Wednesday, September 26, 2018
I'm not expecting to see many shocks in the trio of Group 1 races that make this such an exciting Saturday, one on which I hope the decision to run Lah Ti Dar in the William Hill St Leger is rewarded with victory.
When you have a horse as talented and valuable as Lah Ti Dar it's understandable that decisions on running plans have to be thought through carefully.
Sunday's Prix Vermeille was an obvious option for the filly, given she would be running only against her own sex and over the same distance she covered at York. I'm sure, however, that win or lose choosing the Leger was the right decision.
The Leger is a Classic and the Classics are the creme de la creme of our sport. There are Group 1s all over the world but you only get five chances each year to win a Classic. Moreover, it has been great to see the Leger really bounce back in recent years, including 12 months ago when Capri led home a sensational group of horses that included Crystal Ocean, Stradivarius and subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling.
I never came close to winning the Leger as a jockey, and wasn't fortunate enough to have too many rides in it, but I love the race. The only thing I dislike about the Leger is that, for me, it feels like it marks the point where the season starts to end. My valet used to say there was always snow on the tail of the last horse in the Leger!
I reckon come the finish all the other runners will see the tail of Lah Ti Dar. She is a serious filly who is full of class and from a family that is full of class, as we'll see 40 minutes before the Leger when Too Darn Hot runs in the Champagne Stakes. There was so much to like about her performance in the Galtres, and although she is also prominent in the Arc betting, I wouldn't be put off running an Arc horse in the Leger. I know no horse has won both races in the same year but one day a horse surely will.
In terms of the opposition, I don't expect there to be too much between the Voltigeur first and third, Old Persian and Kew Gardens. However, I doubt they have the class of Lah Ti Dar.
You can be certain none of the fillies lining up against Alpha Centauri in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes possess anything like her class, talented though some of them are.
I have absolutely loved watching her this year and even had a spur of the moment bet on her the day she won the Irish 1,000 Guineas - more than a year after I had first been tipped off about her. Mick Fitzgerald was over in Ireland for the Punchestown Festival and one morning on the gallops happened to see Alpha Centauri go by while she was being prepared for her two-year-old debut. She was so big Mick initially thought she was a bumper filly. That comment from Mick stayed with me.
Alpha Centauri sets a high standard in the Matron, as does Roaring Lion in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes.
I will be highly surprised if Roaring Lion does not win. He was extremely impressive at York but, on top of that, I thought he was the most professional horse in the race. He went perfectly straight when Oisin Murphy asked him to go about his business. There was no hanging and no messing. He is now the real deal. When he was younger there were frequently reported quirks in the way he raced but those have now gone. He is much more switched on and knows what he is supposed to do, which makes him a much easier and more straightforward ride.
My one qualification would be Leopardstown isn't always a straightforward place, despite being a fabulous track and one of the best in Europe. You definitely don't want a slow horse around Leopardstown. When they quicken up on the outside around the home bend they then tend to drop in a little bit, which means you often have to be travelling well to get out and get a run. That means, it's a big asset to be on a horse with class.
Aidan O'Brien has a large contingent against Roaring Lion, which could prove important as pacemakers have been an important factor in how the Irish Champion has panned out. They can be a big help at Leopardstown, where we haven't always been left with the result we wanted.
We are well represented at Lingfield and Bath, where we could get off to the best possible start thanks to Rosamour in the opening novice race (2.00). She is an ultra-consistent filly who ran well again at Salisbury last time and once again has a live chance.
You could use the same ultra-consistent description for one of our fastest horses, Jack Taylor, who takes his chance in Bath's 5f handicap (3.10). He loves quick ground and loves it every bit as much when they go fast from the off in his races. For both those reasons Bath should suit him.
Bid Adieu is yet another horse who does not know how to run a bad race - and I'm hoping he runs a big one in the Bath Cup (3.45), in which he drops back to a mile. We have been gradually bringing him back in trip - he finished third over 1m4f at Wolverhampton in late July - and feel a mile should work well for a horse who wears his heart on his sleeve.
I also want to say how pleased I am that racing has returned to Bath after it lost some summer fixtures due to hard ground. I think the track was simply unlucky and suffered from a perception problem. Every horse I have sent there this year has returned home sound. I know More Than Likely was beaten at Bath when long odds-on but she scoped bad after the race. Personally, I would be far more concerned about all the damage that is being done at other racecourses as a result of watering.
Both our Lingfield runners race for Merv Cox, who lives not too far from the track and enjoys racing close to home.
Kath's Lustre is happy on the all-weather, so we're taking her back to Polytrack for the 6f handicap (4.15). The grade of this race might be a bit high for her, but we'll give it a go. We then have Kath's Legacy, who stays well and should go nicely in the 1m3f fillies' handicap (5.15).
I'm afraid to say we lost an old friend this week when Believe It, who has been featured in this column so many times, died.
Everyone at Weathercock House loved him, so there were plenty of tears around the yard on Tuesday. Unfortunately he became very ill with colic. At this time of year horses can also be more vulnerable to colic as changes in temperature seem to bring it on. Sadly, we were unable to save Believe It and had to do the kindest thing.
He was an old character and a huge favourite at home. He used to go around with what looked like a beer belly. That was just him. Even when fully fit you would have sworn he was fat.
People would queue up in the mornings to ride him and he was also a popular conveyance on the racecourse. Nicola Currie rode her first winner on him, as did Stephen Cummins, who last year won four races on the old lad at Kempton. That was always his favourite place, mainly because it's right-handed and all-weather. He had wind issues all his life and could never really breathe as cleanly as we would have liked, so sand was better than grass for him.
He was kindly given to me by Coolmore. Having once dropped to a mark of 57 he rose to an all-weather mark of 90 when winning at Kempton in March. He certainly didn't lack talent and we were all looking forward to seeing more of that talent over the months ahead.
Jumps yards are much more used to losing horses because of falls. It's also the case that these blows are less common in Flat yards as the horses don't stay in training for as long, which in turn means you inevitably don't always develop quite the same close bonds you get in jumping. We certainly had a bond with Believe It.
So, too, did the members of the Richard Hughes Racing Club, in whose colours he raced. They had been down to the yard on Monday, just one day before we had to say goodbye to their favourite horse. When he was being admired by the club members there wasn't a bother on him.
We have a lovely bunch of people in the racing club. I would best sum them up saying they are all fans and supporters of the yard. They really get behind us, which is lovely to see and much appreciated. They also get on very well together and welcome new members with open arms.
They will have many future chances to see their colours but, like everyone here, they will always remember Believe It.
My brother-in-law Richard Hannon was understandably shaken after the plane he was travelling in collided with an empty aircraft on the ground at Haydock on Saturday. Everyone on the plane was very unlucky but also lucky at the same time, as it could have ended much worse.
When I was riding I never really liked using little planes. I loved the fact they got me home quicker but I didn't enjoy the journeys. I always felt like we were playing with fire - and that's not a nice feeling.