Wednesday, October 5, 2016
I TAKE MY HAT OFF TO JIM CROWLEY AS HE CLOSES IN ON CROWN
I'M not quite counting my winnings yet, but it looks as if Jim Crowley is going to be very hard to catch now. His September total of 45 and counting heading to Newcastle last night is pretty extraordinary - I gather that's the best Fred Archer and Sir Gordon Richards managed and even AP never managed more than 41 - and so I take my hat off to him.
The travelling can obviously be very punishing, and Jim will have spent a lot on planes and helicopters to make that side of things easier - but a lot of the hardest work is done by the agent, which in Jim's case is 'Bony' Hind, my former agent and the one who tipped me off that I should have a few quid on when Jim was 50-1. It's all about momentum at this stage, but Jim has the easy part of the job, getting on the good rides that 'Bony' finds for him and then pointing them. Riding the race is easy and comes naturally, especially when you are good, as Jim obviously is.
'Bony' has the tough job, going through all of the entries, checking out the form, the going preferences and all of that, and weighing up which meetings offer the best opportunities.
But when you have the momentum Jim has, any trainer who doesn't have their own jockey will say 'yes' to him riding, because they'll know 'Bony' will have been right through the race and they have a big chance, and also they will be ridden by a jockey full of confidence and hungry for winners.
Newcastle last night, rather than close to home at Ascot, was interesting after 13 rides at two meetings on Thursday, but it made sense.
Racing is a lot more competitive at Ascot and winners are harder to come by. The other thing about taking the all-weather option is that when the weather changes, as it is doing now, you don't get the withdrawals and no-shows you get at turf meetings because the going has changed, and you don't get abandonments.
It will have cost Jim a few quid going all that way, but it was undoubtedly the percentage call.
I've got a lot of sympathy for Silvestre. He's had another great year, and he had a very good September too by any normal standards.
But whereas there was a defining moment early last summer when he rode maybe eight or nine winners in two days and just took off, getting right away from the pack, this year he had that 12-day totting-up ban in July.
That was a killer for him because July was almost a write-off and it gave anyone who had a mind to chase him all the incentive they needed. And Silvestre wasn't only missing ten or 12 winners - one or two of which I dare say Jim got - he was losing the connection with some of the horses.
Those totting-up bans are wrong in so many ways. As long as any sport has rules they will be broken every day of the week, and if they aren't broken they will be pushed to the limit or used to the participants' advantage.
For jockeys riding as often as Silvestre does, the original two-day or three-day ban is penalty enough when you add up what it costs him in terms of missed rides, missed winners, percentage money and so on. Losing just two routine days might easily cost him £2,500 or £3,000, and what would a trainer have to do to get a fine like that? And then under totting-up he gets punished again for the same crime, which after all is not a big crime in the first place. It will usually be a matter of trying too hard, which is hardly the worst thing you can do in sport. For someone with a thousand-odd rides a year, which might mean he is involved in 400 or so finishes, it's pretty much inevitable.
I should think Silvestre will be glad when it's over now, and so will Jim for that matter. It will be a relief for both of them, and their agents too.
I don't think any of them would want it going on the extra three weeks to Doncaster in November.
BIG-RACE DRAW WON'T BE SUCH AN ISSUE AT CHANTILLY
ALTHOUGH Frankie dispelled the notion to some extent on Golden Horn last year, they always say a good draw is crucial in the Arc at Longchamp. I don't think it's going to matter so much at Chantilly.
A bad draw over the mile and two furlongs of the French Derby is another matter, but the mile-and-a-half start is different. It's a bit like the Derby start at Epsom, although the other way around, as you begin by going left and you then turn to right.
It will probably be rough enough still, and from about seven out, where you start running slightly downhill into the turn into the straight, you've got to have a horse leading on the right leg. If you're stuck out wide on the wrong leg and not acting you are in trouble. You just won't win.
They are making a lot of the uphill finish, but a ten-metre climb is nothing by our standards and the way the French jockeys ride nothing happens at first when they straighten for home. They will stay where they are for a hundred yards or so before they start coming out to start their runs.
It can get a bit rough, but the best horse still usually wins though.
My own best memory of Chantilly came in 2003 on Nebraska Tornado in the Prix de Diane.
She was a flighty filly and she hadn't made her debut until just five weeks earlier, but despite being a handful to load in the stalls she gave me a memorable ride. I held her up in front, if you understand me, and she had great tactical speed, as she showed when dropping back to a mile to win the Moulin.
Chantilly was hectic enough that day, but it's going to be a lot worse this weekend as it's so much smaller than Longchamp. It's beautiful though, and you will have a great time if you're going. I can recommend the ice cream!
POSTPONED IS GOING TO TAKE ALL THE BEATING
IT'S not original, but I think Postponed is going to take a hell of a lot of beating in the Arc. He just doesn't seem to have any weaknesses, and there are very few you can say that about.
His form is top class, and that's obvious, but he's got all the weapons to go with it as he has speed, yet he stays, and he also has a good mind and settles.
He was versatile enough to drop in trip for the Juddmonte, and he's won on all sorts of going, so he's very hard to fault. And although he was primed for a massive prize at Meydan in March, he hasn't been campaigned too hard in the meantime.
I think we all know a Japanese horse will win the Arc one of these days. They are very tough, and they've gone much closer since Deep Impact came over in 2005 with that huge following and finished only third to Rail Link.
I haven't seen that much of Makahiki, who is a son of Deep Impact and carries the same colours, but he'll have to leave the bare form of his Prix Niel win over Midterm and Doha Dream a long way behind if he's going to get the better of Postponed.
The Abbaye should go to the favourite too, I would have thought. I'm a big fan of Mecca's Angel, who is one of those rare sprinters who can hold their form.
So often in Group 1 sprints we see a different result every time, and it's nice to see that consistency she has in a top-class five-furlong performer. She was much the best in the Nunthorpe.
Connections have looked after her well and, although they didn't run her in last year's Abbaye when it dried out so much, there shouldn't be a problem this time. In my experience they get better at handling different types of ground as they get older.
HONG KONG ACE
THERE'S a horse called Pakistan Star causing a bit of a stir in Hong Kong at the moment, and if you haven't seen him yet I suggest you look him up on YouTube.
Neil Callan, who is based out there now, tweeted he's the next Frankel. I don't know about that, but he's certainly got a very unusual way of racing and it's producing results, albeit at only a modest level so far.
His debut at Sha Tin was headlined the 'Craziest horse racing debut ever' by whoever posted the YouTube clip, and you will see why if you watch it.
He missed the break quite badly and dropped himself out the back, looking in two minds about racing, but he was clearly saving energy through not wanting to do it. When he turned for home he was still in a long last, but he then came on the bridle and took off up the wide outside, passing horse after horse - 13 of them I think - to hit the front 50 metres out and win easily.
He wasn't quite as impressive visually in a smaller field next time, as he wasn't quite so far behind straightening for home, but he had just the same odd way of racing, starting slowly, detaching himself at the back, and then coming from last to first up the wide outside in the straight.
Why he races like that, I've no idea, but all of a sudden something triggers in his brain and he decides he'd better get going. It's a great spectacle and the Australian commentator calling that second race said it was the sort of performance that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
He finished off his race commentary by saying: "What an amazing turn of acceleration. He's a ripper!" He certainly is.