About a couple of months ago, I was at Mick Channon’s West Ilsley stables, watching his most forward two-year-olds doing a brisk canter up the hill, writes Tony Stafford. At that stage Mick possibly hadn’t got all their identities a hundred per cent to memory even if younger son and assistant, Jack, had.
So as the string started back down the incline, he called to one of the Indian lads: “What’s that one by?” which prompted the reply “Jungleinthebungle!” Of course he meant Bungleinthejungle, a name I was no more than vaguely aware of, despite the fact that it was only six years ago the son of Exceed and Excel won four of his nine runs as a two-year-old.
After laughter all round, I gave away my imperfect memory asking, “Who trained that?” Mick put me in my place saying: “I did. He could be champion first season sire!”
Needless to say, the malapropism has stuck and the chestnut colt out of the Oasis Dream mare Princess Banu was duly named Jungleinthebungle. Casting my eye down the 13-strong field in Saturday’s first-day juvenile feature, the Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster, the presence of three of that young stallion’s progeny was an indication of likely precocity.
The fact that none of the trio is from West Ilsley, or that any of them could do better than Carey Street’s sixth place, does not invalidate Channon’s prediction. When I spoke briefly to the stable on Friday in response to an enquiry about the Pour Moi – Ms Cordelia filly that Mick trains for the boss, it might have been an idea to ask his expectations for the Clodovil colt, Izzer, who was about to represent the stable.
The following afternoon, having watched from the Newbury racecourse betting shop as first Addeybb won the Lincoln in a hack canter and then witnessed Izzer land a gamble, allegedly from a morning 14-1 down to 4’s, that lack of inquisitiveness was a source of real frustration.
Mick has three by the sire, whose biggest wins were in the Molecomb at Goodwood, where he was a 14-1 shot despite already having two victories in his locker. Then, after narrowly going down to Sir Prancelot in the Flying Childers, he got the better of subsequent Group 1 winner Garswood in the Cornwallis (Group 3) at Ascot.
Unlike Garswood, Bungleinthejungle failed to train on and stands at €5,000 at Rathasker stud in Ireland. Izzer, bought from Tattersall’s Book 3 sale by Gill Richardson, Channon’s long-term sales advisor, for only 11,000gns, was named in the trainer’s ownership in the recently-published Horses in Training 2018 book, which I collected from Rupert Mackeson’s Marlborough Bookshop’s stall outside the Newbury weighing room on Saturday. He had been passed on to David Hutt and Chris Wright by the time he turned out at Doncaster. I hope Mick got a nice turn on the deal.
The arrival of the book – I had usually collected a copy during Cheltenham, but having left the first one in a box minutes after buying it last year, necessitating a second, I waited a week. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation of discovering which stables are thriving while others are doing less well, but the tendency of quite a few to be reticent takes away some of the validity of the publication.
Trainers such as Mark Johnston and Richard Hannon are completely up front, understandably perhaps with their teams well above 200 – in Hannon’s case 261; Johnston a more modest 221.
For several seasons, Richard Fahey has had comfortably the biggest number in his ever-expanding stable, but disguises it by neglecting to add his two-year-olds to the 119 listed aged three and above. This season, for the first time, John Gosden has also gone down that route, owning up to 126 older horses, but keeping the identity of the youngsters to himself.
It is unlikely that we’ll be seeing too many of that age from Clarehaven much before May, but since the Godolphin shake-up which led to the departure of John Ferguson last year, Gosden has been the prime figure for Godolphin at the sales. It must be highly likely that some of the more expensive acquisitions might end up with him rather than Saeed bin Suroor or Charlie Appleby.
Fahey, predictably, was quickly off the mark on Saturday with one winner, and two more yesterday from the 17 runners he had on Town Moor. He also sent a handful over to Naas for their opening turf meeting of the year, but one third place was the best he could manage.
It will probably take Roger Teal at least a couple of months to send out 22 Flat runners, but he was off the mark on turf at the first attempt before Fahey’s last-race success. That came with 50-1 shot (100-1 on the Tote) High Acclaim in the Spring Mile, consolation race to the Lincoln. His winning time was barely half a second slower than Addeybb’s an hour later and from his present low mark, High Acclaim can continue to provide further proof of his trainer’s talent.
Last week I touched on the advertising benefits of sponsoring jockeys, and there is no doubt that the highly-consistent David Probert, who rode High Acclaim and will be continuing his blossoming partnership with Teal’s Tip Two Win in the 2,000 Guineas, is value for money with geegeez.co.uk’s support. Tip Two Win remains one of the few possibles outside the mainstream stables for Classic success after two sparkling wins in Qatar over the winter.
The early positioning of Easter does give some continuity to Flat racing, providing a bridge from Doncaster to the Craven. As well as the well-endowed All-Weather Championships meeting at Lingfield on Good Friday, Newcastle (rather than Musselburgh, which waits a day) and Bath also provide opportunities.
Then on Saturday, three more Flat meetings, Musselburgh’s turf being supplemented by Kempton’s all-weather card featuring the Rosebery Handicap and Magnolia Stakes, both £50k guaranteed affairs. That evening’s racing at Chelmsford might tempt holiday fans if the east wind stays away from its wide-open spaces.
And jumping enthusiasts still have a fair bit to look forward to, with Aintree and Sandown’s season-ending fixtures to come. Before that, on Saturday, Haydock stages a seven-race card, the first six races of which are Challenger Series Finals over all disciplines and distances, three each chases and hurdles. All six Challenger races carry £50,000 total prizemoney. It will be interesting later today to see which trainers have kept some resources back for these tasty opportunities.
Finally, another book that has recently come my way is the well-received latest effort by Jamie Reid, winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2013 for “Doped”. “Monsieur X” is the tale of the audacious French aristo, Patrice des Moutis, who courted the acquaintance of many of French racing’s leading figures, in his quest to make a fortune from the Tierce bet from the late 1950’s to the 1970’s.
My friend Prince Pippy, who was the Paris correspondent for The Racehorse when I edited that late lamented publication, knew Patrice well. “He would park his car right outside the main entrance at Longchamp, Chantilly and even Royal Ascot and Newmarket, and everyone who was anyone would come up and talk to him, often accepting the glass of champagne he always offered,” he said.
Reid has, as ever, skilfully woven his tale, and the story of de Moutis’ battles with the authorities, fully chronicled in the French papers of the day, as they tried to stop his regular big wins, will leave older racing devotees – no names – with a deep nostalgia for former times.
Monsieur X, by Jamie Reid, Bloomsbury, £18, hardback.
– Tony Stafford