Magazine article The Spectator

Bad Bout of Seconditis

Magazine article The Spectator

Bad Bout of Seconditis

Article excerpt

The turf

Journeying to Dublin for Leopard-- stown's Irish Champion Stakes was a gamble. Last season's contest had produced the race of the year, with Godolphin's Fantastic Light beating Coolmore's Derby winner Galileo in a key struggle between the two dominant empires in racing. Surely lightning could not strike twice? In fact lightning was all that was missing. This year's race was sponsored by `Ireland the Food Island' whose logo contains a raindrop `nature's purest ingredient' - and, with September in Ireland becoming a sort of super-mutant April, the course was alternately deluged and bathed in warm sunshine at roughly ten-minute intervals. But who cared about getting wet. It was, again, the Race of the Season.

Grandera isn't the nicest of animals. Stable staff warned photographers to keep their distance because he kicks and means it. At the other end, he will bite you if he can. He has a mind of his own and can be beaten a neck by almost anything out on the gallops with him. Two furlongs out, it looked as though he was in no mood to cooperate with a hardworking Frankie Dettori. Even when Frankie asked him for the big effort on Saturday, he cocked his head to take a look first at the crowd and his opponents. But then the handsome chestnut powered on, lowered his white-blazed nose and battled past the luckless Hawk Wing in the shadow of the post to win by a short head, with the whole of Ireland cheering for his opponent. Even Frankie declared of the winner: `He's a nightmare. You never know what to expect - but at least he goes forward. I got him out when he was half thinking of going.'

It was a much relished success for the patient Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin after a year in which they have played not so much second fiddle as fourth oboe to the wunderkind Aidan O'Brien, and their relief showed in the joshing within the team. `It's taken you a year to learn how to ride him, Frankie,' teased racing manager Simon Crisford. `Oh, come on, let me milk it. This is my day,' smiled the Big Sardine. And so it was. Mick Kinane's face on the second told you that. Frankie played his hand so late there was no chance of trumping his card. Some say that Dettori doesn't take enough rides these days to keep his talents perfectly honed for a relentless business dependent on split-second timing. Fickle as we are in the media, we might not say the same if he had lost by a short head, but I have not seen a better ride this season. Frankie remains not just a delight for the crowds but a supreme big-race jockey.

For me, there were two disappointments about the race. …

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