Monday Musings: Tony a Starcrossed Lover

What do you do to pass the time, if you’ve a good hour and a half to wait for your horse to go through the sales ring? When Dutch Law was offered at the Tattersalls October Horses in Training sale on October 26 2016, Steve Gilbey, fully restored with a handsome breakfast from the buffet, filled his by starting to turn the pages of his catalogue, writes Tony Stafford.

Dutch Law, winner of four races and a Raymond Tooth homebred, came hotfoot from one of his least impressive performances, last of eight four days earlier at Doncaster. But his victory the previous month in the 50k to the winner Albert Bartlett Handicap at Ascot, promised a good result.

As the boss and I continued to speculate about the possible outcome, Steve suddenly stood up and went to look at the horses parading around the ring. Soon after, he returned like a man on a mission. “I like 945” he said, “It’s big and I think it’ll make a jumper, but he’s going into the ring right now!”

Indeed it was and there was only just time for me to ask trainer Eve Johnson Houghton, “is he all right?” She answered in the affirmative, and two minutes later he (a son of Cape Cross called Starcrossed) was knocked down to “Raymond Tooth – 10,000gns”.

Despatched to Dan Skelton, his new trainer confirmed Steve’s original assessment: “Lovely big horse – he’ll jump a fence one day”, but added: “We’ve scanned all the other horses from the sale, and I think we should check him”. Wise words, as the scan discovered one small spot on a tendon – “you couldn’t see it with the naked eye” – and Dan suggested sending him back to Kinsale farm in Shropshire to have him fired.

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Firing is not always regarded favourably nowadays, but many old-timers maintain it is still the best treatment for tendon problems, along with a good period of r & r. Rachael and Richard Kempster at the stud have a high regard for their vet Alasdair Topp of Nantwich Equine Vets and he duly performed what Rachael later described as “a perfect job”.

A year later he went back to Skelton, refreshed from good Shropshire grass, having previously run a dozen times from his belated debut in mid-July of his three-year-old year, 11 of them in a calendar year. He won one of them and showed stamina in excess of speed in earning a rating of 65. He’d obviously looked modest as a young horse, his yearling price of 6,000gns making him the cheapest of 39 Cape Cross yearlings, including Golden Horn, sold in 2013.

The need for and potential cost of surgery was slightly salved as Dutch Law realised 150,000gns and was set for a career in the Middle East. Strangely, and unfortunately for his new owners, there is no evidence that he has ever raced since.

Fast forward to February 2018 and Dan had Starcrossed ready for a run and Doncaster was the chosen starting point. In finishing seventh some way back he showed promise and most importantly, an aptitude for jumping, albeit a little higher than ideal for a hurdler. Last Thursday, 13 days after Doncaster and starting 16-1, he came through a 15-runner field at Huntingdon and won going away by a length, surprising the trainer and delighting the owner.
For the man who owned a Champion Hurdler, Punjabi, who nowadays is a regular with Rachael in the parade of champions on the opening day at the Festival, that made it two wins from only three runs and two jumping horses this season.

Hopes are now much higher than previously for Starcrossed, while Ray’s other “jumper”, once-raced home-bred bumper winner Apres Le Deluge, is earmarked by Hughie Morrison for Aintree. As we hear tales of sums of Euro or £200,000 to £400,000 plus being paid for bumper and pointing winners, we’ve been surprised at the lack of interest in our big boy.
It can only be that nobody saw or has since bothered to look at his race at Hereford on December 16, when the gelded son of Stormy River careered away with the junior bumper. If you don’t believe me, look on the At the Races site – I promise it will be an eye-opener.

So if you have £200k or thereabouts to spare, let me know!

The last pre-Cheltenham evidence was offered to punters and Cheltenham preview panellists at Kempton on Saturday. I’ve only the one engagement this year, as is usual nowadays, a fortnight today at the Bedfordshire Racing Club. The 7 p.m. start, so home at midnight, is therefore ideal for getting my usual three hours’ sleep before setting off westwards the following morning.

The best weekend clue came from the Alan King-trained Redicean, who maintained his 100% record and took his third win in a row, by sprinting clear of his field in the Adonis Hurdle. This Anthony Bromley purchase on behalf of Apple Tree Stud was bought for 85,000gns out of the David O’Meara stable, and as a mile and three-quarters Flat winner, might have been imagined unlikely to have such acceleration.
His win came 11 years to the day that I first met Raymond Tooth, after Punjabi, another Bromley spot, won the same race by 19 lengths. He was only fourth in the Triumph, but then second at Aintree, each time behind Katchit, trained expertly by King, and the horse that preceded Punjabi as the Champion Hurdle winner in 2008.

O’Meara also had a good weekend, sending his tough performer Intisaab to Doha where he collected a six-figure sum by winning the sprint race. Happiest result for me though, was the easy win of Roger Teal-trained Tip Two Win, the Dark Angel colt, owned and bred by Anne Cowley, in the similarly-endowed Mile event.

Tip Two Win and David Probert had to overcome interference at the two-furlong pole but recovered with a finishing burst that augurs well for his 2,000 Guineas chance. I’m sure that Mrs Cowley will have plenty more seven-figure temptations before allowing the Great Shefford trainer his shot at Classic glory. I’d love him to win it. In fact at this stage he’s my Tip Two Win the race.

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