Magazine article The Spectator

A Cry of Pain

Magazine article The Spectator

A Cry of Pain

Article excerpt

Try as I may, I still feel a little bit sorry for myself when the horse I have backed to win finishes second. Indeed, it happens so often that I probably feel a little sorry for myself more often than anyone since Eeyore. But I might just be able to kick the habit following St Leger day at Doncaster and what happened to Sir Michael Stoute. The Newmarket trainer has won every Classic except the St Leger, and, when John Reid drove his Air Marshall into the lead in the last furlong of this year's final Classic, it looked as though he was going to collect the full set at last. Sadly for him, though, John Dunlop's Millenary was not to be denied. Rallied by Richard Quinn, who told us pithily after the contest, 'I come racing to win, not just for the pleasure of sitting in a traffic jam,' Millenary stuck his head back in front, quickened again and had room to spare at the line.

Sir Michael took that in good part and then joined the hacks clustered around the press-room television to watch his Greek Dance take on the two hotshots, Giant's Causeway and Best Of The Bests, in the 486,000 Esat Digifone Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. Like most contests involving Aidan O'Brien's incredible battler Giant's Causeway, it was one of the races of the season, a race that you would willingly travel continents to see. On Best of The Bests Frankie Dettori shadowed Giant's Causeway and took him on two furlongs out. The pair burst clear of the field. But as Giant's Causeway beat off his rival and horse and rider recognised that he had done, so both Mick Kinane and Giant's Causeway began to relax. Suddenly, in what had obviously been the tactical plan, there was Michael Stoute's Greek Dance flying out of the pack and travelling twice as fast as the leading pair.

Giant's Causeway is a horse who loves to battle. Indeed, he probably needs to battle to show his best. The one way to beat a horse who has now, incredibly, won five Group One contests in the space of four months, may be to catch him unawares when it is too late for him to battle back. That is exactly what Johnny Murtagh and Greek Dance were trying to do. Had they succeeded it would have been the shock, and the ride, of the season. Whether it was because the leading pair had had too much pace for him early on or whether Murtagh was just a fraction late in launching his pursuit, the flying pair just failed to catch Giant's Causeway before the line.

Beside me in the press room Sir Michael Stoute let out one huge, strangled shout that came from deep within his frame. …

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