Monday Musings: Sod’s Law Indeed!

So I got it wrong. It wasn’t Graham Lee and Frankelio who got up to deny Sod’s Law and Danny Tudhope on the line at Pontefract last Monday, hours after the almost-uncannily correct prediction appeared in these pages, but Joe Fanning, that other regular rider for Wilf Storey back in the day. Joe gathered the Mark Johnston-trained front-running Bo Samraan for a renewed effort just before the line and won by a head, writes Tony Stafford.

There were 14 runners that day in the Yorkshire mud and only two of them truly acted on it. We knew Ray Tooth’s homebred would cope, but timing was all. Danny did nothing wrong except come up against a Johnston horse who’d been absent for half the year recovering from injury. Any normal trainer would have waited until next year to bring the son of Sea The Stars back – how unfair to run a mile and a half-bred horse against us at a mile and a quarter! MJ couldn’t wait.

And where were the other twelve? Well if I tell you the extended distances were ten lengths back to the third, then 3.25; 5; 1.25; 4; 4.5; 3.5; 11; 2; 2.5; 6 and 1.25 lengths you can picture the scene as horses rolled about all over West Yorkshire with everyone coming home as though they’d been on an SAS Survival course in the Brecon Beacons.

Thus Sod’s Law finished his honourable service career for Ray <possibly> on a questionable note. Timeform, those arbiters of equine quality, managed skilfully to face both ways at once. They more than questioned his honesty by applying the dreaded “squiggle” – shush! – alongside his rating while at the same time raising it by a full 6lb to 92. So he goes to Tattersall’s Autumn Horses in Training sale on Wednesday on a highly-saleable mark and proven to stay ten furlongs which had not been fully established before Pontefract.

The Halifax firm produce a special book evaluating all the horses in that sale and every Middle Eastern buyer aiming at filling his orders will be marching around with one under his arm from today. I’ll be going up later this morning for a preliminary skirmish prior to Wednesday when Sod’s Law goes under the hammer in the evening with the second batch of the Hughie Morrison contingent.

I felt a bit sorry for the old boy – the horse not the trainer! – as he’d needed to dig pretty deep to get where he did on a day of attritional racing. Up the hill and over his longest distance yet, he even gave indications that a mile and a half might not stretch his capabilities while there were whispers that maybe even jumping could be a possible, although there haven’t been many of the Maysons try it.

What of Frankelio, who as I said last week, has been a constant nagging at the back of my brain ever since I discovered his form connection with The Revenant. I saw Micky Hammond before the race, suggesting I feared his horse and he candidly said: “I’m not sure he’ll stay and in any case when we gelded him in the summer it seemed to take a lot out of him. It’s going to be all about next year for him.”

For the record, Frankelio was almost 45 lengths back in 11th place but more annoyingly, Rake’s Progress who’d come late to deny our chap at Nottingham the previous week, this time was never in contention and more than 18 lengths behind in fifth at the finish.

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Now it’s up to the bidders and Ray doesn’t ever let them go for nothing. That will apply too for Say Nothing, his three-year-old filly by Nathaniel who is due to sell in the earlier batch of Hughie’s Wednesday auction items. She is one of nine declared for a mile and a half handicap at Southwell early tomorrow evening. The Morrison horses always do well on Fibresand and the hope is she’ll finally earn a winning bracket and then go straight on to the sale in advance of Wednesday.

She’s a looker and for a while we were tempted to send her hurdling as her half-brother – and the mare I Say’s first foal – Nelson River was fourth in this year’s Triumph Hurdle for Tony Carroll. With a robust physique that had Hughie calling her “little Enable” when he first saw her, she would attract at least a look from dual-purpose shoppers. The Enable point is easily made. The great mare is by Nathaniel out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. Say Nothing is also a daughter of Nathaniel, and I Say has Sadler’s Wells as her maternal grandsire.

It was Sod’s Law for us again on Saturday evening. Waterproof, running in a 16-runner classified race, also finished runner-up, this time by half a length again with the rest of the field trailing along behind, though not quite in such disarray as Pontefract. There was an element of slight misfortune too as Shaun Keightley’s gelding got a hefty bump from the winner a furlong out. “If it had been a head we might have got it,” said the trainer. It wasn’t so we didn’t.

