ROBERT COOPER OFF THE BOX
TV celebrity combines wit and wisdom
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