Sunday Supplement: to Ascot via York

Tony Stafford in his Telegaph days...

Tony Stafford in his Telegraph days…

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

Yesterday I passed up a genuine “get rich quick” possibility. In the car park early before York I bumped into Neil Morrice, whose Twitter account describes him as an international racing tipster/writer/broadcaster; collector of antiques, stamps, vinyl records, racing books and racing memorabilia. Then more mysteriously, he claims to be a birder and real ale quaffer.

I just know him as the bloke from Yorkshire I first met with a little face fuzz when he was driving Michel Dickinson around. He’s been a pretty constant man on the scene in the intervening 40 years, enjoying or not many different roles and judging from the pictures, he was at the Belmont Stakes last weekend to see the crowning of American Pharoah.

That covers the international bit, and as his less than modest Racing Post ads for his tipping service attest, he keeps some good company in the mornings while not collecting stamps, antiques, vinyl records and racing memorabilia, or indeed birding (?) and especially quaffing real ale.

He was there with his son, to celebrate the latter’s 30th birthday and seemed pretty sure he knew a winner. When pressed, he revealed the name, Twilight Son, pretty appropriate for the occasion.

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Me and Roger went in, had a nice lunch then watched as Two Jabs led before dropping back after a bump in the Queen Mother Cup. We stayed for a couple more races, then, in the way of such things, I was passing the paddock on the way to the car when I bumped into Neil again.

I asked: “How did your good thing do?” He replied: “He runs now”, pointing to the ring. In the car I tuned into the commentary and listened as Twilight Son swept home comfortably clear to retain an unbeaten four from four career record for Henry Candy. There was plenty of 5-1 around for him too.

Most mugs were on the recently acquired (by Hamdan Al Maktoum) Scalzo, from the Martyn Meade stable, but he missed the break and never looked like collecting the £62,000 first prize. One man who wasn’t on him was Fergus Sweeney, who rode him on his first three, including the Haydock romp which opened up the Hamdan wallet. That uncomfortable experience fell to Paul Hanagan. Sweeney, like Morrice and his clients, was on Twilight Son. There’s usually plenty of scope for quaffing after such a big win, but whether Neil was up to any birding is open to doubt.

Get Rich Quick scene two comes into play for the connections of assorted two-year-old breezers, recent juvenile winners with Royal Ascot entries and progressive older horses at tomorrow’s Goffs London Sale, in the Orangery at Kensington Palace.

Around 50 lots are expected to come under the hammer, and in the second year of this extraordinary sale, most of the breeze-up horses will be at Kensington Palace unlike last year when they paraded in Sunbury-on-Thames. Those horses with racecourse form will have been inspected at their home stables.

The Royal Ascot entries are the key, and last year Qatar Racing paid £1.3 million for the Showcasing colt Cappella Sansevero, who rocked up at Ascot the following afternoon and finished runner-up to another recent Qatari acquisition The Wow Signal in the Coventry Stakes.

Cappella Sansevero, a 25,000gns yearling at Newmarket the previous October had won three in a row in Ireland before the sale. The Wow Signal was allowed only a single start by John Quinn – a nine-length debut romp at Ayr – before attracting the attention of Al Shaqab Racing, and the two close Al Thani family members are expected to be in attendance looking for clues once more.

I haven’t detected anything as obviously appealing among those being offered this time round, but the chance of buying into a decent performer with an immediate Royal Ascot entry – and the raft of owners’ badges that go with it – will be hard to resist for someone with a budget.

My role there last year was as a quaffer – not real ale – and party food muncher, as it’s easy enough for me to get to Kensington by public transport. I remember clearly – that’s a change – strolling onto a bus in Bayswater Road after the event while groups of fellow sale attendees waited for their limos or more mundanely, taxis.

I also observed the bidding, often frenetic, sometimes disappointing, but the group I was with had the double good fortune to sell their recent once-raced winner for £180,000 and then heard the new owners had no intention of taking it on to the Royal meeting the next day. Sadly, another sold for the same figure, did take the Ascot option and was fatally injured. It’s the luck of the draw, as always in racing.

I’d been looking forward to watching another candidate from the same source going (remotely) under the hammer until I heard last week that space is limited and sorry you’re out. Think I’ll have to resort to the press badge option. Surely Goffs want publicity, even if it’s only in this organ, but then again maybe too much was quaffed, too many party fancies consumed. I’ll play it by ear.

I watched a nice film last night. Julie and Julia is reputedly the first film to be made from a blog. <Is it too late for me?> <Yes, Ed>. If relates to the American cookery writer Julia Child, whose 1950’s book introduced Americans to French cooking, and the post 9/11 blog of New Yorker Julie Powell, who spent a full year just after the tragedy in homage to Child by trying all 528 (I think) recipes from that book within a year, reporting on her experiences as she went on.

Powell, whose day-time job involved talking to relatives of people killed or missing in the Twin Towers, felt a true affinity with her predecessor and when her quest was concluded, the book, television and film offers flooded in.

Both Meryl Streep (Child) and Amy Adams as Powell were convincing in a comfortable film which amply shows to what extent fame and altered circumstances can rapidly occur in this modern version of the world. There will be plenty of vendors at the Palace tomorrow hoping for the chance of if not a life-changing result, certainly something that can start them off for Ascot on a winning note.

For what it’s worth, I’m going to try to match Neil’s expertise by offering a tip for the meeting. I thought Spark Plug was ultra-impressive at Newbury and hope he’ll win the Royal Hunt Cup on Wednesday. Wish I’d taken Ladbrokes’ rather odd offer of 25-1 a week or so back. So suspicious, I thought a leg had fallen off!

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