Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf Veterans' Day

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf Veterans' Day

Article excerpt

As part of the after-dinner entertainment on a cruise ship recently, I encountered a couple of comedians. One claimed he had recently shared a booking with a topless ventriloquist.

I bet nobody saw her lips move.

What was noticeable in both acts, given the seaborne clientele, was the concentration on jokes about ageing, like the chap whose wife, after five gins, undresses back in the cabin, looks in the mirror and bursts into tears, lamenting that she's got a double chin, her boobs have dropped and everything is sagging: 'Say something, Henry, to cheer me up.' 'Well there's nothing wrong with your eyesight, love.'

Afloat or ashore, life reaches a point when you start taking particular enjoyment from the achievements of sporting veterans and this year's Shergar Cup cheered me for precisely that reason.

I n Ascot's August showpiece, four teams of three jockeys representing E ngland and I reland, E urope, the Rest of the World and 'The Girls' compete in six races riding horses drawn by lot. The advantage for trainers whose horses participate is that the prize money is good (£30,000 for each race with a prize for all ten finishers) and there are no entry fees. All they lose is the chance to select their own jockey.

F or racegoers, the attraction is seeing riding stars from around the world competing for the 'Silver Saddle'. This year they included Rosie Napravnik, a 25-year-old from the USA who has ridden 1,600 winners including a Classic and a Breeders Cup race. Last year alone her earnings were $12 million. With her in the Girls team were Lisa Allpress, a New Zealander who took her country's jockeys title last season, and the UK-based Cathy Gannon, deputising for the injured Hayley Turner.

The red-headed Napravnik was rapidly adopted by the UK media and has clearly, in her short career, ridden through all the gender questions. Yes, she says, it was harder at the start to make the grade as a woman jockey. Her first trainer advised her just to use her initials (AR for Anna Rose) on the racecard, but now she is up there in America's top five she reckons her gender gets her much welcome attention.

I n the first race, she kept Redact out wide but could finish only fourth.

I n the second, her mount Softsong took a strong hold early on and finished only ninth out of ten.

Her next mount, Judge'n'Jury, was only one place better in eighth, and in the fourth race Gary Moore's Jupiter Storm challenged half a mile out but then faded to eighth. …

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