As I write, we are mid-heatwave, almost too hot for racing to be honest, but there is always plenty to keep us entertained regardless across many levels of action and in different codes too.
To start off with, I am penning this piece a day on from Mark Crehan’s misjudgement of the winning line at Doncaster, costing him a victory and in the process receiving a 28 day ban from the stewards and terrible online abuse. I have also seen face to face abuse in a similar situation when Sam Twiston-Davies was unseated on the run-in at Southwell aboard Hawkhurst back in 2015, a horse who ultimately has become a cult figure for being the quirkiest point to pointer in the UK!
In the age we live in nowadays, social media gives a voice to everybody, which is a recipe for disaster in itself as proven on many occasions, particularly in circumstances such as these.
Mark Crehan will be the first to admit he messed up, he doesn’t need telling, whether that be from a steward, his jockey coach or Joe Bloggs in Coventry who had a fiver on him, but I think his punishment is harsh.
It means he has lost all racing income for a month, which given Mark would be having up to five rides a day most days at the moment given how well he’s riding, is an awful lot of money to lose. I’ve seen occasions where jockeys have interfered with the second past the post so much that the placings had be reversed and only received a fraction of that figure, even one on the same day over at Newbury when Louis Steward only got a 4 day ban.
The ban for these sorts of instances is purely on aesthetics in my opinion, and I think I would have halved Mark’s ban and increased Steward’s to 10 days, but that’s just me and many will disagree.
Anyhow enough of my bleating, time to talk all things equine with this month’s eyecatchers. We have five to spin through, including a potential top notcher which is where we will start.
Killarney is a track firmly on the racing bucket list as a track to visit given its incredible backdrop and plenty of tight finishes to create a great atmosphere to the place.
Aiden O’Brien introduced Luxembourg on the 14 July meeting ridden by Michael Hussey, a key cog in the O’Brien team who often gets overlooked in favour of Ryan Moore, Seamie Heffernan and Wayne Lordan for the majority of the rides from Coolmore but has been a part of the operation for many years and is highly respected.
This 150k gns colt by Camelot is well related as you’d expect for a horse trained by this outfit, being half brother to Group 2 winner Leo De Fury and there was a lot to like about this performance, especially given he did so much wrong in the race itself.
After blowing the start, he settled well in midfield before switching to the outside around two furlongs out and under just a hands and heels ride, finished strongly to win going away by over two lengths. He beat two previous winners and a promising horse called Mannix there despite plenty of greenness, so I was really impressed with this effort.
His rider was suitably impressed, and he does have a couple of lofty entries in Group races in August and September, but he certainly appears above average.
At the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of natural ability, on the same day in the Wolverhampton opener, one of my cliff horses yet again caught the eye.
Sfumato is the horse in question, who was formerly in the care of Adrian Nicholls but now is trained by Ollie Pears and can be a frustrating horse to watch through a race, having often not found a run through gaps and been one who should have finished closer allowing for a bit of luck in the run.
It was a case of more of the same here as Sfumato couldn’t get a clear passage through under promising apprentice Harry Russell but that was just his third run for Ollie Pears, and the yard definitely seem to know what they’ve got to play with now.
A win is around the corner.
We’ll finish with the Flat horses and Drayton Cross was a big eyecatcher in the Ladies Derby at The Curragh on Irish Oaks Day 17 July.
Strongly supported in the market beforehand from a small yard better known for their jumpers, this gelding has a strange old profile having not raced for nearly three years between October 2018 and May 2021 and switching to Fowler from Eddie Lynam.
In four runs for the new yard, he has been ridden by Fiona Leaney, who hadn’t had a ride previously on all four occasions (rider hasn’t ridden any other runners). Every start has shown promise in one way or another and I am already waiting with bated breath for this one to be ridden by a professional as I am convinced, he is a very well handicapped beast indeed.
He could also go jumping at some point as he has plenty of stamina.
We’ll look at a couple of jumpers now, and I’ll mention Nye Bevan for the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard who finished back in fourth at Worcester on 15 July.
He is one who needs a bit of coaxing and that is probably why young Jamie Neild (son of the owner) gets on well with him as he wouldn’t be the strongest in the saddle. He did win a couple of races last year and went close in a few others to boot so has a good bit of ability. He seemed to get done for speed badly at Worcester before he flew home off the back of last well behind the eventual runaway winner Wasdell Dundalk, which can be seen on the TV cameras.
One thing I would really like to see this lad do is jump a fence, as he is a big unit, and I don’t see any reason at all why he wouldn’t make a better chaser.
Cartmel, the home of sticky toffee pudding, can be a good place for eyecatchers, especially in chase races there given the unique two furlong run-in which can catch many a horse out and mean that you really do have to stay the distance you are running over, leading to course specialists like Tonto’s Spirit to excel.
One horse which entered my tracker as soon as it crossed the finish line ran in the 2m5f handicap chase on their card won by Brotherly Company on 17 July. Unsurprisingly to a few, it was Cage Of Fear, who was having first start for the shrewd Christian Williams team when finishing fourth that is the horse in question.
Having been friendless in the betting throughout the day, eventually going off at 28/1 in a field of seven, he raced in mid-division before fading to the rear just after halfway, to such an extent that he could have been pulled up and it wouldn’t have been a surprise.
However, on the long run-in back for home he took off and grabbed fourth just before the line beaten sixteen lengths officially at the line. After the race on the coverage of Cartmel, they tend to show the head-on footage of the runners crossing the line and you can see Cage Of Fear flying home under Jack Tudor.
It screamed to me as one of those performances which was designed to be made into a fact-finding mission, and I think they had a few questions answered here. The other key part in the jigsaw is this horse’s performances racing on a right handed course massively outweigh that of a left handed course such as Cartmel.
In fact, this performance was the best recorded finish in three attempts going this way round, with his only career win coming at Perth, plus second place finishes at Market Rasen and Wincanton on two separate occasions.
He is definitely one for the tracker.
I’ll end on an upbeat note if I may and after many long months with Covid lockdown and no public attendances into racecourses, it has been so refreshing to have people through the turnstiles once again.
I’ve been working at Southwell at their last few meetings and just little things we took for granted before such as a glance at the runners in the pre-parade ring, and in particular a ripple of applause for the winners when they enter the winners’ enclosure, are now being taken far more seriously.
To hear racegoers shouting their horses’ home from the stands is a great thing and creates an atmosphere that can’t be matched in such a short amount of time. I just hope that everything stays as close to ‘normal’, whatever that is nowadays, over the coming months and we can continue to watch as many race meetings in the flesh as possible.
Fingers crossed we’ll land a winner or two out of that set.
As ever, enjoy the sport and take care.
Will Bowler is a freelance writer, together with being one of the busiest Point To Point commentators. Will also commentates on harness and pony racing, with a long list of different venues including Haydock, Wolverhampton, Southwell and a personal favourite in Beverley. He worked at Southwell Racecourse for six years as race day presenter and marketing executive, helping at Doncaster and Uttoxeter on occasion. He has shares in two horses, one with Laura Morgan and one with John Mackie.