In a business built on dreams, it is usually the reality of money that talks loudest. But, not for the first time this season, the little man – or, in this case, woman – is having a say. By winning the Group 3 Dubai International Airport World Trophy at Newbury on Saturday the sprinter Rowe Park staked his claim to a tilt at the Prix de l'Abbaye on Arc day at Longchamp next month. The four-year-old cost his trainer Linda Jewell £1,200 as an unbroken juvenile and less than a year ago had proved incapable of winning a Lingfield seller.
Humbly-bred Rowe Park emerged from the unpromising surroundings of one of the monthly clearance auctions at Ascot. "He was quite an early lot on a dreary sort of morning," said Jewell yesterday. "He wasn't much money and I thought I'd take a chance. He looked far too weak and backward to run at two, but had a good athletic walk to him and was the scopey sort to grow into a nice horse. But I thought it would be as a hurdler. I never dreamt it would be like this."
Since failing in selling company, Rowe Park has won seven of his 12 races and earned nearly £59,000. His first win this year came off a mark of 65 and Saturday's half-length defeat of classy Enticing off 100. His management has not been entirely straightforward, though. "He takes his racing very seriously and he does tend to get wound up travelling and in the preliminaries," said Jewell.
"He's got a great attitude and tries very hard, but it does take it out of him mentally. I think it's important to preserve his enthusiasm and, as he doesn't really enjoy fast ground, we gave him three months off in the summer and consequently he's a fresh horse at the moment.
"We were slightly worried about the ground at Newbury but he pulled out fine this morning. I think he's starting to take his racing a bit better as he's maturing and we travel him with his good friend, a Connemara pony called Archie, which helps him stay calm." Rowe Park would have to be supplemented for France's premier Group 1 sprint, but that is (as Aidan O'Brien might say) a definite possibility. "We had thought that if he maintained his progress we'd be thinking of that sort of target next year," said Jewell. "These sprinters can go on for a long time. But he's so well at the moment, we'll be giving a day out at Longchamp serious thought this time."
Saturday marked Jewell's first Group success, with her first runner at that level, and a rare enough one for the county of Kent which, since the days of Peter Cazalet, responsible for top-class jumpers, and Fred Winter senior, with Flat horses of the calibre of Showdown, has hardly been a training hotbed. But there may be something of a revival taking place. John Best, who has another Abbaye candidate in Nunthorpe Stakes winner Kingsgate Native, is based at Hucking, only five miles from Jewell's yard at Sutton Valance.
The Newbury race was also a first Group success for Liam Keniry, who has ridden Rowe Park since he started winning. "He rides him so well," said Jewell, "and is such a nice, hard-working lad." Rowe Park is the best horse Jewell, 50, has handled since taking out a licence 15 years ago after a grounding in the hunting and point-to-point worlds. She is ably assisted by daughter Karen, whose intention it is to eventually take over the small mixed yard. "We're about 50-50 Flat horses and jumpers," said Jewell, "and if we have 20 horses we're full. We've got only three and a half acres, a little two-and-a-half furlong all-weather circuit for steady work, and a stiff uphill grass gallop. But it just shows, if the horse is good enough, so are the facilities."
The romance of Rowe Park is continued in his ownership. The gelding did his early winning in the colours of Richard Young, then in February was bought by two husbands, Vaughan Ashdown and John Hammond, for their wives Sue and Lesley as a Valentine's present.
When Rowe Park was first broken, such were his unprepossessing looks that he was sarcastically nicknamed Seabiscuit. "He was tricky, we couldn't clip him and had to leave his coat shaggy and some of the staff reckoned he was a soggy biscuit," said Jewell, "but those that kept the faith are having the last laugh. A horse like him is fantastic for a yard like ours. And it gives the small operators hope."
l Kieren Fallon will be at the Old Bailey in London this morning for the start of a trial which is the culmination of a long-running police investigation into corruption in racing. Fallon and fellow riders Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams, together with two unlicensed individuals, Miles Rodgers and Philip Sherkle, are accused of conspiring to defraud by agreeing not to permit various horses to run on their merits, and laying those horses on Betfair. Rodgers, a racing syndicate manager, is also accused of concealing the proceeds of crime. All deny the charges.
l Ascot's prestigious festival meeting, which starts on Friday and has the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Saturday as its highlight, will not be affected by foot-and-mouth outbreaks as things stand. The course is within the surveillance zone but two miles outside the total exclusion zone. "Unless the situation changes," said public relations manager Nick Smith yesterday, "we're looking forward to the coming fixture."
Leaders in Flat Championships
Nap: Tyzack(Leicester 5.30)
NB: Blackat Blackkitten (Kempton 4.50)Reuse content