Son brightens White's horizon

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The Independent Online
John White has clawed his way up a tortuous glacier to make his name as a racehorse trainer, but his current operation is in danger of going downhill quicker than an Alpine skier.

Celebrations following the victory of Shikari's Son in Goodwood's Stewards' Cup on Saturday were tempered by the knowledge that White may soon have to move from the base for his glory, Russell Farm near Wendover in Berkshire.

The owners of the property at Cobblers Hill intend to reduce their racing connections, which leaves the trainer with the prospect of moving out by August. He would like to continue the lease, but not at any cost, and matters have become serious. A solicitor has been employed.

White's dilemma is this: he has been at Russell Farm for seven years and no matter the big successes like Saturday's (which adds to the Eider Chase victory of Into The Red and Aahsaylad's Cesarewitch, both in 1993), a switch to a new yard would mean he would start with a new slate.

"The problem with training is that it takes you about 10 years to get going," White said yesterday. "You have to keep establishing yourself year after year and you need better horses all the time. You've got to get to know your gallops and your owners so they can have faith in what you're doing. Moving doesn't help."

White saw Shikari's Son win on Saturday but he was not aware of it. The trainer was at Newton Abbot (saddling two winners which took him clear at the head of the National Hunt trainers' championship), when the gremlins came into land. "I was trying to get Simply George saddled when SIS went down," he reported. "We went round from monitor to monitor trying to see Goodwood and by the time the race came up they were off and we couldn't make the runners out."

This afternoon at the Devon circuit White fancies two of his four runners. "I would think Miss Mah-Jong would win the seller and Bondaid should go well in the last," he said. Neither, though, will be at the 40-1 returned about Shikari's Son, who, along with 33-1 Progression on the same card, made it an afternoon to rejoice for the layers. When bookmakers moan (that's the time when they're not in their pyjamas) they should be reminded of this day.

A man who is considered a powerful ally against the old foe is Lanfranco Dettori, who was the top jockey at Goodwood. The Italian reeled in yet another Group One contest yesterday in one of those events that make German trophy engravers such wealthy people, the Dr Poth-Bayerisches Zuchtrennen at Munich.

It was a good race for those who like to bet by easy cliche, as Dettori's mount was Germany, an all-the-way winner.

Considering the time he spends in the saddle (he is the busiest jockey in the land having ridden almost 750 horses in Britain alone) and travelling to assignments, Dettori may be one of those rare men who spends less time in contact with terra firma than on it. Rushed off his feet, indeed.

If burnout is germinating in his body there is little outward evidence at press conferences, as the Italian remains animated and spontaneous, and, despite all those aircraft meals sloshing around inside him, healthy and tanned (though the backdrop company of those around him in these situations may exaggerate the appearance).

One such member of the Fourth Estate is the celebrated gourmand Sir Clement Freud, from whom Deauville's fine foods will have been under assault yesterday. The locals would have been best advised to lock up their oysters.

It will have been a costly weekend as Freud's filly Nagnagnag was unable to get in amongst the money in the big race on the Normandy coast, the Group Two Prix d'Astarte.

The imminent fare in Britain is particularly light and until next weekend at least we are not even going to be seeing Vindaloo or Shadow Jury, who are both attempting to set a record for the number of handicap wins in a season, in action.

But while it may be quiet in Britain there will be no peace at Galway, where a six-day festival blasts off this evening.

The west of Ireland racecourse offers one of the longest bars in the world, while the meeting itself provides the longest hangovers. For the iron men of racing this is the big one, the ultimate triathlon of punting, eating and drinking. Go for it, Sir Clement.

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