towards the closing stages of the 12-furlong contest – but his forward progress blocked by a wall of rivals in front – Fortune resisted the temptation to seek an alternative route, waiting instead for a gap to open. When it did, inside the final furlong, he was through it and away to beat Hillview Boy (11-1) a length and three quarters: "I knew a mile and a half in soft ground would suit him," said Fortune. "It did get tight in front of him, but you have to come from off the pace with him, if you're too handy all the way he won't go."
As to his broken California dreams, he shrugged and said: "Obviously I'm gutted but that's racing. Some you lose, some you win."
Otherwise, the afternoon belonged to Nick Mitchell, who notched the two most significant victories of his brief training career. Firstly, The Listener revelled in the testing conditions at Down Royal to take the JNwine.com Champion Chase under Andrew McNamara and an hour later Ellerslie George, ridden by teenager Robbie Henderson, repelled all comers in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton.
The Listener's success in the Northern Irish three-miler, the first Grade One chase of the season, was only the fourth for Mitchell since leaving his post as assistant to Robert Alner last year and striking out on his own.
His move was clouded by some controversy; not only did it come soon after Alner was incapacitated by injury but The Listener, one of his former boss's best horses, went with him.
But again, here was a man who behaved with decorum in difficult circumstances, which included an apparent loss of form by the talented grey ten-year-old, previously three times a winner at the top level. Yesterday, though, he had his ideal conditions - the opportunity to lead a small field in heavy ground - and, after Notre Pere fell when menacing on the second circuit, he came home in splendid 15-length isolation.
Second spot went to My Will, whose trainer Paul Nicholls found consolation in Herecomesthetruth's defeat of hotshot Forpadydeplaster at Down Royal and an easy seasonal debut success for Champion Hurdle runner-up Celestial Halo at Wincanton.
"I wouldn't still be here training without this horse," said Mitchell of The Listener, "He was never quite right after he had a heavy fall at Leopardstown last Christmas but we've been patient with him."Reuse content