Robin Oakley

Our Twelve to Follow are on sparkling form

Five of them have won at least once already

Could he win the novice championship at Cheltenham? Chasing Fire, ridden by Aidan Coleman, storming to victory at Sandown Park [PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo]

Trainer Olly Murphy was trying hard at Sandown Park last Saturday not to get carried away after his Chasing Fire had extended his unbeaten career to five with a convincing win in the Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle. ‘He’s good but I don’t know how good,’ he declared. ‘Could he win a Supreme? I’ve had a second and third but never the winner. I’ve only been training for five years and haven’t had a champion, but I hope this one can be good.’ Particularly delighted that the gelding had won in the familiar blue colours of Diana and Grahame Whateley, the stable’s biggest backers, Olly noted that you have to throw a lot of money at it to achieve success in racing. As he put it: ‘You get to kiss an awful lot of frogs before you find a Prince Charming.’ In Chasing Fire he may well have found one.

Former Times editor Charlie Wilson, whose joyful memorial service in St Bride’s took place after this column last appeared, would have appreciated Murphy’s comment. Charlie, the best newspaperman I ever worked for, was both a true racing enthusiast and a realist and along with several Times correspondents, including yours truly, he was in the syndicate who owned Sunday for Monday. Sunday for Monday, alas, was not a Frankel or a Sea The Stars. The only things he possessed in common with a champion racehorse were four legs and a tail. I cannot swear to it that it was him but I seem to hear Charlie’s voice in my ear as I recall our trainer urging the jockey on one outing to keep his mount in touch with the field for the first five furlongs and then ‘let him find himself’. ‘Wouldn’t it be nice,’ came the sardonic Glaswegian aside, ‘if for once he actually found the other runners?’

Of course Charlie could be tough.

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