Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf Profit and Loss

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf Profit and Loss

Article excerpt

In his days as Foreign Secretary Robin Cook once told me that every politician should have a spell as a racing tipster to teach him humility - he tried it for the Glasgow Herald. I am not sure it worked the full miracle in his case, but racing is a true leveller with triumph and disaster as closely interlocked as the English and Irish scrums through their 80 minutes of mud-wrestling last weekend.

On Monday last week, the most exciting hurdler in training, J.P. McManus's Darlan, trained by Nicky Henderson, came to the final obstacle at Doncaster full of running.

One mis-step and the ante-post favourite for the Champion Hurdle went down in a heavy fall, which ended his life and shattered his jockey Tony McCoy. For Nicky and his staff there was the infinite, though not unfamiliar, sadness of returning home with empty tack to focus moist eyes on a vacant box, the highest of hopes transformed in an instant to sorrowful memory of a horse who had excited all who handled him. As his grieving trainer muttered, 'Why does it always seem to happen to the best?' and certainly it seems that way when you cast back to the suddenly extinguished talents of One Man, Dawn Run, Buona Notte, Dunkirk, Gloria Victis and Golden Cygnet, It seemed particularly cruel because it was the same owner, J.P. McManus, whose Synchronised had last spring first won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and then died when running loose in the Grand National. As Nicky said on Saturday, 'Nobody cares more about his horses than JP' - and the battalions of equine pensioners in McManus's home paddocks are eloquent testimony to that. 'But you've got to sit down, rally the troops and fight on, ' and on Saturday the lights were blazing again at Seven Barrows.

Early this season, Tony McCoy had been schooling young hurdlers at the Henderson yard and been impressed with the feel he was given by My Tent or Yours. 'There's only one thing wrong with him, ' he told the trainer. 'He's in the wrong colours' - meaning that since My Tent or Yours was not owned by JP he would not be his ride but would be partnered on the racecourse by Nicky's stable jockey Barry Geraghty. Within days that situation had been rectified - JP purchased the Desert Prince gelding from his group of owners and, as he won a novice hurdle at Ascot in the autumn, AP was aboard, having refused anaesthetics when having his smashed face patched up the day before so that he would not lose the ride.

On Saturday, My Tent or Yours, whom McCoy had schooled behind a group of horses on Henderson's gallops to get him used to big fields, came out again in Newbury's Betfair Hurdle, the top handicap we used to know as the Schweppes. …

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