The turf

These are the ones to watch in the Prix de l’Abbaye and the Derby

The stars of Newmarket’s sunny Cambridgeshire

4 October 2014

9:00 AM

4 October 2014

9:00 AM

Rightly, the authorities are doing all they can to find and discipline the disgruntled racegoer who threw a beer can at the champion jump jockey Tony McCoy after a recent contest at Worcester. McCoy, of course, as well as being the straightest man riding, is a teetotaller. But I couldn’t help thinking of the response when the then English women’s cricket captain Rachael Heyhoe Flint was asked about riotous crowds in the West Indies. She replied, ‘If the crowd throw bottles at us we’ll throw them back—unless of course they are full.’

Newmarket’s sunny Cambridgeshire meeting on Saturday was combined with a beer festival but there were no untoward incidents, just a wonderful holiday mood exploited by the relentlessly cheerful commentator Derek Thompson. Amid the celebrations after Marcus Tregoning’s Bronze Angel won the feature race, one elegant lady emerged from the stands to kneel down on the tarmac, bow her head to the ground and fervently cross herself. Shortly afterwards, I encountered her in the winner’s enclosure accompanying the sister of the absent owner Lady Tennant. ‘I came all the way from America for that,’ she said. ‘And, yes, I did have a good bet.’

If she was crossing herself I was kicking myself. Bronze Angel owes me nearly as much as I owe the bank because I only seem to back him on the days he loses and I only held off from backing him again because I thought it would take too much luck in a 31-runner race to repeat his Cambridgeshire victory of 2012. I ended up backing two, Niceofyoutotellme and Velox, who dead-heated for second place. Both are suited to these fast-run races in big fields and are worth keeping on the list.

Despite failing to back Bronze Angel, I was delighted with his victory because Marcus is one of the true gentlemen of the tracks: not just because he wears a trilby as elegantly as John Gosden does but on account of his unfailing courtesy in victory and grace in  defeat. Although he won the Derby with Sir Percy, winners have not been as plentiful as you would expect lately and he can do with a favourable headline or two to remind owners of his ability.
Marcus had never concealed his confidence in Bronze Angel’s repeat bid: he was only sorry that his two Cambridgeshire victories had not been in consecutive years. ‘Last year I managed to jar one of his joints and it was difficult to get him ready. He loves fast ground and this was definitely faster than when he won last time. Thank goodness they didn’t water as we see so often in autumn. I had to take out two horses at Haydock because they watered and then got rain. This is autumn ground and watering is deadly.’
His fondness for the winner is obvious to all: ‘He’s a really good horse to have. He’s lovely. He’s a big gross horse and he’s a hell of a good “doer”. I fed him at 1 a.m. because he was leaving at 7 a.m. and when he was fed again at 5 there was nothing left. He’s one of those horses who converts well.’ If only I could ‘convert’ as well on the scones Mrs Oakley bakes for the charity tea rooms.
We may well have seen a Derby winner on the Cambridgeshire card as the Andrew Balding-trained Elm Park completed a hat trick by winning the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes impressively. Andrew was uncertain afterwards whether the Epsom or French Derbies would be the target for the colt, who was bred by his mother Emma and purchased this season by Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing operation. But he was particularly pleased by the victory as he reckons that the sire, Phoenix Reach, whom he trained to win nearly £2 million, is underrated.

Also completing a hat trick was Clive Cox’s Rosalie Bonheur in the seven-furlong fillies’ nursery. A big, long-striding filly, she should make a useful miler next year. One who is unlikely to last that distance is the other star of the day, Richard Hannon’s glorious filly Tiggy Wiggy, who led all the way to win the Cheveley Park Stakes. She challenged the others to ‘catch me if you can’ and they couldn’t.

Bought for a cheap £41,000, Tiggy Wiggy  has won six of eight races and jockey Richard Hughes, having found her a right madam at home, now simply hangs on to her mane and lets her blaze away and burn off her rivals. Hannon’s immediate plan was for Tiggy Wiggy, all being well, to take on European sprinters of all ages this Sunday in the Prix de l’Abbaye on Arc de Triomphe day. Don’t miss her if she does. I will be there to watch her if she makes the trip, but I may need to avoid Charlie Hills that day. Congratulating him on his Newmarket winner on Saturday I said, ‘But wasn’t Tiggy Wiggy wonderful. I do hope they’ll run her in the Abbaye.’ ‘I hope they don’t,’ said Charles. ‘We’re running our two-year-old Cotai Glory in that.’ Not my most tactful remark.

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