Magazine article The Spectator

Rising above It All

Magazine article The Spectator

Rising above It All

Article excerpt

We have grown accustomed to the rituals of early summer: pretended surprise over the usual blossom-dashing monsoon, the recall of Graeme Hick to the England Test side and the search at the back of the garage for a rusting barbecue and last year's half-used bag of charcoal. It is time too for the usual round of Derby trials, at Chester, Lingfield and York and in recent years the best of these has been the Lingfield version. The steep climb behind the gorse bushes followed by the descent to turn into the straight are good practice for Tattenham Corner and Epsom's version of the scurry over Surrey.

Two years ago Luca Cumani's High Rise won the Lingfield Derby Trial and went on to win in Epsom. In 1997 Silver Patriarch won at Lingfield and finished a close second at Epsom and last year Daliapour was second in both races. But though I could see Gerard Butler's colt Saddler's Quest battling on into a place at Epsom, I do not believe we saw the Derby winner at Lingfield this year.

You could not fault Saddler's Quest for courage as he wore down Sean Woods's Going Global. But the race was run in a downpour, the going was much softer than it ever gets at Epsom and the bookmakers were neither shaken nor stirred by the race, with Ladbrokes leaving Saddler's Quest as long as 40-1. It just did not have that feel of quality about it. All credit, though, to a progressive trainer who is firing on all cylinders in a year which has had many of his rivals in despair.

I watched the Oaks trial alongside Barry Hills, for my money one of the complete masters of the art, and he was bemoaning weather that had made it such a stop-start year for young horses. The danger, he said, was particularly with those horses that had had little racecourse experience as twoyear-olds. The less they know, the more trainers have to do with them early on in their three-year-old careers, and there is a danger of pushing them too hard when the weather curtails the preparation time before their target races. That is a factor I will certainly include in making my big race selections this year.

The fillies race, in which Barry's Banco Suivi ran disappointingly, was certainly no guide to Epsom. It was won by the Queen's Film Script. But she is not entered in the Oaks and will not be supplemented for it. …

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