Richard Fahey delivers cup via Address Unknown
Round and round the bends they go, a stampede of blurred colour, until hypnotically imprinted on the ambition of those who bring horses here every May. But even the dizziest obsession can be consummated more or less by accident, as Richard Fahey confessed after providing Dr Marwan Koukash with the winner he craved in the most venerable Chester carousel of all.
"I forgot to declare the blinkers and the tongue-strap," Fahey admitted, as Address Unknown was led into the winner's enclosure after the Stan James Chester Cup. "We haven't had him that long, and I never checked that he normally wears them. But it didn't make any difference – we've got away with it."
Modesty could not efface what had the look of a decidedly calculated achievement, in that Fahey also saddled Ingleby Spirit to finish second. True, circumstances had conspired in favour of Jamie Spencer on Address Unknown, who was drawn one off the rail and so able to slipstream Thimaar and Countrywide Flame. It was the latter who kicked clear into the last turn, but Spencer had that move covered and held out by half a length as others, hampered at critical moments, closed ravenously in the short straight – most notably Simenon, in fourth, and Justification, seventh.
Koukash, a rising force in the game, has instructed his trainers so ardently in his priorities that he accounted for no fewer than five of the 18 declarations – only for the most fancied, Montaser, to be scratched. "Jamie had the choice, which one he should switch to," Koukash said. "And he gave this horse a fantastic ride. This means more to me than it would to win the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. Winning this race [with Bulwark in 2008] introduced me to racing and all I have wanted to do since is win it again."
By a surreal coincidence, Address Unknown was previously with Ian Williams – just like Ile De Re, before he won last year for Donald McCain. Lest we forget, it was also Williams who gave Koukash his first taste of the elixir with Bulwark.
And Fahey himself is hardly immune to the unpredictability of their calling, having been dispirited to see his best horse, Garswood, beaten so comprehensively in the 2,000 Guineas last Saturday. "This job…" he said, shaking his head. "You forget the bad times, you keep looking forward. This week, here, and next week at York, these are exciting times for us."
Another who cherishes this meeting is Tom Dascombe, based at the nearby stables owned by the footballer Michael Owen. They got off to a flying start in the opener, a race they sponsor themselves, with Quatuor showing terrific dash to take the Manor House Stables Lily Agnes Stakes.
While Owen added decorously to the tributes to his former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, himself a man of the Turf, he stressed the importance of the yard to his own retirement. "A lot of the owners are local, and this is their Royal Ascot," he said. "We get sent to the sales with the order: 'Get me a Chester horse.' So the pressure is on this week. I think we've a team of 14 or so. Any horse that wins, we all feel part of it."
Dascombe duly completed a double with Ballista, later on the card, but in the meantime another trainer had shown that success here does not always obey a manifest destiny. Hughie Morrison had not even fancied Banoffee for her debut at Newbury, yet here she was following up in the Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks. Moreover she did so in such style, last early but eased down at the line, that Morrison may now counsel her owners to spend £30,000 to supplement her for the Investec Oaks itself, at Epsom on 31 May. Coral offer 16-1.
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