A Sorry Saga

By Oakley, Robin | The Spectator, August 14, 1999 | Go to article overview

A Sorry Saga


Oakley, Robin, The Spectator


The racing world is managing to keep its perspective on sex around the stables, even if the tabloids can't. At a recent Lambourn dinner party one racing figure was heard to inquire of another, 'I didn't sleep with my wife before we were married, did you?' only to receive the reply, `I'm not quite sure, what was her maiden name?'

I am trying to regain my perspective on Lady Luck after three successive weeks of making what looked like sensible investments and ending up posting cheques to my bookmaker. I am especially sore after receiving a hot tip from Epsom, backing the horse twice to no avail and then discovering it had won at 14-1 on the third outing on a day I was out of the country.

Last weekend continued the sorry saga. I had really fancied Paul Cole's Son of Snurge to win Ascot's two-miler and Richard Quinn rode a magnificent race on him. Forced to make the pace, he went off carefully, slowly turned the screw and pushed on coming into the strait. It was a perfect example of how to ride a race from in front, a clear demonstration of why Henry Cecil was so wise to choose him to replace Kieren Fallon for next season.

There had been significant support for David Elsworth's fine big gelding First Ballot, backed from 25-1 down to 16-1, but the last thing you want when trying to land a gamble is to find a determined 'Quinnie' up against you. When apprentice Alan Daly came at him on First Ballot and headed him, Quinn had cannily kept enough in the tank to conjure one last effort out of his mount. With First Ballot too coming again they flashed past the line together.

Commentating, Willie Carson insisted that Son Of Snurge had won: 'I don't wear glasses for nothing.' But he hadn't allowed for the Curse of Oakley. From the photo First Ballot was called the winner by a short head and I was struggling again. Richard Quinn won't ride a better race on any winner this season. And I would love to see what First Ballot can do over obstacles in time.

I had been heading for Haydock at the weekend but, after fighting three rounds with a suspect Rogan Josh and losing, it had to be a rare day of telly racing. The one winner I did back was Roo, whom I had noted in Newbury's Supersprint, but the reason I cheered her home was not my insignificant reward at 6-4. It was the salute from jockey John Reid as he passed the post on his first winner since returning from a badly broken leg. There is no nicer man in the saddle and for me there are few jockeys more guaranteed to give a horse a ride. But racing memories are short and the freelance life can be hard even at John Reid's superior level. …

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