While preparing for Chelmsford, Waterproof has also been schooling over hurdles and is due to make his debut at Huntingdon on Sunday while the boys prepare to fly back from the Breeders’ Cup in Santa Anita over the previous two days. In encouraging Raymond to try jumping: “The Pour Moi’s do well over hurdles”, I repeatedly suggested, again there was a Sod’s Law element. When we sent Laughing Water to Coolmore, Pour Moi seemed a good choice, as he’d already sired the Derby winner Wings Of Eagles for the Coolmore partners and Aidan O’Brien. But even before Waterproof was a year old, Coolmore had switched the Derby winner to their NH division.

Today I read that poor old Pour Moi has now been seconded to a French stud, reflecting his having covered fewer than 60 mares this year. The supreme irony for the stallion is that his son Wings of Eagles, having attended to the mating requirement of four times as many mares as daddy in his native France, is coming back the other way to Coolmore. Who said money talks?

There were so many Sod’s Law moments this week, most of them encapsulated in the two days’ Flat racing scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Doncaster and Newbury both succumbed to the deluge – if you were wondering, Ray’s potentially smart jumper Apres Le Deluge is having a break at Hedgeholm stud – but the big races have been reprieved.

Again last week, I suggested Aidan O’Brien had no prospect of clawing back the money deficit to John Gosden, but with five of the only six declarations for the Vertem Futurity at Doncaster, he would have had a chance of heading his rival for a couple of days at least. The race has been reopened and will be run on Friday night’s Newcastle card and added to the eight races already scheduled. Ralph Beckett plans to add Kinross, impressive on debut at Newmarket recently, while Andrew Balding’s Kameko, the only non-O’Brien acceptor last week will run. Aidan apparently will stick with the quintet already listed.

Newbury’s Horris Hill Stakes was also lost and transfers to Newmarket on Saturday. That had been Beckett’s original target for Kinross, and HQ’s management will be hoping that the course’s noted drying capacities will provide acceptable conditions for its two-day finale.

I suppose Phoenix Thoroughbreds can afford the odd setback, but they had a Sod’s Law moment par excellence at ParisLongchamp yesterday. Only four horses were declared at the final stage for the Criterium International (which Ray won in 2011 with French Fifteen), two by Aidan and one Joseph. The only non-O’Brien was the German-trained Alson, in the private stable of Gestut Schlenderhan handled by French-born Jean-Pierre Carvalho.

The heavy ground caused the morning defection of Wichita, one of Aidan’s pair leaving Alson and Armory, respectively second and third in the Lagardere on Arc Day, to renew rivalry. Joseph’s entry was the supplemented filly Lady Penelope, recently bought to remain in his stable by Phoenix. The supplementary fee would have been more than dealt with by the guaranteed third-place money, but she flipped over in the stalls denying Group 1 black type and Shane Crosse a moment of Group 1 glory.

That left just the two and after a very short time it was clear that Armory and Donnacha O’Brien were not coping with the ground while Alson clearly was. With Armory eased off, Frankie Dettori enjoyed his 19th Group 1 win of the year and it was surely easier than any of Enable’s during her entire career as the 20-length margin was announced.

Afterwards Donnacha expressed his amazement that no French horse could be found to contest that race and no doubt many others will have similar thoughts about the paucity of English challengers for some of our top domestic race.

I’m not sure I’ve really taken to the way the Breeders’ Cup has evolved into its present two-day structure and certainly for UK watchers, the first set of races offers few points of interest, although no doubt the Editor will already have been sorting out the likely longshots in the dirt races to fund his trip.

One race that will attract universal attention will be Magical’s run in the Filly and Mare Turf race on Saturday. If she wins she’ll have to have beaten the US crack Sistercharlie, but don’t be surprised if that perennial over-achiever Billesdon Brook goes close. I don’t think Richard Hannon has had anything like the credit he deserves for keeping her going at the level he has.

Tony S

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