Toller's Cup long-shot mutes Applause
Friday 11 July 1997
One of the trade newspapers had informed us that the three-year-old had "plenty to find at this level". But locate it he did, and there seemed little material with which to construct a quirk theory. Compton Place quickened thrillingly to take command of the Group One sprint a furlong out and comfortably beat off the challenge of the favourite, Royal Applause. "It wasn't a fluke because this is definitely a good horse," James Toller, whose previous training Everest was Nagida's Wokingham Stakes victory, said.
"Everyone's been telling us all year that the sprinters aren't that great a bunch and I've always felt we haven't really got the best out of this horse. If it hadn't have been a Group One race I'd have had a right good bet on him at 50-1, but I'm happy with my percentage as it is."
The condition of the July Cup touchpaper horses under a flattering sun had been a credit to their respective trainers. The most taking was Coastal Bluff, who pulls out for action each season only at about the time they pull down the sculls for the Henley Regatta. He was a tall, imposing presence with a melancholy look in his eye and bandages bunched on his hind legs like granny with her stockings rolled down.
Royal Applause does not possess the explosive chassis associated with sprinters, but nevertheless swung along pleasingly. The colt moved with more alarm in the market, being pushed from odds-on to 11-10.
As the field splayed out it was Royal Applause who appeared to be taking command on the stands side, before Compton Place's decisive intervention. Tellingly, the colt had corrected his debilitating habit of busting a gut in the early stages. "I was able to get him covered up pretty quickly and he switched off a treat," Seb Sanders, the winning jockey, said at the debriefing. "When I asked him a question the response was immediate. It has always been a dream of mine to ride the winner of a Group One race."
It was refreshing to witness a jockey for whom collecting big races had not become commonplace. Sanders's face is worth remembering, not least for the fact that you should never buy a second hand car from him. The 25-year-old from Tamworth has been scampering around the country from season's outset and with 500 rides already in the bank is the second busiest jockey behind Jimmy Quinn.
The plans for Compton Place are a little open now, primarily as he was not supposed to win. "I'm not used to having winners like this where you have to have smart plans with them," Toller said. "I think I'll go home and just calm down a little bit."
Barry Hills though has the Haydock Park Sprint Cup and the Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park on the agenda for Royal Applause. Earlier in the day the trainer had attended the Countryside Rally ("the first rally I've ever been on") in Hyde Park.
The pro-hunting event was signposted as the Jarrow march for the 1990s, but it is not a general recollection that the Geordies returned to the north-east by helicopter. Hills and others of racing's finest came in by chopper to make a July Cup which had been put back to accommodate their arrival.
They missed the anticipated victory of Embassy, and the return to form of Tumbleweed Ridge, in the Bunbury Cup. Mixed in was an assault on racing's Teletubby icon John McCririck, who was the victim of an ice-cream attack as he spoke to camera. They did not, however, miss one of the greatest shocks of the racing year.
Results, page 29
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