Behind every star, there is an entourage, and horses are no exception. But in the case of Snow Fairy, one of the fancied contenders for Saturday's Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, to describe one of her followers as a hanger-on is by no means pejorative in tone. The dual Oaks heroine tends towards exuberant friskiness when she goes out for exercise with her trainer Ed Dunlop's string and has unseated most of those who have sat on her. The exception is Lynsey Hanna, whose sympathetic handling has given a positive direction to the filly's exuberance.
And Dunlop is the first to acknowledge the debt to such back-room talent as Hanna. "A high-spirited horse can be ruined in a minute by the wrong handling," he said yesterday. "It is impossible to stress the importance of the work done by the whole team in any stable."
Hanna, 26, has worked with racehorses since she left school. She rode more than 20 winners in her time as an apprentice jockey with David Barron in Yorkshire before settling for a behind-the-scenes role and has been with Dunlop in Newmarket for six years. And since taking over the stewardship of Snow Fairy during last winter, she has refused to desert her charge for even a day.
"I haven't had a holiday this year," she said cheerfully, "and on my days off, though I'd not work in the yard, I've come in to ride her. I've been in racing for 11 years and I've not had a horse this good and I'm making the most of it."
Hanna's attitude, and the bond she has forged with feisty Snow Fairy, is typical of those who work with horses. "I just love riding her," she said. "In the stable, she's a pleasure to look after. Her favourite thing is eating; she never leaves an oat or any hay and her brown coat comes up like a seal's when it's brushed, just beautiful.
"She not that big, but from on top she never feels as small as she looks, she's got a good shoulder and long stride. She's always thought quite a lot of herself and can be naughty when she's ridden, she'll mess about and throw in a buck or two. But I don't mind; when she does that I know she's in good form and happy. Right now she's bouncing."
The Champion Stakes, the last senior Group One prize of the domestic season, will be Snow Fairy's second try against colts, following her creditable fourth in last month's St Leger, and the drop in trip to Saturday's stiff 10 furlongs will suit her well. "Three out at Doncaster there was only one winner," said Dunlop, "She was cantering all over them. Then her stamina ran out and it was only her guts that let her finish as close as she did."
Snow Fairy's rivals on Saturday will include last year's winner Twice Over, the favourite from Henry Cecil's yard, French raiders Vision D'Etat and Fuisse, and supplemented Godolphin candidate Poet's Voice. Yesterday 15 were left in the £350,000 race, with the field due to be finalised on Thursday.
However Snow Fairy – who carries the colours of her breeder Cristina Patino – fares, this country's most prestigious autumn contest is but a stepping stone to a far more lucrative target next month, when faithful Hanna will escort her to Japan for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Kyoto. The first prize is nearly £700,000, which would be doubled if she, as an Oaks winner, won it.
Sue Montgomery's Nap
Danadana (3.10 Leicester)
Made an eyecatching debut in fifth at Wolverhampton last month and can follow the example of two of those who finished in front of him by following up with a victory.
Super Sleuth (4.40 Leicester)
Still a maiden, but has been highly tried and is relatively lightly raced. Comes off a break, but drops in class and will have the ground that should suit.
One to Watch
Brother Bob (C E Longsdon) did best of the debutants when third in a novice hurdle at Huntingdon earlier in the month.
Where the Money's Going
Red Cadeaux has been cut from 12-1 to 10-1 third favourite by the sponsors for Saturday's Totesport Cesarewitch at Newmarket.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Swincombe Rock (3.50 Huntingdon)