Magazine article The Spectator

Riding High

Magazine article The Spectator

Riding High

Article excerpt

Epsom last weekend was simply awash with emotion. Show me the racing man who didn't have a tear in his eye when Henry Cecil marched back to the top of his profession with Light Shift's victory in the Oaks -- his eighth victory in the Fillies' Classic after seven years in semi-obscurity -- and I will show you a curmudgeon. Cecil may be a toff, but he is somehow the people's toff, a quintessentially British combination of upperclass style and self-deprecation.

And then there was Frankie. Dettori didn't, after all, like Sir Gordon Richards, have to wait for a 26th and final appearance to win a Derby, he staked the hoodoo on only his 15th attempt with a majestic win on the magnificent Authorized.

Frankie, who had yelled with delight in his car when his agent Ray Cochrane told him he had the ride, yelled again as he passed the winning post. He jumped up on the trophy table to kiss his prize and salute the crowd, he fell to his knees in supplication on the weighingroom scales. And then came an osculatory assault from which no living being was safe.

He kissed almost everyone in sight, from his valet to Ray Cochrane to the whiskered Saeed bin Suroor. And then he complained that he hadn't had time to sit down and have a cry.

UnBritish? Forget it. He put a smile on every face at Epsom.

The intriguing thing was that after widespread predictions that Authorized would start at odds-on he went off at 5-4 against.

The bookies, it seemed, perceived a pressure factor. And it was not pressure felt by Authorized. The burly son of Montjeu pranced a bit but handled the preliminaries as well as any. No, the layers must have reckoned that Frankie would crack. He admitted it had been an ordeal: 'I do like a bit of pressure, but this was over the top.' But he coped, allowing him to enter the Press Room, champagne glass in hand, declaring, 'I won the effin' Derby, didn't I?' Frankie is giving himself ten more years.

The advertising man, then trainer, Graeme Roe, now the author of the Jay Jessop racing novels, didn't even start his career as an amateur rider until he was past 40. He wasn't the best, but he was, he reckons, the fittest, and David Nicholson described him as 'too brave for his own good'. It was a horse of the Duke's known in the yard as 'Bob' which ran away with Graeme on the gallops one day, carting him past the whole Nicholson string. The crestfallen rider trotted back expecting a vintage bollocking only for a different kind of wounding: 'Don't worry, Graeme. He's run away with better jockeys than you'll ever be.'

Graeme was good enough to have some Irish trainers make use of his services. …

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