Racing: Meehan stays in the groove with Fashion Rocks

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The Independent Online

The Samaritans were here with a stall, and even pinned a poster on the weighing-room wall, but they had come to the wrong place. True, any brittle spirits among the management might have been tempted to take down the number. First the big screen succumbed to technical problems; then a series of trainers and jockeys started grumbling about over-watering of the track. But while the clerk of the course was man enough to admit that he "might have overcooked the goose", he could console himself that he was not in anything like the same pickle as his counterpart at Warwick.

Racing there was abandoned after two races, both sprints, following the discovery of a patch of "false ground" on a bend. Many will assume that the sprinklers again had to be responsible, but that suggestion was swiftly refuted by Jockey Club Racecourses. John Maxse, their spokesman, promised an investigation, but noted that no problems had been reported after the track's previous meeting, 10 days previously.

This was an excruciating episode in terms of public relations, many professional and recreational journeys being largely wasted. Racegoers were refunded but trainers who brought horses from as far afield as North Yorkshire may yet be pressing for compensation. Maxse said that "Warwick will deal with queries on costs once we have established what has happened".

Salisbury, in contrast, was favoured by benign sunshine and pleasant sport under the distant gaze of the cathedral.

Brian Meehan was busy packing his bags for the Keeneland Sales but showed why he now belongs among the high rollers by sending out another pair of juvenile winners. Having made such an assured start at Manton last season with David Junior and Red Rocks he seems to be consolidating the quality of his string. Fast Company, so impressive at York, tries to confirm himself one of the best two-year-olds in the land at Doncaster next week and Joffe's Run, runaway winner of her maiden here, is only one of seven entries Meehan has made for the Fillies' Mile at Ascot. Fashion Rocks, meanwhile, may not cut the mustard at Group One level, but obtained valuable black type when scrambling home in the Listed race.

Red Rocks starts his build-up to the defence of the Breeders' Cup Turf at Leopardstown tomorrow, one of five horses joining Dylan Thomas in the Irish Champion Stakes. A more competitive field takes on Sakhee's Secret in the day's other Group One, the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock, but fast ground ensured that Dutch Art is not among them. Connections are hoping for easier conditions for next month's Prix de la Forêt at Longchamp.

In contrast the ground should be ideal for Hellvelyn, who has rather crept under the radar after missing the first half of the season – an absence his rider, Ted Durcan, almost considers a blessing in disguise.

"It wasn't anything major," he said. "Just a few small problems with his feet, and those are always slow to heal. But in that time he really strengthened into his frame, and is a very fresh horse for the time of year. He has just got better with racing – and faster. He's an out-and-out sprinter, and I think he's being underestimated at Haydock."

Winner of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, Hellvelyn showed up well for a long way behind Sakhee's Secret in the July Cup and then pounced late to win a Listed prize at Beverley. "He ran a lovely race at Newmarket, but needed it," Durcan said. "And Beverley proved the perfect stepping stone. He won a short-head but got pushed wide and the second was no mug, a hard horse to get by – my horse picked up really well. Bryan [Smart, his trainer] has been very happy with him since."

Success for another raider from across the Pennines, Amadeus Wolf, would be especially welcome for Neil Callan, who was yesterday on the carpet before the British Horseracing Authority. Having served 26 days of suspension for riding interference over the past year, Callan could not afford another recent transgression at Beverley. He was banned for 14 days (three of them deferred) under the special directive for serial offenders, starting next Friday. Perhaps one of his colleagues will be kind enough to give him the number for the Samaritans.

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