Thursday 15 May 2014

The Crowning of King Richard II – Reflections on Newmarket and also Nottingham

Ever since student days at Cambridge, I’ve enjoyed going up to the Rowley Mile to watch the 2,000 Guineas. Back in the early 1970s I was slumming it in the Silver Ring, followed by a few pints of Greene King Abbot Ale and the hottest curry in the Indian restaurant just down from Fitzwilliam College. Indeed in one year I can remember a friend ordering a fuming vindaloo and then promptly fainting into it. We carried on regardless. Now, I’m staying in the excellent Tuddenham Mill, swanning around in the Members and drinking fine claret. Still like a few pints of Abbot Ale though.

Only those with excellent memories will recall Mon Fils, at 50/1, beating Noble Decree by a head in 1973, trained by a much younger and slimmer Richard Hannon. I’ll never forget it because most of my student money that year had gone on Noble Decree, at odds from 33/1 down. Going into the dip he was several lengths ahead, but was pipped on the line. Many years later I mentioned this to Richard, and his gruff comment was “I needed the money more than you did, son”. True. So I was delighted this year when Richard II managed to win the Guineas with Night Of Thunder, in his first attempt at a Classic, again at generous odds of 40/1. And yet again, my selection was 2nd, after a very unsatisfactory race in which the relatively small field split into two groups. Lots of bad luck stories after the race. You just wonder why Newmarket doesn’t doll off a narrower portion of track so that such a split wouldn’t occur. Is that too obvious?

It was also encouraging that the winner had been bought for just 32,000 guineas, which with hindsight is an absolute steal for a son of Dubawi (out of a mare by Colmore’s wonder sire Galileo), who has already had 15 Group 1 winners and this was the second 2,000 Guineas winner for him after Makfi. The only bad thing about the day was the punch-up that developed between two rival gangs after the last race. Hopefully that is not the start of a trend. Then, a week later on the way up to the Dales for a walking holiday and a visit to Karl Burke’s yard at Middleham, Aran Sky ran a cracker at Nottingham for us, only beaten half a length by a useful-looking horse under an excellent ride by Graham Lee. We pulled 6 lengths clear of the field and it only looks a matter of time before our horse wins. As someone who can be pretty critical of racecourses, it is a pleasure to be able to say that Nottingham really has improved its facilities for owners, and the new lounge is top-class. Congratulations to them. Looking forward now to the two-year-olds with Karl, Jolievitesse and Lord Ben Stack, making their first appearances later in the summer.

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