Magazine article The Spectator

Girl Power

Magazine article The Spectator

Girl Power

Article excerpt

Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, a show-biz historian once pointed out. Only she did it backwards. The feminists do have a point, and while women riders still don't get a fair deal in British racing, Kempton on Saturday provided yet another reminder of how well women trainers take their opportunities.

My hope that Best Mate can prove a Cheltenham hero again this year was restored when I bumped into the ever-amiable Henrietta Knight, who was sat chatting with a friend in the betting hall. Perhaps because she already has three consecutive Gold Cup victories under her belt, she seems more relaxed this year and she assured me that 'Matey' is in very good shape despite the snuffles that have affected some other occupants of her West Lockinge yard. Foolishly, I failed to ask Henrietta about the prospects of her Old Vic gelding Glasker Mill in the bumper. He coasted through the race, moved into the lead without being asked a serious question and skied away from his field in the straight to win at a tasty 14-1. This looks like a serious horse in the making.

One of the pleasures of seeing Venetia Williams's runners triumph is anticipating what racing's best-turned-out trainer will be wearing in the winner's enclosure. After Clear Thinking's success at Newbury the other day, it was a brown suede creation with black tassels. Elegant tassels, I hasten to add, not tassels of the twirling kind. When Limerick Boy came smoothly home at Kempton to capture the Favourites Racing Pendil Novices' Chase, the trainer arrived to greet him in a coat that was not so much something to keep the cold out as a piece of modern art with buttons. Mrs Oakley, and my credit-card company, would no doubt have been able to name the designer. I can only describe it as either a snowstorm in a coalmine or a soot blast in an ice-cream factory. White on black or black on white, it was quite literally dazzling. So much so that, Biro poised and jaw dropping, I only narrowly escaped a kick from Limerick Boy, which would have removed my right kneecap. Perhaps he prefers the brown suede.

Having won the Lanzarote Hurdle on the track last year, Limerick Boy clearly likes Kempton. He had coasted through the tacky ground for two-and-a-half miles. I was having trouble lifting my feet out of the muddy turf across five yards of the parade ring. All credit, then, to the principals in the day's big race, the three-mile Racing Post Chase.

Among them was Venetia Williams's Banker Count, who finished third after contesting the lead most of the way. Nothing so surprising about that, you might say, except that the old boy, who clearly relished every moment of the race and had won his previous three contests, is now 13. …

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