Racing: Hawk Wing defeat dents Coolmore invincibility

By Richard Edmondson
Thursday 16 January 2014 03:06

It would be nice if Terry Mills changed his mind and allowed Where Or When, his winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday, to take part in the Breeders' Cup meeting in the United States.

Tel would go down a storm in the land where they still expect their Englishmen to be a cross between Sherlock Holmes and David Niven. This trainer is actually closer to the Artful Dodger, a Cockney who has "made it", much to the almost certain admiration of the Americans, from the log cabin of the East End.

Where Or When's win was portrayed as a great victory for the little man and, in terms of the money spent at the highest level of racing, Terry Mills could indeed be considered an ordinary Joe. Terry has clearly been no fool on his way to the top in the waste disposal business. Mess is what he deals in and it not something you should use with him.

When one reporter gained access to the trainer before this year's Derby, he was requested to get the quotes right otherwise Terry "would come looking for him". A personal memory is of asking to speak to Mills down the phone at around the same time to be met by the response "who's arskin?" At that point I retired, an immediate loss to investigative journalism.

If you closed your eyes when Terry was around you could imagine the sunlight bouncing off his pearly king sequins, sense cockles and mussels in the atmosphere and start walking as they do in Lambeth. He is, however, past the point where you start being called a millionaire and perhaps the most wealthy underdog in sporting history.

Hawk Wing, Saturday's runner-up, we now know is not the business. At the beginning of the season the colt was built up by Aidan O'Brien, his trainer, as a Triple Crown horse, which, for younger readers, is an animal which wins the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger.

This was never meant to be an affirmation of Hawk Wing's programme, rather a measure of the esteem in which the horse was held. Wittingly or otherwise, though, Ballydoyle have rather misled us about Hawk Wing.

It may be, as one leading trainer suggested in the race's aftermath, that they knew all along that Rock Of Gibraltar was the real deal in the stable but wanted to promote a contemporary and further stallion prospects.

Alternatively, it may be that Hawk Wing simply became increasingly demoralised after his effort in the Derby, which looked to be hard work for a horse whose best trip is probably a mile.

Like another, better qualified horse before him in Nashwan, Hawk Wing's performances, although respectable in the top class, are gradually getting worse. Whatever he runs in next, do not back him. Underline the previous sentence.

Those behind Hawk Wing must have wished that a hole would have opened up in the turf and swallowed him when he was left behind by Where Or When. At this Ascot meeting that, after all, was just a 50-50 eventuality.

There should have also been a subterranean plot reserved for Van Nistelrooy, who is quite a good horse but not $6.4m [£4.1m] good, the price he cost the Coolmore syndicate as a yearling last year. The chestnut was never really going in the Royal Lodge Stakes and now appears to be, and runs, in relative terms, like a white elephant.

The Ballydoyle and Coolmore empire runs on judgement of potential stallions being proved correct and they are not the least cute in this department. Even they, though, make rickets, which is comfort to all of us who make even more in this unpredictable business.

Hawk Wing, nevertheless, remains a consideration for the Breeders' Cup, which is an even more viable prospect for Godolphin's Kazzia, the winner of the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, New York, on Saturday night.

The winner of the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks was back from her dip in the Yorkshire Oaks as she held on in a driving finish. A supplementary fee of $90,000 [£58,000] is now likely to be stumped up to allow participation in the Breeders' Cup Filly And Mare Turf.

"Kazzia is a very game and honest filly," Tom Albertrani, the Godolphin assistant trainer, said. "She had a quarter crack and may not have been tight for the Yorkshire Oaks, but, in this race, she was a lot tighter. The plan all along was that if she ran well she would be supplemented for the Breeders' Cup."

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