Magazine article The Spectator

Hennessy Day Highlights

Magazine article The Spectator

Hennessy Day Highlights

Article excerpt

You don't realise how much your pleasures mean until you are denied them. It was wonderful to get back on a racecourse for Hennessy Day at Newbury even if my two sticks proved an encouragement to every acquaintance to engage at length about the hip replacements endured by their nearest and dearest. Even worse was the speculation about what had caused my problem.

One even recalled me dancing on a tapas bar table at a BBC political staff Christmas party. How the past comes back to haunt you.

I have been feeling haunted by the disappointing show from our Twelve to Follow on the Flat, but fortunately the jumps Twelve are setting things to rights. True, Katenko fell in the Hennessy Gold Cup but at Newcastle The Last Samurai won at 7-2 and Bob Ford ran second at Bangor. The next day, Royal Regatta won a Leicester novice hurdle at evens and Doing Fine had already won for us at 10-1 so things are looking up.

Hennessy Day delivered too, giving us a buffet-table range of racing delights and demonstrating that you don't have to be a multi-horsepower mega-yard to win. The mares' novice hurdle went to Don Cantillon's gutsy As I Am. The Newmarket handler not only trains her, he bred her and owns her, too, and despite the 7lb-claiming apprentice Conor Shoemark not being allowed his allowance by the conditions race, he let him keep the ride. His faith was rewarded by cool judgment as the one-eyed mare led all the way in the hands of her pinkcheeked jockey to beat hotpots from Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins. One day, her trainer admits, As I Am will be for sale and she will be a fine breeding prospect.

The £15,000 Bet 365 handicap chase went to Tatenen, owned by Andy Stewart and his sporting family. Once one of the Paul Nicholls stars at Ditcheat, Tatenen has fragile legs now in the care of ex-jockey Richard Rowe in Sussex. When he is top-notch, he is still a fine performer and he came home eight lengths ahead of Carrigmorna King. The weighing room's most senior jockey Andy Thornton normally rides Tatenen, but he had commitments elsewhere and Leighton Aspell was in the plate. Ironically, Tatenen used to be his ride before the association with Thornton began. 'We share our love between our jockeys, ' grinned the trainer.

What goes around comes around.

The Stewarts were celebrating again when their old trouper Celestial Halo won the long-distance hurdle for Paul Nicholls. It is always good when prizes go to such great supporters of jump racing and at nine Celestial Halo seems as good as ever. …

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