By Tony Stafford
“The Duchess of Cambridge has started labour”, trilled the two young ladies deputed to stand outside St Mary’s Hospital in London for Sky One. That’s right, I was up early again yesterday and Michael Wigham’s Newmarket kitchen conveniently had that channel rather than Attheraces on at 8 a.m. by which time I’d already met another TV crew, guided by Nick Luck, on Warren Hill.
I’m sure Prince Charles, whom Wikepedia tells us has twin distinctions, having become the longest-serving first-in-line to an English monarch (since 1952 when he was four) and the oldest heir apparent in history, will remember May 3 2015 for its single distinction.
He won’t have registered that while Kate was producing a beautiful daughter for William, the nation and above all the media, Manny was waiting to be outpointed by Floyd – who cared? – Man U were to lose three in a row and failing to score in all three for the first time in eons, England would be 39-5 in Barbados and cream was to rise to the top in the two big races in England and Kentucky.
I’ve rarely been caught out by May 3 although until I got a little nudge from my eldest daughter (or rather eldest child of three and elder daughter, thus of two) it had slipped my ever-slipping mind that Joe would be 18 today. But then I’m more than two years older than Charlie boy.
It’s been easy, you see. On May 2 1997 I saw Entrepreneur win the 2,000 Guineas. It was only the same elder daughter’s sloth that took her delivery into the first hour of the following day before producing our first grandson. No Kate-like precision for her.
Entrepreneur, in the colours of Michael Tabor, owned in partnership with John Magnier and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, won the Guineas on his fourth start, having flopped at odds-on first time at two, but impressively putting that right at Newmarket before failing through lack of stamina in Benny The Dip’s Derby at odds-on.
Eighteen years on the same blue and orange silks depicting another Tabor/Magnier union, but nowadays also embracing Derrick Smith’s equal status as a Coolmore partner, were carried to a flawless easy success in the first Classic by Gleneagles, a son of Galileo, the stallion of the millennium.
A few hours on, as I suggested earlier, the cream also came to the top in the Kentucky Derby. It is 20 years since Tabor stepped into the international consciousness as owner of Thunder Gulch to win the “Run for the Roses”.
Since then he has been involved in most, if not quite all, the seven 2,000 Guineas winners trained by Aiden O’Brien, who began training in 1993 as well as most Derbys at Epsom. The first was King of Kings in 1998 while five of the seven have come in the past 11 runnings of the race.
It’s not an easy race to win, for horse or trainer/owner. Richard Hannon junior won it (with the wrong one) last year at the first attempt and got the third home yesterday with Ivawood. His father, who started training in 1970, won three times in his 44-year training career, the last of them three years before O’Brien took out a licence.
Sir Michael Stoute has five wins. Considering their amazing big-race records over the years, it’s pretty surprising that Jim Bolger has just one win and Saeed bin Suroor only two. Geoff Huffer who won with Phil Cunningham’s Cockney Rebel in 2007, must wish he could have that amazing time over again.
Bolger and bin Suroor’s alliances with Godolphin might have been expected to have brought a landslide of Classic wins, but the 13 successes jointly for Dubai and Saudi Arabia – yet to be bolstered by Qatar, but no doubt soon to be so – are almost derisory considering the money and effort expended.
Khalid Abdullah got the Arab owners off the mark in 1980 but only after Sadler’s Wells’ son Nureyev was ridiculously disqualified and placed last after romping well clear of the Prince’s Known Fact. In retrospect it probably gave the owner of Juddmonte farms the appetite to heighten activity, which led to the production of Dancing Brave and even more tellingly Frankel, Galileo’s first winner of the race.
Brothers (the late) Maktoum, Hamdan and Mohammed got one, two and one in their own names and Sheikh Mo three under Godolphin while Maktoum acolytes Saeed Suhail and Saeed Manana, Knight of Thunder’s owner who sportingly came over to congratulate the Tabors yesterday, complete the roll.
It’s hardly surprising it’s such a tough race to win. At 6.40 a.m. yesterday I was with Hugo Palmer, who’d spent a tense night anticipating a bold run from Home of the Brave, his first Classic contender after four years training, watching Raymond Tooth’s Harry Champion, a son of Cockney Rebel going through his paces. We bumped into Sir Mark Prescott, who like Palmer was warming up for a Morning Line encounter with Luck on Warren Hill. The Baronet had first crack and later in the race his Celestial Path duly ran past Palmer’s contender as they finished fifth and sixth some way behind the winner.
Like Nureyev all those years before, Gleneagles had been a victim of a stewards’ decision in the Grand Criterium on Arc day last year, when first over the line but relegated to third behind Full Mast because of interference to Territories, who was promoted to second.
On the day Tabor was surprisingly sanguine about that decision. “We probably owed them that after Dylan Thomas’s Arc”. Certainly that previous day few expected the French to ignore their own strict rules on riding offences, but ignore them they did. Nice when you can afford to shrug off such setbacks. I was anything but calm after my 20-1 voucher on Nureyev back in 1980 was invalidated for a bump three furlongs from home. Naturally he became a great stallion: Known Fact a non-entity at stud.
Gleneagles was just the second Galileo (after Frankel) to win the race, so hard to win that it was Ryan Moore’s first in the race. Like the 14-race unbeaten champion, Gleneagles will not take the more usual Epsom target for the breed – O’Brien and the owners preferring the Irish Guineas/ St James’s Palace route.
There were three Group 1 winners from Galileo’s 2012 crop, the other two, Found and Together Forever, are both absentees from today’s 1,000 Guineas because of fast ground. Their day will come.
The Kentucky Derby brought Bob Baffert his fourth success last night when his American Pharaoh got the better of Simon Callaghan-trained and Gary Stevens-ridden Firing Line, with the other Baffert runner Dortmund third.
Dortmund, previously unbeaten in six runs, made a bold effort from the front in a race which in truth only ever featured the first three who raced in those places from the off. The rest of an 18-horse field never featured behind a slowish time.
I was in the entourage for Baffert’s previous win in the race 13 years ago as War Emblem gave Prince Ahmed Salman a third consecutive Triple Crown leg win with an all-the-way triumph, similarly achieved at a steady, controlled pace as yesterday’s, with Victor Espinosa in the saddle as he had been on War Emblem.
Baffert’s hair that day was already white. Mine was still intact, if tending towards grey. Look at the pair of us now! Or as Lady Cecil said the other day: “I think I preferred you with hair.” So did I!
War Emblem’s victory followed Point Given’s Preakness and Belmont triumphs, coming after a Derby disappointment, and he then won his Preakness before not getting home in the Belmont. Four wins in Triple Crown races without getting the three in one year, unbelievable. Affirmed in 1978 is still the last to manage it. Maybe this year?
That was my only Derby visit among dozens to the Kentucky sales and the most noticeable thing was the way the betting market produced by the massive crowd barely altered in the last hour and a half.
I did quite a few big race nights on the old Racing Channel, when one of the regulars, as now on Racing UK, was James Willoughby. I think it must have been the year after that I watched as James predicted some major changes to come in the prices. As with the Exit polls, when five minutes after voting finishes on Thursday, we’ll know the outcome, they didn’t change. I noted last night that the erudite Mr Willoughby suggested that the allegiances of the record 170,000 crowd would not alter over-much. That’s the benefit of a proper education, a fertile mind and above all experience.