Miura pursues dream to Turf's HQ
Japanese riding sensation tackles Newmarket's testing terrain on educational visit
Friday 18 September 2009
Couple the Japanese addiction to cameras and celebrity and even the spacious winner's enclosure at Newmarket could turn into something of a black hole this afternoon. Japan's latest sporting pin-up boy Kosei Miura, whose shooting-star talent in the saddle has earned him fame, fortune and a fanatical, Beckhamesque following back home, has his first ride on the historic Suffolk heath when he partners Dever Dream in today's opener.
Miura, 19, has had a licence to ride for barely 18 months. Last year he scored 91 victories, consigning the subsequent multiple champion Yutaka Take's 22-year-old rookie-season record of 69 – widely regarded as unbeatable – summarily to history. The teenager's floppy-haired good looks have every young female heart in Japan aflutter; his rumoured romantic relationship with one of his country's film idols has gossip columns and websites in a frenzy.
He is in Britain for three weeks to further his professional education – starting with the culture shock of sharing fried eggs, mucking-out duties and the dormitory accommodation with staff at Sir Mark Prescott's Heath House Stables in Newmarket – and improve his English, his sport's lingua franca. He duly won on his first ride, Royal Diamond at Ffos Las six days ago, sending the Japanese media pack who have been tracking his every move into overdrive.
Miura added another minor success for Prescott at Redcar, on Kind Heart, two days later, looking polished in the process. Today, though, will be the toughest test to date; more experienced men than he have been flummoxed by Newmarket's wide, historic' windswept acres, with their deceptive dead-straight final 10 furlongs.
Coming from a richly endowed regime, one thing he will find familiar, though, is some of the prize-money at the track this afternoon; the 3.40, in which he rides well-fancied Jira for Clive Brittain, carries a purse of £250,000. At the age of 75, Brittain is the town's senior trainer but is also one of the least hidebound in his views and is happy to give youth, however inexperienced and even with a big pot at stake, a chance. "Kosei has been in and ridden work for us," he said, "and he is a very talented young man and it's nice to have him on our side. Jira's form gives her a bit of a shout and he certainly won't be tripping her up."
This afternoon's six-furlong feature is one of the valuable bloodstock sales-promoting contests now ubiquitous in the calendar; this one is confined to graduates of the local auction house Tattersalls' premier fixture last year and, considering the money on offer, which runs down to ninth, a field of just 12 must be considered disappointing, if not downright mystifying. Brittain, who also fields Iptkaar, is not the only trainer to spy an earnings opportunity; Middleham-based Mark Johnson sends three to the fray.
Today's sport at the three principal meetings is rather an amuse-gueule ahead of what is thought better fare tomorrow, but some dishes may prove no less tasty. The Haynes, Hanson & Clark Conditions Stakes at Newbury has produced more high-class horses than tomorrow's Group Two Mill Reef Stakes, notably Shergar, Sharastani, Rainbow Quest, Unfuwain, King's Theatre, Henbit, Nayef and, three years ago, Authorized. Among those thought most likely today to have the potential to follow in such distinguished middle-distance hoofprints are Ameer, by Monsun from a top German family, and the Dubawi colt Shaayeq, related to Ibn Bey.
The preceding contest, the rather grandiosely titled Dubai Duty Free Arc Trial, features a filly who has already won a Classic, last year's Oaks heroine Look Here. The decision to keep her in training at four seemed justified when she went down by inches in the Coronation Cup but she must now put a dull effort in the King George behind her.
Back at Newmarket, another juvenile contest with a fine record in signposting future talent is the mile fillies' maiden, won three years ago by subsequent Oaks winner Light Shift and 12 months ago by Midday, beaten a head at Epsom. This afternoon Henry Cecil, trainer of both, introduces Timepiece, young sibling to the talented pair Passage of Time and Father Time.
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Suited And Booted (2.00 Newmarket) After three runs over seven furlongs, the drop back to six should suit. Last time out he was six lengths clear of the third horse when giving best to a well-regarded odds-on shot only in the closing stages.
Mellifera (7.20 Wolverhampton) Did not have the best of passages last time when fifth in a decent maiden (the runner-up subsequently took second in a Group Two contest) and now making her handicap debut.
One to watch
Sandy Shaw (John Hills) was doing all her best work at the finish at Ffos Las on Sunday, building on the promise of her first two runs. She already deserves a prize for nomenclature, being by Footstepsinthesand out of Suzie Wong.
Where the money's going
Redford is now jostling for favouritism at 7-1 for tomorrow's Ayr Gold Cup after securing a high draw of 26, perceived as favourable, for the six-furlong dash.
Chris McGrath's nap
Rasaman (4.05 Ayr).
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