Mike Cattermole reflects on the recent action at Longchamp and Leopardstown, shares his Lockinge memories and urges action over the recent fighting at top tracks.
NOT A GREAT START FOR THE NOUVEAU LONGCHAMP
I have not visited the revamped and newly named Paris-Longchamp yet but look forward to it. However, Guineas day on Sunday was not the rip-roaring success they might have hoped for. Far from it.
I was working in the At The Races studio and we had a feed from Equidia Pro where Christophe Soumillon was getting very serious about the state of the ground after the Poulains when US Navy Flag had stumbled.
You didn’t need sound nor to speak French to understand that Soumillon was enraged by the reluctance of the local stewards to accept that the track was dangerous, especially as he had refused to ride on it only the previous week.
But even aside from US Navy Flag’s slip, it was one highly unsatisfactory race with several horses pulling hard or hanging and the stop-start gallop not helping. Wootton, in particular, totally refused to settle and the sight of Mikael Barzalona being carted around the outside of the field on the Godolphin-owned colt made for uncomfortable viewing.
It was the first defeat of Wootton’s career as Olmedo got his revenge. Jean-Claude Rouget’s colt won in spite of getting messed about on the turn himself and was probably the best horse in the race anyway.
The exciting thing about him is that he should get better as he goes further, so Rouget could easily have another Brametot on his hands here as he readies Olmedo for the Prix du Jockey Club.
Well done also to James Tate – he so nearly pulled it off with Hey Gaman, merely beaten a neck.
The Pouliches, meanwhile, eventually switched to the outer track, was a personal triumph for David Simcock who broke his Classic duck as Teppal maintained her unbeaten record. This was a big breakthrough for the popular Newmarket trainer.
But this race too was an unsatisfactory affair ultimately with just over six lengths covering all of the runners and the form could be shuffled around a bit in the coming weeks and months.
That said, Teppal has some real star quality about her (and looks a battler, too) and you had to feel for Jamie Spencer who had ridden her in her first two races before she was sold privately during the winter to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, who has an arrangement with the evergreen Olivier Peslier.
I’m afraid Monsieur Barzalona had another one to forget here in the Godolphin royal blue but this time his mount Musis Amica was never travelling before coming home fast, all too late, on the outside.
How things have changed in a week. Godolphin would have had high hopes for both British and French Guineas with Masar, Soliloquy, Wild Illusion, Wootton and Musis Amica. Only Masar managed to place.
MEANWHILE IN IRELAND…
Some really good stuff over there on Sunday and, for once, it wasn’t all about Ballydoyle.
Given his connections, the Dermot Weld-trained Hazapour has to be taken seriously for the Derby having seen off the O’Brien-trained pair Delano Roosevelt and The Pentagon at Leopardstown. He is related to Harzand, too.
Earlier, the unbeaten Fozzy Stack-trained Zihba emerged into Classic contention after beating his elders in the Amethyst Stakes and could be a genuine contender for the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the end of the month. I bet the four-strong partnership that own him have been fielding a lot of phone calls since.
Who’s Steph, who had already changed hands having been bought by George Strawbridge following her reappearance win, carried 4lb more than Zihba and put up a slightly faster time in the 1,000 Guineas Trial.
She also demonstrated that she is equally effective on a sound surface and will now be supplemented by Ger Lyons for the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Three very smart horses, then, that will be out to make sure that Aidan doesn’t get it all his own way over the next few weeks.
NEWBURY’S BIG FLAT RACE
I have always felt that Newbury deserves more than its solitary Group One flat race. It is a top all-year round track after all – one of the fairest and most admired – and now one with some of the best off-course facilities in the business.
But what a Group One it is, the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, one of my favourites and which traditionally slips into the limelight after the York midweek Dante meeting.
This year, the race celebrates its 60th anniversary, which I think should have been incorporated into the race title.
It certainly boasts a rich history and the first winner was Her Majesty The Queen's Pall Mall who had won the Guineas earlier in the month – yes, three-year-olds could run in it until 1995 - and had lined up at Newmarket after not one, but two trials that spring. How times have changed!
The first Lockinge I watched on television was back in 1978 and it was a dramatic renewal. Jellaby apparently had the race in safe keeping only to stumble inside the final furlong and unseat Brian Taylor. Don, trained by Bill Elsey and ridden by Brian Rouse, picked up the pieces.
The following year, Young Generation, third to Tap On Wood and Kris in a vintage Guineas, defeated his elders and then Kris was back himself as a four-year-old when he broke the track record in 1980.
However, the most incredible performance I witnessed live was that of Hawk Wing in 2003. Rarely has a top race been won so emphatically, as the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt drew further and further clear in the rain and came home an incredible 11 lengths ahead of a field packed full of Group One winners. The runner-up Where Or When was eight lengths in front of the others.
(Hawk Wing may not have cut the mustard at stud but he was an outstanding racehorse, massively under appreciated in my opinion, who should have won the Guineas and would have been an easy 12-length winner of the Derby but for being just outstayed by his stablemate High Chaparral.)
More recently, who will forget Richard Hannon’s tears after Paco Boy’s win in 2010? Then more heart-warming stuff two years later when Frankel kicked off his final season in style in front of a relieved Sir Henry.
So, Hawk Wing remains the only Lockinge on Aidan’s CV but that may change if Rhododendron appears on Saturday. She could face the in-form Addeyb who has improved hugely but has to prove he can be as effective on a quicker surface.
And then there is Limato. Could this be the day when things finally fall into place over a mile? The ground is in his favour – at last - and he has had an untroubled preparation.
You know, I think he can do it and become the latest and most worthy addition to what really is a first-class role of honour.
Video courtesy of QIPCO British Champions Series
SOLVE CROWD TROUBLE? GET THE POLICE IN!
The outbreaks of fighting at Goodwood and Ascot recently are hardly the headlines that racing wants or needs.
At Goodwood, the uniform tended to be dark trousers and light shirts, at Ascot it was three-piece suits. Either way, fit young men were involved and stoked up by either booze or drugs or a combination of both. Yes, it was shocking.
There is probably no way from wiping out this abhorrent behaviour happening again in the future but there is a way to nip it in the bud when things show signs of getting out of hand.
How? By employing more police and more security men who have been trained appropriately.
Yes, it will cost but those top racecourses, which get the biggest crowds, can afford it and it must be done.
Note that these recent events happened before the soccer season had ended so the reference to football hooligans here has been misplaced.
And while on that, think about this. For big midweek European games (Champions League, Europa League etc), no alcohol is sold at the bars. It’s soft drinks only and everybody accepts it. Pretty extreme, yes, but it is rare to hear of outbreaks of violence now at such matches.
Mind you, how many would show up if they banned drink completely from the top race meetings?
SPORTING LIFE MARCHES ON!
The last copy of The Sporting Life newspaper rolled off the presses 20 years ago last weekend.
Around 80 former members of staff gathered at The Freemasons Arms in Covent Garden last Saturday night to acknowledge the passing of time and remember the good old days. It was a lovely, nostalgic evening, superbly organised by Paul “Hopper” Duffett.
Some of the names there would have been familiar to you and included Geoff Lester, Steve Taylor, Eddie Fremantle, David Ashforth, Bruce Millington (now editor at Racing Post), Peter Thomas, Mick Connaughton, Jeremy Chapman, Gary Nutting and many others.
The paper may be long gone but The Life remains very much alive in spirit and online with sportinglife.com!