Magazine article The Spectator

Ascot Treats

Magazine article The Spectator

Ascot Treats

Article excerpt

If you could have bottled and sold what trainer Sheila Williams was giving out in the winner's enclosure at Ascot on Saturday you would have your fortune made. Eighty-year-olds, given a whiff of what she was on, would have been dumping their Zimmer frames and swinging off on roller blades. Florida vote-counters, given the chance to inhale, would have been rewriting the US constitution. And, despite the fact that victory for her Master Rastus in the Sodexho Handicap Hurdle had denied me a nice treble, I found myself along with other hardened hacks grinning from ear to ear at her wide-eyed joy in victory. More breathless than her horse, the boss of a three-woman, nine-horse stable was bouncing around the enclosure telling everybody in sight how thrilled she was and putting the joie into joie de vivre. May Mrs Williams have many more winners to celebrate with equal enthusiasm. She made me nearly as happy as bookmaker Barry Dennis did when we had dinner together at the Epsom Trainers Ball that night and he told me with a grimace that not only had all six favourites come in at Ascot but that another 22 had won at the rest of the day's meetings. Nice to know punters are on the winning side sometimes.

Mrs Williams's victory with Master Rastus was not the only Saturday treat at Ascot. Upgrade and Bellator had fought out a great battle at Exeter already this season. With Norman Williamson on Bellator and Tony McCoy on Upgrade they slugged out a terrific Round Two, proving in the four-horse contest that you don't need a big field to provide a thrilling race. Last time Bellator was the victor. This time Upgrade came out best in the photo, largely because Bellator, who had looked to be cruising coming into the straight, was not quite nimble enough at the last two fences. If they share another entry this season don't miss Round Three. And for the long term make a note of Philip Hobbs's Good Lord Murphy, who won the three-mile handicap chase on the Saturday and Charlie Mann's Somemanforoneman, who did the same on Friday. Neither will be rushed but both look the sort who might be thereabouts in the 2002 Grand National.

Busy at Ascot on Saturday signing copies of his book The Wayward Lad was ex-jockey Graham Bradley. Written with journalist Steve Taylor, The Wayward Lad is a gritty account of one of the most newsworthy characters on the turf in recent years. I will declare a prejudice. I enjoy Brad's company and I rate him one of the most stylish riders I have ever seen. Some believe him to be a rogue and he has certainly been in more scrapes than a second-hand potato peeler. …

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