Magazine article The Spectator

Sheer Style

Magazine article The Spectator

Sheer Style

Article excerpt

One thing which politics and racing have in common is that sheer style can do a lot for you in both. The then Norman St John Stevas once asked Margaret Thatcher to release him early from a Cabinet committee meeting because he was due not long after at a Royal Academy dinner. `But, Norman, I am going to the same dinner,' she countered. 'I know, Margaret,' he replied. `But it takes me so much longer to dress than you.' And she let him go.

It didn't do Reg Hollinshead any harm either when the Pontefract stewards called him in recently about the improved form of a 10-1 winner who had shown nothing on his previous run at York. The veteran trainer apparently contented himself with just four words: `Frankie rode him today.' Such is the current spell of Dettori magic that no further action was taken.

But there was real style too where it might have been expected. Simon Crisford, racing manager to Sheikh Mohammed, suggested to the leading owner after Bosra Sham had won the Champion Stakes and put Henry Cecil well in the lead in the trainer's championship (decided on stakes won) over his man Saeed bin Suroor and the Sheikh's Godolphin operation that he must feel like a lame duck. `Oh, no,' said the Sheikh, 'I feel like a lion who has a pine-needle stuck in his paw.'

There was, no doubt, a little mane-tossing then after the Sheikh had supplemented two horses for Doncaster's Racing Post Trophy last Saturday at a cost of L30,000 and then won the race with Medaaly, the 14-1 outsider of the two, to put Godolphin back in the lead by L32,000. It has ensured that the race for the trophy will go all the way to the end of the flat season at Folkestone next weekend.

The dying days of the flat, with the twoyear-old form turning topsy-turvy and vast fields of over-the-top handicappers turning out for a final thrash in the mud, usually offer all the excitement of last week's cheese-board. But the Cecil-Godolphin rivalry is keeping us all on the edges of our seats, even if the two high-class operations will have to turn to racing the stable cat to find an animal in their yards to qualify for some of the low-grade races still to come. Owners, keep your entries for this last week. You never know when a bearded gent with a ruler's glint in his eye or an elegantly waistcoated fellow with goalkeeper's hands will be turning up on your doorstep with a bagful of wonga seeking to buy a 060 handicapper for the final seller.

I don't actually care who wins this championship in the end. I admire them both. Henry Cecil has responded magnificently to the challenge of losing many of his best horses when the Sheikh took his string away. …

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