Just one word from me and it’s off to the UK to ride their first winner there in 2018, writes Tony Stafford. In my delayed missive last week, penned (can you still say that?) in the early hours of Tuesday morning, I related brief conversations I had, first with Ronan Whelan and then Chris Hayes at The Curragh on Sunday.
Whelan was still euphoric minutes after winning the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes on Skitter Scatter when we discussed his hopes for the Ray Tooth-bred Garswood colt that he, his father Tom and agent Larry Stratton will be bringing back to Tattersalls Book 2 yearling sale next month after jointly purchasing him as a foal last November.
The Moyglare was Whelan’s first Group 1 success in his tenth season as a jockey, begun as an apprentice with Jim Bolger and this year flourishing to the extent of 39 domestic wins.
Hayes, fresh from his victory on the Richard Fahey-trained Zab in The Curragh’s concluding handicap, recalled our previous association 13 years earlier for a runner (unsuccessful) at Hamilton Park. I neglected to mention that the booking came about as a result of a recommendation by former jockey and later trainer Declan Gillespie.
Coincidentally we were sitting in the buffet at Tattersalls sales with Charlie Swan and Declan’s son Thomas, who was about to embark on his training career in Singapore. Bobby O’Ryan, father of Hayes’ agent Kevin, told me that Gillespie senior, a long-term friend from the days when Declan was Bolger’s number one rider, no longer trains but still lives in the Far East.
That day, clearly much further in the past than memory would have estimated, the two top jockeys (one Flat, the other rider of Istabraq) said that in their opinion Ruby Walsh was the best jockey they’d ever seen in either code. Declan, in reply to my question about up-and-coming Irish apprentices, was equally adamant that Hayes was an outstanding prospect.
During the past five British Flat seasons, Chris Hayes has ridden a total of only 40 horses and won on just two of them. In the past two seasons before Saturday he had made a total of three trips to the UK. Last year he had a ride for Fozzy Stack on the unplaced outsider Sirici in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, but teamed up with Owen Burrows on the Hamdan Al Maktoum colt Talaayeb to win the £93k City of York Stakes (Group 3) at the big August meeting on his only other mount in Britain.
His previous visit before the weekend was principally for Stack’s Alexios Komnenos in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May when he finished ninth of 15 on that 25-1 shot behind Rhododendron. Denis Hogan also booked him that day for 100-1 outsider Arabic Channel who beat one home in the juvenile race won by The Irish Rover.
By comparison his home score of 54 wins from 520 rides makes much more revealing reading. Stack is a relative newcomer with a license but since his late teens has been the de facto trainer at Thomastown Castle Stud as his father Tommy, Red Rum’s last Grand National winning rider, has been afflicted by a long-standing illness.
Now, though, Fozzy Stack has written his own history as on Saturday at Ayr, partnered by Hayes, his Son Of Rest, actually a son of Pivotal, claimed equal billing with Paul Cole’s sprinter, Baron Bolt, in what was both the first dead-heat in the Ayr Gold Cup’s 200-year history and also the only Irish-trained winner of the race.
Six days earlier at The Curragh, Hayes had ridden 20-1 shot Son Of Rest into second place in the Group 1 Flying Five. The other four principals, Karl Burke-trained Havana Grey, the half-length winner; Sioux Nation, Hit the Bid and Take Cover <an excellent career-closing second at Newbury on Saturday>, were rated respectively 111, 111, 110 and 109. Solid enough form, especially when Son of Rest could go into the Ayr race off his existing mark of 102. No wonder he was subject of a week-long gamble from 20-1 into 5-1 favouritism.
Looking through lists of horses’ names can be misleading – it’s easy for old eyes to gloss over and concentration to wane – but I believe that Zab was only the fourth English-based horse ridden by Hayes this year. Fellow British-based Irishmen Declan Carroll and David O’Meara have supplied a single unplaced mount, so the highlight was clearly the ride on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Desert Diamond on whom he finished runner-up in a Group 3 early this month.
Whelan also collected his initial 2018 UK winner in Scotland this weekend, on the Richard Osborne-trained 11-1 shot What Wonders Weave in the Hamilton seller, run in bottomless gluepot ground yesterday. He had two other outsiders on the card for the same trainer, both unplaced.
That was his third foray here, after riding two outsiders without much impact on Lingfield’s All-Weather championships Day on Good Friday and a much more memorable weekend in late August.
Whelan travelled over for a Salisbury Friday ride for Ed Vaughan on the Phoenix Thoroughbreds colt Dubai Dominion, finishing a creditable third in Listed company. Then it was on to York the following day to continue his association with the Jarlath Fahey-trained Sea The Lion in the Sky Bet Ebor. They had together won all three of his races in Ireland this year.
Sea The Lion could not match the John Gosden pair Muntahaa and Weekender – the latter a fine third to Flag of Honour and Latrobe in the Irish St Leger a week ago – but stayed on for a highly-creditable and lucrative third.
Whelan had ridden winners here in each of the previous four years but, as with Hayes, it seems surprising that his recent level of activity has been so limited, especially on weekends when the domestic jockey talent is spread so thinly with multiple big meetings clashing around the country.
One rider who enjoyed Paul Cole’s part in the Ayr Gold Cup was Siobhan Doolan, featured here after winning on the David Pipe-trained chaser Dell’Arca in the amateurs’ race at Newbury, but not sighted on the track in the intervening month. Then a call last week to the Cole stable brought a positive response and the mount on top-weight Rotherwick in the Amateurs’ Cambridgeshire at Newmarket, run 40 minutes after Ayr’s feature.
I would normally have been there to cheer her on, but chose Newbury so watched from there. I thought Siobhan gave the horse a nice ride, conjuring a late rally which almost got her past Serena Brotherton for a close third place. Serena and Simon Walker get most of the good rides in such races and it was Walker on Bubble and Squeak who duly prevailed.
After Newbury, I did suggest here that James Willoughby’s remarks that Dell’Arca would have won by 20 lengths if his rider had a bit more experience were ill-judged. The following weekend, under a 4lb higher mark, Dell’Arca, far from winning by anywhere near 20 lengths, was beaten nine lengths at Goodwood under Luke Morris, who maybe needs more experience? He then ran a decent fourth back over jumps in the Kerry National at Listowel. Siobhan, cheekily, suggested he might have been even closer had the stable employed her 7lb claim.
Looking ahead, the rain in recent days has given us hope that conditions will be suitable when Hughie Morrison readies Sod’s Law for his follow up to his recent Ffos Las win at either Ascot or Pontefract next month. The trainer collected a nice Newbury double on Buzz (the no-longer-claiming Charlie Bennett) and Temple Church (Gerald Mosse), two riders at either end of the experience scale.