Racing Ahead

Yesterday’s hero

Graham Buddry remembers the amazingly durable The Tatling


Many horses featured in these pages have been exemplary beasts who have won the biggest prizes, been awarded best of their class or run exhilarati­ng races against other champions. These are rightly honoured but some deserve their place because of the heart-warming adoration earned from racing fans over many years. The Tatling is one such horse.

Foaled on 23 April 1997, The Tatling was bred to be a sprinter and started his training career in the care of Michael Bell, for whom he ran 14 times. In nine races as a two-year-old The Tatling was only twice out of the first four, winning two small events.

This was as good as it got for he managed only a solitary third place from four starts the following season and when he began his four year old campaign with a poor 14th of 16 the plug was pulled. The Tatling, now with a new owner, was gelded and sent to David Nicholls where he was dropped in class to take second place in a Seller at Epsom. Six modest results followed that flash-in-the-pan until his life changed forever.

At Catterick on 24 July 2002, The Tatling won a Claimer and was promptly claimed for £15,000 on behalf of 67-year-old trainer, Milton Bradley, for a new owner. Bradley specialise­d in buying cheap horses and placing them to win ordinary races, most notably landing a decent handicap at Ascot with a horse he paid just £100 for. Whatever it was about the new trainer and stable it’s hard to tell, but it worked as the five-year-old quickly won two races and was placed in three more. By now Bradley had a handle on his new charge and the following season was a revelation. The Tatling’s first eight races of that season saw him only once out of the first three in good races, winning only once but just pipped in a few others. That gave Bradley the confidence to elevate him to Group 3 level for the King George Stakes at Goodwood where, although hampered inside the final furlong and having to be switched, ran on strongly to land the prize by a neck.

Buoyed by this, The Tatling next ran in the Grade 1 Nunthorpe Stakes, taking a brilliant second place behind the near invincible Oasis Dream. Kept then to the top sprints in England, France and Hong Kong, The Tatling was always thereabout­s at the business end, his best race being a close third in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.

The Tatling had his first runs of 2004 back in France, placed both times at Group level, then it was next stop

Royal Ascot. The Kings Stand Stakes is one of the highlights at the Berkshire course and this Group 2 would provide our hero with the biggest win of his career, seeing off 18 rivals to win well at 8/1.

Back at Goodwood The Tatling finished third in a driving finish for the King George before another crack at the Nunthorpe which saw another frantic finish with The Tatling failing by just a neck to haul in Bahamian Prince.

Next up was a further trip to Longchamp for a Group 3 race against the recent Stewards Cup winner, Pivotal Point, the pair pulling clear of their French opponents but The Tatling again having to settle for second place.

At Newbury he was to meet a former American sprinter, Var, now trained in England by Clive Brittain and comfortabl­e winner of his only race here so far. It was another exciting race where The Tatling scored another Group level success when closing fast and late to just get his nose in front in the dying strides.

Third place behind Pivotal Point in the Diadem at Ascot was followed by another attempt on the Prix de l’Abbaye but Var scorched out of the stalls and made every post a winning one. The Tatling ran his usual gutsy race, steadying in midfield before making his charge, moving swiftly into second inside the final furlong and although improving on his third place the previous year, he just couldn’t catch the runaway leader.

The 2005 season started slowly for the now eight-year-old, running well in

races like the Temple Stakes yet not making the frame. On his fifth start he began to find his form, taking a close third at Sandown and then it was back to Goodwood for another crack at the King George.

The Tatling was already a popular figure with everyone knowing he would always give of his best and, more often than not, be involved in many a close finish and so it turned out again in Sussex. Haring down the centre of the course while another led on the far rail the race was soon between the pair but, yet again, The Tatling finished on the wrong side of the argument, going down by a neck.

Compensati­on was sought at York with a third try at the Nunthorpe. Here he was making strong headway in the last quarter mile when the saddle started to slip further and further. Having finished second in both the previous two renewals this tack mally function surely cost him a deserved win in the race as he was forced to settle for second again by a head.

A trip to Ireland brought a further trip to the runner-up berth but The Tatling finally got his head, or his neck to be more precise, in front when landing a Group 3 back at Newbury as he surged past the favourite inside the final furlong. The Prix de l’Abbaye was a regular target now, but sixth of 17 seemed to show that finally the days were catching up on the old legs.

In 2006 The Tatling failed to make the frame from 13 starts, nine at Group level, including Group 1’s, taking fourth place in a couple of them and a creditable sixth of 14 in the Nunthorpe but the writing was now surely on the wall.

Dropped in class for the start of the 2007 season The Tatling started strongly with a third place quickly followed by victory in a Conditions race, by a head of course, although he clearGroup had more in hand as the race comment declared he won “cheekily”. The rest of the season was frustratin­g and the owner finally transferre­d ownership of the old warrior back to Bradley and he was retired for a deserved life of leisure. Except that the horse had other ideas.

After accepting his normal winter break The Tatling became an increasing handful when his former stable mates began their pre-season exercise and started to go racing: bucking and squealing in a paddock, cantering backwards and forwards or becoming fractious if stabled. Eventually, in midJune Bradley had no option but to succumb to his equine demands and he returned to the track. On his ninth start, down at Brighton in October, the eleven-year-old finally got his head back in front, scoring comfortabl­y at 10/1 and was roundly cheered and applauded all the way in. Two

months later he repeated the feat on the Southwell All-Weather and a more popular winner you have never seen there.

The following February he won there again in a season consisting of an incredible 28 starts.

Seven more times he was placed before, bang, he won again, at Bath and quickly followed that barely a week later when landing the spoils at Newbury. Five more placed efforts were to see out his season where it was readily apparent that although he was no Mill Reef or Dancing Brave, hundreds were added to the gate just to see him run.

Another year saw another 20 races but only six placed efforts, all on the All-Weather including all his last four races, to show for his efforts but confirming he still had the appetite as long as the bar was lowered a fraction more.

The Tatling began his final season notching up another five placed efforts before running at Yarmouth on 30 June 2011. The 14-year-old was backed into 7/2 favourite but at the furlong marker he was being niggled along and still had a wall of horse in front.

Suddenly he switched right and found another gear, closing fast. The front pair seemed unassailab­le but not to The Tatling. He passed the first of them deep inside the distance and collared the leader in the final yards to win going away, while the stands erupted in unadultera­ted cheering and thunderous applause.

The old legs tried their best for the remainder of the season before a minor injury in mid-September seemed to bring the curtain down on an incredible career. Bradley owed a lot to the horse who providing him with the only four Group level wins of his career so he planned one final race.

Wolverhamp­ton on 12 December 2011, just weeks short of his fifteenth birthday, the 16/1 top weight lined up in his 176th and final race. The favourite was headed inside the final furlong by a flying three-year-old, hell bent on victory, only for a familiar figure to suddenly engage overdrive one last time.

Three horses flashed past the post together, a battle of short heads. Moments later the loudspeake­rs sprung to life with the result; “First, number one.”

He’d done it, The Tatling had won the eighteenth and final race of his stellar career. The horse claimed for just £15,000 had now notched up nearly £700,000 in prize money.

The Tatling eventually accepted retirement and lived the remainder of his days in happy contentmen­t.

In February 2017 at the age of 20 and with failed eyesight he was given one last pick of grass before he was quietly put to sleep.

 ??  ?? The Tatling ridden by Ryan Moore, blue and white, goes onto win the Coral Eurobet Sprint Trophy at York on October 12 2002
The Tatling ridden by Ryan Moore, blue and white, goes onto win the Coral Eurobet Sprint Trophy at York on October 12 2002

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