Sunday Supplement: From Newmarket to Epsom…

Tony Stafford's Sunday Supplement

Tony Stafford

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

See what I mean. Five to ten on a Thursday night, it was 1-20 a Hung Parliament. One chime of Big Ben later, and the crushing figure of 316 Tory seats, still generally disbelieved by the experts, but actually understated by 15, presaged a day of ritual self-hanging by three of the losing party leaders, Miliband, Clegg and Farage.

So an Exit Poll it was. There were some big-name losers on the day, not least Rachel Hood, wife of John Gosden, who is stepping down from the Forest Heath council. She will be replaced by a local box driver Andrew Appleton, having been a vehement opponent of Lord Derby’s Hatchfield Farm housing project.

Rachel, the Mayor of Newmarket, was the focal point for objection to the scheme, a review of which has now concluded. In the way of such things, the Gosdens had another setback yesterday at Lingfield where the odds-on Christophermarlowe pulled away his chance in the Derby Trial, won in the same Michael Tabor colours by Kilimanjaro, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore.

Gosden could still have the Classic winner in his stable in the shape of Jack Hobbs, easy winner of a recent Sandown handicap off what now looks a most generous mark of 85. He goes for the Dante this week and if winning, will be one of the main hopes to collect the trophy, from you guessed it – Lord Derby, or maybe Her Majesty.

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There will be many millions for whom the name Jack Hobbs means nothing. My love of cricket has been transmitted here many times, but no, I did not see him play – he retired in 1932. Growing up, though, I had a dull brown-covered hardback book “Jack Hobbs – The Master Batsman” which contained full page black and white photographs of him demonstrating various shots.

The only one I remember was captioned “Jumping out to drive”, but Cricinfo shows a picture of him standing waiting for the ball at the crease and that was one of the other images from the same book.

Jack’s link with racing may be problematic, except that he was born in Cambridge, therefore close to Newmarket and played his entire career for Surrey, the county which stages the Derby. His 61,237 runs and 197 centuries, all of course scored in first class matches and Tests exceed even Sachin Tendulkar’s overall stats in a career which has been bolstered by many one-day matches – denied to the older brigade. Jack also missed the entire course of the First World War, so those figures would have been greatly increased.

Jack became Sir Jack in a momentous 1953, and I remember it well as the Queen’s Coronation, in Derby week, came just after news of the first Ascent of Everest and also Gordon Richards’ awarding of the same honour. The day after the Coronation her car came down Pembury Road where we lived, and I can still remember the crowds from the many blocks of flats either side of the road that thronged the pavements.

It’s been an amazing week, in racing as well as politics. Coolmore’s partners collected the two Guineas with impressive winners, the Cheshire Oaks and Chester Vase and then the Lingfield Derby Trial, but several insiders were increasingly suggesting Highland Reel, the firm’s contender for today’s French 2,000 Guineas, is the likely one to continue the owners’ and Aidan’s strangle-hold on the Derby come the first Saturday in June.

If it’s been exciting for Coolmore, it’s not been too bad for Raymond Tooth. He started the week by winning a novice handicap chase with the four-year-old Notnowsam at Warwick for the amazingly upwardly-mobile Dan Skelton, who had the temerity to stump his former mentor Paul Nicholls’ spotting of the same possibility.

Warwick have switched totally to jumping and this Bank Holiday fixture had always previously been staged on the Flat. Indeed I remember going there around a decade ago in the height of the fake-tan craze for young ladies and every other girl had orange legs. None of them was sighted at the jumping, but whoever planned the new jumps meeting must have simply transposed the race conditions from an autumn fixture and allowed juveniles to take part in a novice handicap chase.

Our other runner did well too. Two Jabs seemed to find good to firm a little rich for his liking when winning bravely at Beverley last month. Mark Brisbourne chose Chester over Ascot and was rewarded by a paddy field after a day’s rain caused the runners for the finale to go round in 28 seconds above standard for a mile and a half. He beat the others easily but never looked like getting to Storm Force Ten in the Waley-Cohen colours.

I had a morning on Thursday looking at Ray’s mares, foals, yearlings and Punjabi at Kinsale stud, 35 minutes from Chester, and am ready to give you a name, well actually a pedigree, to note. I watched agog as the 12-week old son of Lawyer’s Choice and Mayson cantered non-stop around mum in the paddock, and his stride length and action were incredible.

He’s half-brother to Paul Cole’s Dutch Art Dealer who won three and remains in training, to Dutch Law, who should be winning soon, and juvenile Highway Robber (Dick Turpin) who has several entries this week for Simon Crisford.

With another home-bred colt Harry Champion (Cockney Rebel) also set to start this week for Hugo Palmer and Hughie Morrison’s old stalwart Cousin Khee pencilled in for York’s two-miler on Thursday, it should be another enthralling few days for Team Tooth, as Mick Quinn, trainer of our only other two-year-old Nearly There (Virtual) calls us.

I remembered to do all my local jobs yesterday either side of Lingfield as today we’ll be locked down in preparation for the arrival of the thousands of runners going past the front door in the Run Hackney Half-Marathon. It was quite a spectacle last year, albeit with not quite the spread time-wise as Big Brother London two weeks ago which also went nearby to take in the Olympic Park across the way.

Last year, the winner streaked past, just after the 12th of the 13 mile posts with a massive lead in the inaugural race. There are water stations and other innovations from the first event in 2014. Hackney, like everywhere else in the UK, will be affected by the election result, but this strongly Labour-dominated council is pretty forward-thinking. Then again, if you’ve been gifted an Olympic Games and the benefits deriving from it in terms of infrastructure, you’d be silly not to be.


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