Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Article excerpt

Any of us can forget little things on leaving home in a hurry. To the chagrin of Mrs Oakley, who might need a pint of milk or a few more tonics on my way home, my mobile phone and I don't always arrive at the races together. In that regard I have long sympathised with the former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke. He regularly left his government-issue model at home (especially when heading for a day's cricket) complaining, 'The trouble with mobile phones is that sometimes people call you on them.' I even forgot my wallet one day en route to Ascot and had to borrow my day's staking money from the esteemed financial editor Jeff Randall.

Such minor episodes of forgetfulness, though, pale beside the effort of the American Airlines pilot on whom I was relying to get me home overnight from the US last Friday in time to make it to Newbury for the Spring Trials day so stylishly sponsored every year by Dubai Duty Free. Having taxied us out to the runway, the captain announced that he would have to take us all back to the Miami terminal because they had set off without some essential item of safety paperwork. My schedule was cutting it fine and so the lengthy delay the missing documentation entailed left me grinding my teeth even more than usual at that absurd message from the cockpit: 'Thanking you all for your patience.'

Eventually I made it, halfway through the sponsors' excellent lunch, and was able to begin to get to grips with the new Flat season. Initially, little seems to have changed. Already one can foresee another bonus year for John Gosden, Richard Hannon and William Haggas, who now has so many horses in his Newmarket yard they will probably have to put any new arrivals in the spare bedroom. He scored a popular double with the Queen's Call To Mind and Signe.

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum was positively purring in the winner's enclosure after St Leger fourth Muntahaa won the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes (formerly the John Porter Stakes) in the hands of his latest retained rider Jim Crowley for Gosden, who also took the maiden with Face The Facts. But it is the fillies with whom John Gosden is dominating. Having won the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket three days before with Daban, he won Newbury's Dubai Duty Free Stakes (once the Fred Darling Stakes and another of the key fillies Classic trials) with the Frankie Dettori-ridden Dabyah. The filly, who like Daban is owned by Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah, dominated and won with her ears pricked. …

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