Magazine article The Spectator

Soaked Through

Magazine article The Spectator

Soaked Through

Article excerpt

As the bard has him do, Antipholus was lamenting in the RSC's Stratford production of A Comedy of Errors last Saturday night, `I to the world am like a drop of water that in the ocean seeks another drop.' I could not help feeling he should have spent the afternoon with me at Stratford racecourse. For the second year running at the same fixture, it simply bucketed down all afternoon, although this time at least the drains worked and the bookies weren't marooned on their stools like so many little cash-hungry islands.

A role reversal between course and stage would not have been out of place with Lynne Parker's inventive romp version of the Comedy. She gave us a kind of in-joke Keystone Cops chase on and off the stage in which various characters entirely extraneous to the plot joined in, including a knight in armour and a pantomime horse. I would not have been surprised to see them joined by poor Graham Baines, the 7lbclaimer who had been booked by Simon Sherwood to ride the favourite Derrintogher Yank in the third race that afternoon. He, poor fellow, will not forget his debut before a Stratford audience.

The first race had been won by the Martin Pipe top-weight Sweet Senorita, leading all the way in the capable hands of French apprentice Joffrey Huet, whose cool judgment of pace I have admired before. Jumping boldly under a nice ride from Steve Wynne, the top-weight in the second, Henry Daly's Lannkaran, repeated the feat. So when Derrintogher Yank, set to carry a welter burden of l2st 41b, came out on the course he had clearly noted that this was the way to do things on a soggy Stratford afternoon. Unfortunately, he set off in the lead without waiting for the nicety of the starter calling them in and, with his rider losing his irons, the pair completed two circuits of the Stratford track before poor Baines, his face as glowing red as the cap and sleeves of Mr Con O'Connor's colours, was able to pull him up. The horse, not surprisingly, was withdrawn from the race. And I would not have wanted to be Graham Baines back in the yard the next morning.

We had some good sport at Stratford despite the rain. When I encountered Gold Cup-winning trainer Noel Chance before the first race, a novices hurdle, he told me that Alan Weller's horse Irish Fashion would be putting his best foot forward. The horse, unbeaten as a two-year-old on the flat in France, had been proving a puzzle with two diabolical runs among his four or five efforts over hurdles. Although he never got to the winner and was pipped for second on the line, Irish Fashion ran a decent race to finish third at 14-1. …

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