TV celebrity com­bines wit and wis­dom

The Racing Paper - - Front Page - ROBERT COOPER At The Races pre­sen­ter and com­men­ta­tor

Fin­gers crossed that I’ve re­turn un­scathed from last night’s en­ter­tain­ment at Ox­ford’s Hard of Hear­ing Cen­tre. Not that I have much of a prob­lem with the King Lears al­though I’ve suf­fered from tin­ni­tus or a per­pet­ual high fre­quency whine ever since see­ing – and hear­ing – the Rolling Stones from very close quar­ters at Earls Court many years ago.

The Felice Broth­ers will be a fa­mil­iar name to fol­low­ers of Amer­i­can Folk rock, and one of the broth­ers, namely Ian, was the man I went to hear per­form last night –pre­cisely why he was per­form­ing at the Hard of Hear­ing cen­tre will have to wait for an­other day.

The prin­ci­pal rea­son for my safe re­turn home was to wake, re­freshed and re­vi­talised, this morn­ing in time to watch the in­cred­i­ble WINX at­tempt a fourth vic­tory in the Cox Plate at Moonee Val­ley.

By the time you open your freshly laun­dered copy of The Rac­ing Pa­per, WINX will have ei­ther won her 29th suc­ces­sive race or her ex­tra­or­di­nary odyssey will have fi­nally hit the buf­fers. Of course, the vast ma­jor­ity of rac­ing fans around the world want the se­quence to re­main un­tar­nished.

Noth­ing beats rais­ing the hack­les of the Aussies, and my col­league Matt Chap­man who is cur­rently down un­der on re­port­ing du­ties for ATR, stirred up a hor­nets nest by sug­gest­ing that maybe WINX wasn’t quite as good as she’s cracked up to be – maybe only beat­ing mod­er­ate op­po­si­tion in trumped up egg and spoon races. Trainer Chris Waller rose to the bait, like a fish en route to the chip shop. He was fu­ri­ous and branded Chap­man a ‘ **** head’. He’d take that as flat­tery.

I’m pos­i­tive Matt had pon­dered long and hard be­fore slur­ring the vir­tu­ally in­fal­li­ble WINX, and the re­ac­tion was pre­cisely the one he had in­tended. There is bound to be plenty more hype and puffery on the build up to the Melbourne Cup in ten days time, and it all adds to the en­ter­tain­ment, for that is what it is meant to be.

I would rather watch an irate trainer with steam shoot­ing from his ears, than lis­ten to an over earnest drone about form and sec­tional tim­ings. We have the Breed­ers’ Cup to cover that par­tic­u­lar an­gle. If you missed the Cox Plate, it’s bound to be the main story on ATR’s news bul­letins through­out the morn­ing.

In the same week that the 7-year-old won­der-mare WINX runs the 39th race of her life, it’s dis­ap­point­ing that CRACKS­MAN and ROAR­ING LION who have run just 23 times in to­tal, will not be seen on the race­course in this coun­try again. ROAR­ING LION may en­joy his fi­nal hur­rah in the Breed­ers’ Cup but CRACKS­MAN ran his last race, al­beit an in­cred­i­ble one, at As­cot last week­end.

Stud values are so as­tro­nom­i­cal that there is lit­tle com­mer­cial pur­pose these days in con­tin­u­ing rac­ing, with the added risk of in­jury or de­feat, when there is noth­ing left to prove on the track. Both will be very hard acts to fol­low, but maybe a fu­ture star will emerge from to­day’s fi­nal do­mes­tic Group One of the sea­son at Don­caster. The Vertem Fu­tu­rity Stakes, as it is now known has been a happy hunt­ing ground for Aidan O’Brien with eight vic­to­ries – an­other to­day would get him within touch­ing dis­tance of Henry Ce­cil’s record of ten win­ners of this event that started out in 1961 as the Time­form Gold Cup.

To­day’s Time­form rat­ings have O’Brien’s MAGNA GRE­CIA top rated but only just in front of Charles Hills’ PHOENIX OF SPAIN who chased home TOO DARN HOT at Don­caster in the Cham­pagne Stakes last month.

I have no doubt that MAGNA GRE­CIA is an­other wor­thy Bal­ly­doyle con­tender but at the prices now avail­able, PHOENIX OF SPAIN (4.05 DON­CASTER) of­fers more value and, step­ping up to a mile, a chance of a ma­jor tro­phy for Hills who, ear­lier this sea­son, was ex­pect­ing turbo-charged won­ders from BATTAASH that never re­ally ma­te­ri­alised. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to stem the flow of Group Ones head­ing to cham­pion trainer John Gos­den and TUR­GENEV could be a ma­jor im­prover.

We may not wit­ness the nailbiter be­tween SAXON WAR­RIOR and ROAR­ING LION last year, but the win­ner is sure to be a ma­jor 2000 Guineas con­tender next spring – I’m hop­ing it’s the grey colt PHOENIX OF SPAIN.

SAN DONATO (1.45 DON­CASTER) looks to have a strong chance of win­ning the listed Don­caster Stakes. Roger Var­ian’s two yearold won eas­ily at Kempton last time, but it’s his pre­vi­ous win that looks so im­pres­sive. He only beat HELLO YOUMZAIN by a short­head but the Kevin Ryan trained run­ner-up won a com­pet­i­tive Group Two in France last week­end. That form looks very solid.

Ear­lier in the sum­mer, William Hag­gas had Derby dreams for YOUNG RAS­CAL (2.20 NEW­BURY) af­ter he had won the Ch­ester Vase in May, how­ever he was never sighted at Ep­som but re­turned to win­ning ways at New­bury last month fol­low­ing a break since June. He was def­i­nitely a bit ring-rusty but showed plenty of guts to win, al­beit nar­rowly. Over an ex­tra fur­long, an­other vic­tory is on the cards.

As a re­minder that win­ter is on the way there’s some ter­rific jump­ing ac­tion Chel­tenham this af­ter­noon. Harry Whit­ting­ton’s BIG MARTRE (3.10 Chel­tenham) ended last sea­son win­ning the Fu­ture Cham­pi­ons Novice Chase at Ayr, with the sta­ble amongst the win­ners this week, a bold run is ex­pected.

I also fancy Stu­art Ed­munds’ hur­dler THE CLOCK IS TICK­ING (3.45 CHEL­TENHAM) not be­cause the clocks re­treat an hour tonight but due to an ex­cel­lent run in Chep­stow’s Sil­ver Tro­phy Hur­dle a fort­night ago.

The two and a half miles was def­i­nitely on the sharp side, as he stayed on strongly with­out land­ing a blow. Three miles to­day should be to his lik­ing.

“I would rather watch an irate trainer with steam shoot­ing from his ears than lis­ten to an over-earnest drone about form and sec­tional tim­ings”

Star turn: The odyssey con­tin­ued this week for Winx in the Cox Plate

Top form: Aidan O’Brien

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