By Tony Stafford
I mentioned my man Steve last week. Sometimes on his way home from work on a Friday he stops off for a take away dinner if his wife is doing her shopping at Lakeside. The other day I asked him what was he having. “Think I’ll stop off at the Chinky, it’s brilliant”, he replied.
I suggested he might want to wash his mouth out with soap. Indeed, maybe he should wait for a call from the boys in blue. To come out with such intemperate language in these days of technological advance is unwise to say the least even in a one to one conversation. Ask Malky Mackay. His one to one text exchange chats with Iain Moodie have cost both of them lavish salaries in the football game. Mackay was humiliated in a Sky TV interview having had his many hundreds of texts unearthed by former boss Mr Tan.
The editor of this publication has had cause to question my occasional immoderate topics, usually said in jest. I nowadays restrict texts to “well done” when somebody does something nice for me, and have resisted participating in Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, while the thought of a “selfie”, apparently the downfall of Lukas Podolski, or the “Ice Bucket challenge”, leave me, well, cold.
Steve has two Chinese restaurants – is it OK to call them that? – to pick from, the nice take away one, and another where you can eat all you want for a set figure, it might be £15.
Mr and Mrs Steve went in there one night and shared three main course dishes having sampled a couple of starters. On another table there was a work colleague who followed 11 starters with nine main courses. I wish I could have seen him in action. In today’s climate, though, I could not have called him a greedy pig or the language police would have been after me.
I merely move into such areas of crass ridiculousness to comment on the media world as it is. I like to read Mail Online to keep up to date, but the harshness of its treatment of many in sport, especially in football, is horrid. Jack Wilshere is their favourite present target and the player is his own worst enemy by entering fully into the Social Media game.
The media lap up all the comments they (the participants) spout out, but then turn on them. Mr Wilshere would be better off to close those accounts and concentrate on getting his head down.
In such times, it is refreshing to deal with a much happier story, one which revolves around the confirmation that Australia is a potential champion after his emphatic defeat of French Derby hero The Grey Gatsby in the Juddmonte International at York.
For an odds-on chance to win the race was one thing. For him to be ridden at 8st12lb by his regular jockey Joseph O’Brien was pretty much mind-blowing. In the way of such things, there was an outside eventuality. Normally the Aidan O’Brien stable would turn to Ryan Moore when Joseph was unable to make the weight, as with Adelaide at Arlington Park last weekend.
But with Ryan committed to Telescope in the Juddmonte, Joseph took the matter in his own hands, to such an extent that he rode at under 9st for the first time in two years. Imagine his degree of self- control. The records show this 21-year-old is 5ft 11in tall and at 21 you would think that his ongoing physical development will have precluded any chance of reducing to that degree. Maybe one ride at that minimum, followed by a hefty re-infusion of calorific nourishment would have been in order. But Joseph is made of sterner stuff. The Juddmonte at 3.40 p.m. was his third consecutive ride at York and just hours later – admittedly benefiting from Ballydoyle’s first-class travel arrangements – he was back home with three more consecutive rides in Killarney, culminating in success in the maiden at 8.10 p.m.
When Joseph O’Brien began his race riding career with a win five days after his 16th birthday, the general impression from outside was that this was nepotism of the first degree. Already tall, but obviously getting taller almost by the day, his was to be a short-lived career until he turned to jumping. Five years on after two Epsom and three Irish Derby wins, together with a host of other Classics and Group 1’s he has stabilised his weight to the degree that Lester Piggott did for so long.
There are two other notable examples in the British weighing room, Adam Kirby and George Baker, whose industry and self-denial, have enabled them to get close to the top of their profession after appearing to be destined for an early retirement.
Aidan and Anne-Marie O’Brien have achieved so much in racing already. Aidan first as an amateur rider, then a fledgling trainer whose eminence surged with the three Champion Hurdle wins of Istabraq; Anne-Marie as a classy rider as well as daughter of celebrated trainer Joe Crowley.
Now their stable is sprinkled with four O’Brien children. After Joseph come Sarah, who has ten wins to her credit as an amateur rider and Ana (born Anastasia) with 11 as a Flat-race apprentice. Ana showed her talent riding a fine race to finish fourth on her mother’s Beyond Brilliance in the Irish Oaks behind stable-companion Bracelet.
The last of the O’Briens, Donnacha recently passed his 16th birthday. He’s tall like Joseph, but some good judges at Ballydoyle think he has the potential to be just as good. So far he has had 11 rides without a win, but one day his 10lb claim is going to look very interesting. Aidan O’Brien is a total genius in many ways. When he finds a card with a suitable stakes race for Joseph, apprentice handicap for Ana, an amateur event for Sarah and a nice maiden in which Donnecha can claim the full amount, he can record yet another distinction.
After a 2014 of disappointment, my boss Ray Tooth had a nice winner at Southwell on Wednesday night with Cousin Khee, who should have a successful end to the season. Needless to say we missed the race, Ray, Steve and me, as the train back from seeing the mares and babies at Richard and Rachael Kempster’s beautiful Kinsale Stud in Shropshire was 20 minutes late and it was not until the last furlong and a half that I managed to get a line for the commentary.
First the commentator mentioned two other horses, but then he went back to Cousin Khee “five lengths clear” and a nice day was improved 100 per cent. The following day Ray’s bumper winner Two Jabs made a promising Flat debut at Wolverhampton after missing the break badly so the omens are brighter.
I’m off to Yarmouth today, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for Deauville where Sam Sangster’s Decadent Racing boys will be hoping to pick up the first prize in the Euro 122,000-added Criterium du Fonds Europeen de l’Elevage. At 7.30 a.m. he was a 5-1 shot on the Pari-Mutuel. Good luck Sam!