By Tony Stafford
Amazing what an extra hour in bed does for you. As I turned in at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, I turned back the clock, which showed 12 midnight. Now was that midnight on Saturday? No because GMT doesn’t start until early Sunday a.m. So no more BEFAST – that’s British Excuse for a Summer Time – in 2012. You can tell by the Racing UK post-race packages that run through the night. One started at 1 a.m., the next 90 minutes ‘-worth were to begin at 1.30.
But as usual, I digress. With that extra hour safely in the body-reviving bank, I slept blissfully and awoke totally refreshed at 5.30 GMT, having turned over in my sub-conscious (or semi-comatose) mind what to write about this morning.
It could have been the joyous day that started with my boss Raymond Tooth’s two runners within ten minutes. They were respectively a wonderful first-time out second (I Say) to a genuine Oaks candidate at Newbury and then (unseen at the time by an otherwise-engaged me and Raymond), a fine comeback run at Aintree by Cousin Khee, third after a seven-month absence in a hot handicap hurdle.
Plaudits then to William Haggas and Hughie Morrison in a year that has frankly been pretty crappy for the grey and pink colours, but they’re looking up a bit with some hopefully nice and certainly inexpensive recent recruits and a few horses that look set to win soon.
One trainer who has enjoyed many plaudits in a 40plus-year training career is John Dunlop, but the veteran has chosen to bow out after easily his least successful season. Three wins in the last fortnight have bolstered the figures to an extent, but 19 in 2012 is a poor return, compared even with the range between high 30’s and 50 or so from the previous four relatively lean for him seasons.
Dunlop had some other news for us last week, a short time after the retirement announcement. He has put his business into administration. That’s right, his business. That means everything to do with the Arundel Castle stables, so staff, many with 30 years’ service, will be redundant. In quite a few instances, the tied cottages which have been an essential part of the ducal establishment, will have to be vacated, so finding jobs anywhere near Arundel will be tricky.
Apparently Dunlop was advised to take that step by his accountants. In that regard, the redundancies will be met by government, and presumably the newly-homeless staff will have to find council accommodation.
Happily for his admirers, John Dunlop will not have to dip into whatever money he managed to scrimp and save in the decades he trained legions of horses for the top Arab and other owners when 100 winners a year were commonplace, and he had the foresight to buy a house in Newmarket from which he can eke out his later years.
I don’t know about you, but isn’t there something wrong that a flourish of an accountant’s pen can transfer the responsibility of care for the loyal and generally poorly-paid staff from the beneficiary of their efforts, to an unseen government department? This story truly sickened me, I tell you.
Any regular reader of these jumbled thoughts will know that Manton is one of my weekly stopping-points, and Brian Meehan has been making a strong finish to what in many ways has been a frustrating season, sending out some very progressive juveniles.
In the past fortnight winners like Correspondent (Delegator’s half-brother), Mujazif and Invincible Warrior have shown great potential, while there is a nice group of later-developing types like Legal Waves and Eshtiaal last week that promise a lively start to next year.
But as a regular there, nothing that happens with the Manton horses – say Archbishop beating Excelebration in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Saturday night – and don’t laugh, Brian’s done more than his share of US giant-killing over the years – will beat Wolverhampton on Saturday night.
In the 7.45 p.m. race, a nursery over one mile and 141 yards, Brian ran the once-placed but otherwise disappointing Run It Twice, a gelded son of Dark Angel. Brian’s web site, Brianmeehan.co.uk, runs Latest News, with an appraisal of the possibilities, as Manton sees them, for all the stable’s runners.
About Run It Twice, Latest News said: “After a good second at Chepstow, he never got into contention at Bath, so it would be foolish to suggest lack of stamina was the reason. He works to a higher level than 61 at home, and therefore would not be a shock winner at a decent price, no doubt.”
I got stuck in traffic coming home from Newbury, so had only the commentary – always very efficient from the guys in the William Hill HQ – in the car to keep me informed. Coming on to them late, I had no awareness of his price – he was 20-1 in the Racing Post – and settled down to listen.
All the way round he was last – and my later viewing of the race confirmed it. Off the final bend the admirable Martin Lane brought him widest of all and with stick in his left hand, guided Run It Twice to the far outside. Blow me if he suddenly appeared on the Hill’s commentary, finishing fast, so fast in fact that he led 50 yards from home and won going away by two lengths.
Amazing, especially if you hadn’t seen that bit of work with…
It’s time to digress again, I think. Then came the price, 33-1! A mate called me, “I can’t believe it”, he said. I stood there watching and didn’t have a tenner on. Could have had 50-1”, for that’s what he opened.
With that small illustration of the Meehan talents with his lesser lights, I think it’s time to inform you that if you’d like to get involved in racehorse ownership there on even a cheaper level than Geegeez.co.uk’s excellent partnerships, you might have a second look at “The Pony Club”.
Brian has teamed up with Sam Sangster, son of the late Robert and therefore part of the Manton dynasty, whose owned Decadent Racing has done pretty well in its two years’ existence. The Pony Club will offer 1,800 shares at a one-off £25 each to buy and train a single horse with all the transport and vetting included. The horse will be either bought or be one of the lovely yearlings already at Manton. Think I’m having a share. Wish it could be in the fabulous Archipenko colt that Johnny McKeever bought for Raymond at 26,000gns from Tattersall’s Book 3, but he’s not letting that one go! Seriously though, it looks a nice idea. After all, there’s going to be a record level of prize money in the offing next year. The obvious next step will be for all the major French owners to send their horses to England – for the prize money! Dream on.