Magazine article The Spectator

Gift of the Gab

Magazine article The Spectator

Gift of the Gab

Article excerpt

Loitering with intent in the Member's Lobby of the House of Commons is not so much an offence as a job description for political correspondents. As a long time practitioner, I have developed a sixth sense, a sort of extra-sensory perception which warns me of the presence within 20 paces of a small handful of MPs with whom there is no such thing as a short conversation. Knowing that if eye-contact is made, let alone a seemingly casual hello extended, I am in for 20 minutes minimum on their latest obsession, I have perfected the art of the sudden clutch of the pager at my belt, followed by a worried frown, an abstracted wave at the advancing Member and a hurried exit. The racecourse, too, has its compulsive conversationalists, as was demonstrated by Derek Thompson's Epsom interview with Alan 'Arfer' Daly after he had ridden Batchworth Belle to victory in the five-furlong sprint last Saturday.

Daly is a delightful fellow, but when I asked a fellow Epsom trainer not long ago why the 31b-claimer was no longer attached to Simon Dow's stable behind the Epsom grandstand his answer was short and simple: `He talks too much.' Hearing Tommo's interview, the loquacious Daly would have proved a match for the lady of whom it was once said: `She believes she has a speech impediment: every now and then she has to pause for breath.'

Daly was entitled to a little excitement after his 13th winner of the season, especially after the Epsom judge, deceived like many of us by the camera angle, had initially called Mrs Malaprop the winner instead of his mount. He took Tommo through the tactics: `The trainer told me: sit, sit, sit as long as you can, and I did until Alan Mackay came at me.' He volunteered an assessment of his own abilities: `If the horse is good enough, I am.' Asked if he preferred to be called Alan or 'Arfer', he declared that he didn't mind either provided he got the rides, and he admitted that, being attached to a comparatively small stable with Mickey Heaton-Ellis, he had to do a lot of work on the phone to get his outside opportunities, verbally wrestling some trainers to the ground to do so.

Sheer persistence and the gift of the gab is clearly helping in his case. Not only does Alan Daly have a 40 per cent record for his own yard, with six winners from 15 rides this year, but Batchworth Belle was his seventh success from the spares he had picked up this season. And in the next race it was followed by another victory on Chief Cashier for Toby Balding, making it a double of around 80-1. Epsom is not an easy course to ride but Daly rides it well. …

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