The new game machines are set to go in the shops ...

A great weekend of racing ahead

Friday, 29 September 2017

"Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction"

Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Coming up Hamilton Hill


We woke up to rain this morning and it was quite heavy for an hour or so until the light started to come up. It is forecast to be heavy again on Sunday, with the wind getting up. It sounds as if we are getting the tail end of the hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean. It has certainly made the ground here on the soft side. I have had a mixed morning with a non-runner once again, and the riding out board had to be changed for the sixth time this week. The sad thing, and it’s a fact, is that it is not just me it happens to, it is every yard in town and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. There has got to be an underlying reason for it all and I just hope that the trainers of the future can come up with a solution.

Roof Garden

There is a great weekends racing ahead, with the Cambridgeshire the highlight here at Newmarket, and the Arc weekend having two days of top class racing at Chantilly.

It find it sad that the Cambridgeshire and the Cesarewitch seem to have lost their kudos over the years and Newmarket has tried hard to get a great race programme for this day. We have got the Cheveley Park and the Middle Park, both Group 1’s, the Group 2 Royal Lodge and the Cambridgeshire, along with the three other good class races. It is just a shame they have put a maiden on for £8,000. As usual the Cambridgeshire is wide open and I would love to see Master The World win it, but I am going to go for Brorocco and El Hayem against the field.

The Sunday at Chantilly looks an unbelievable day, with six Group 1’s and it is compulsive viewing for every race. It is a shame they have had to stick an Arab race before the Arc, which pampers the sponsors and nobody will be interested in, other than the competitors themselves. This year’s Arc looks a very competitive one and the draw here should play a big part. You have got to have plenty of luck and be in the right place at the right time. Enable is a worthy favourite and there are plenty of English and Irish chances, in fact the French are overrun by them. May the best horse win.

Third lot pulling out

I mentioned the machines in the betting shops yesterday and the MP for Cheltenham racecourse has written a big letter today in the Racing Post warning of the dangers of what can happen. He is asking everybody to take a look at the facts before deciding which way to jump. There are certainly plenty of those to ponder on, one of which is that only 2% of the population use the machines in the shops, but 30% of the population have a bet on the National Lottery. There are many more like this. We must work with the bookmakers, rather than be against them. A compromise has to be found.

Phil On Friday

The October Yearling Sales start next week and the first ‘book’ in particular will no doubt see multi-billionaire teams with bottomless pockets battling for the blue bloods. But for those of more modest means, with a good eye and good luck, there will always be bargains to be had, and they can come from within or outside the sales ring.

You could fill a book with tales of brilliant, fortuitous and astonishing thoroughbred purchases for they go back to the very beginnings of our sport. The Godolphin Arabian, one of the three stallions imported at the end of the 17th century or the beginning of the 18th to which the pedigree of every modern thoroughbred can be traced, was thought to have been a present from the Emperor of Morocco to Louis XIV of France. He was said to have been stolen and used to pull a water cart in Paris before he was spotted and bought for £3. He later found his way to the Earl of Godolphin and stood as a stallion in Cambridgeshire where he founded his dynasty. The cause of his death in 1753 was ‘remorse after killing his favourite cat’. He was buried at nearby Wandlebury and a flat stone marked his grave. It is still in place.

One of the best, and certainly most important, horses in the history of the turf was Eclipse. Most unfashionably bred, he had been sold at one point for something like 80 guineas but he was unbeaten in 18 races (it might have been more as some could have gone unrecorded) and sired 344 winners. His sire Marske had changed hands for £20. 

Queen Mary, the dam of one of the best race mares of all time, Blink Bonny, had previously produced nothing of much account and had been sold to a Scottish farmer for £40. Then one of her early offspring surprised everyone and became very good indeed, so former owner William l’Anson headed off to buy back the mare. When he reached the farm he found she was in foal to a carthorse but still bought her for £100 and she bred for him Blink Bonny, winner of the Derby and Oaks.

Octavian, the 1810 St Leger winner, was bought as a foal for £10 when following his dam, who was pulling a plough; the dam of Triple Crown winner Isinglass was bought for £19, re-sold then retrieved out of a farmer’s cart before breeding the champion; a more recent Derby winner, Hard Ridden, was bought by Sir Victor Sassoon at the Ballsbridge Sales near Dublin for 270 guineas (it could have been 150 guineas less but Sir Victor’s Irish trainer had been bidding against his own boss. He realised his mistake and withdrew before pushing the price any higher).

One Doncaster Sales evening the much-admired trainer William Day called on one of his owners, Sir Frederic Johnstone, who asked him if he had bought anything. “Yes sir, Brigantine for £150”. A disappointed Sir Frederic replied: “I suppose it’s some damned brute or other but I’ll have her.” The ‘damned brute’ won the 1869 Oaks and the Ascot Gold Cup.

In racing’s rich history bargains have not necessarily been confined to the animals themselves. The 1822 St Leger was won by Theodore, considered to be a lame horse. One determined punter, however, was not to be put off by such a small matter and  struck a successful bet of £1,000 to a walking stick!

What was to be described as one of the greatest bargain buys of all time was St Simon, but the story of that remarkable horse must wait for another day.