Rose ready to turn on the heat

RACING: A trainer who has built up his stable the hard way takes on the Americans with a remarkable filly
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Shortly after teatime on Saturday we will be able to pass judgement on the 1995 Breeders' Cup meeting, and if recent history is any guide, there are but two possible verdicts. It will be racing's Olympiad, a true and valuable test to find the world's best horses. Or it will be an unrepresentative, drug-fuelled circus which does nothing to benefit the sport in Britain.

Ladbrokes make the second option an odds-on chance, with their offer of 10-11 that the British-based runners will return from Belmont Park empty-handed. In theory, there is no reason why a racing follower's allegiance should extend any further than the latest horse to carry their money, but when the Breeders' Cup comes around, we get just as tribal as football fans.

Never mind that the logic which makes some of them "ours" is of a sort which Jack Charlton might recognise, or that in view of Britain's past record - three winners, countless disappointments - a dispassionate approach might be easier on both the wallet and the spirit.

Everyone knows that beating North American horses on their own turf - not to mention their own dirt - requires a final, exceptional effort from animals which have already spent many months racing against the best. Yet still we back them, just in case. But when the team contains horses like Hever Golf Rose, who can resist? Hard at work since April, the winner of eight races in five countries, she has secured the growing reputation of Joe Naughton, her trainer, and offered a reminder that there is more to Epsom than just a racecourse.

Lake Coniston, who will join her in the field for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, is another local resident, at Geoff Lewis's yard, and as Naughton said: "it will be good if people start to realise that there is life beyond Newmarket and Lambourn. Big business people in London have got a great training centre right on their doorstep and it's nice that they are waking up to that.''

Certainly, they are waking up to Naughton, thanks principally to Hever Golf Rose, who provided his first Group One succes in the Prix de l'Abbaye earlier this month. "She's defintely been a big help," Naughton said. "I had about 40 horses at the start of this year, but next season I'll be up to 60 or 65."

Hever Golf Rose will leave for New York today, but the travelling, at least, is something which Naughton does not need to worry about.

On Saturday morning the filly had gentle spin around a bend on Lingfield's all-weather track, starting about a furlong from the winning post and travelled around the turn out into the back straight. This was another side to her preparation, but the effects of her long campaign are harder to quantify.

"She's giving all the right indications, she's nice and bubbly," Naughton said. "She really thrives on racing and she travels brilliantly, she settles in to a new environment straight away. But it's the end of a long year, and I think she'll either be very good or simply say she's had enough.''

Naughton has held a licence for just five years, having spent the previous seven working for Barry Hills at a time when Peter Chapple-Hyam was also an assistant trainer.

Chapple-Hyam then started at the top as the master of Manton, but Naughton's progress has not been so smooth. "When I started I only had six horses and a run-down yard and I take a lot of personal satisfaction in what I've achieved. Obviously Peter's done brilliantly, but I'm getting there, even it if has taken me a little more time.''

Chapple-Hyam has already been to Epsom and returned home with a Derby winner, but now it may be Naughton's turn. Young, easy-going and with more than a hint of south London in his accent, he has all the makings of a people's champion. A final 60 seconds of effort by Hever Golf Rose on Saturday could take him into the big time.

Unlike Lake Coniston, Hever Golf Rose will not run with the assistance of either Lasix or Bute, the permitted performance-enhancing drugs. "It's not a moralistic thing, I just don't see the need," Naughton said. "She's always gives me everything anyway." Perhaps, for once, Ladbrokes have got it wrong. If they have, we'll make them pay.