Magazine article The Spectator

Irish Hopes

Magazine article The Spectator

Irish Hopes

Article excerpt

Life certainly had its moments at Newbury's Hennessy meeting. Emma Lavelle's Tocca Ferro had impressed many on his seasonal return at Ascot and looks set for a rewarding future after his victory in the sportingbet.com intermediate hurdle showed an increasing professionalism. Then there was the double with Sarde and Regal Approach for Kim Bailey, who has remained amiable through some cruel dips in fortune since his Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle winning days and who is now at last back in the form of old . . .

Sarde was handled ably by stable amateur Charlie Greene, but Regal Approach was given a true professional's ride by Sean Quinlan whose 19 winners in the season to that point had all been for the Bailey yard.

The talented rider, long associated with Richard Phillips, is coming well through that tricky period that faces all riders after they have ridden out their conditional's allowance.

The most memorable Newbury moment for me, though, came when an elegant lady stepped into the lift and commanded throatily, 'Take me anywhere you want to go.' Where was she when I was 20? At this stage in life, as I later assured Mrs Oakley, I got out at the fifth and fled for the security of the Press Room and a warming chili con carne to steady my nerves.

I had hoped for more excitement of a strictly equine nature at Sandown's Tingle Creek meeting last Saturday until it fell victim to the weather. Before she knew of the cancellation, Mrs Oakley had soared effortlessly off the Richter scale of Brownie points by insisting, 'Of course you must go.' That despite the fact that we had moved house to the Chilterns the day before Tingle Creek Day and that there were still some 50 boxes to unpack, including those containing every copy of The Spectator since the mid-1960s and a fair old racing library. Although it is just possible that there might have been a dastardly plot afoot to slim down the pile in my absence . . .

A couple of Mrs Oakley's swimmingpool chums are disappointed I have included several Irish horses in this season's Twelve to Follow, but I remain unrepentant. Given the current state of Ireland's economy, Irish trainers will be desperate to plunder everything they can this side of the water and, if the horses selected are as good as I believe them to be, then they will be run regularly in Britain, hopefully at the Cheltenham Festival.

Less racing has meant more time for research on my history of the Cheltenham Festival, and the statistics for that event are illuminating. …

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