Newmarket’s wisest trainer, Sir Mark Prescott, once noted: ‘The greyhound is propelled through the pain barrier by its desire to sink its teeth into the tantalising white bunny tail ahead of it. Humans are driven through it by the desire for riches and stardom. But what’s in it for the racehorse?’ His words came to mind after Beat The Bank, owned by King Power Racing, the operation founded by the late Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, and trained by Andrew Balding, won the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot on Saturday for a second year. It was a ninth victory in 18 races for one of the most popular horses in his leading yard, but tragically his last.
Beat The Bank looked magnificent in the paddock and showed his usual guts and determination to win by a nose. But you could see from how rapidly Silvestre de Sousa pulled him up that Beat The Bank had suffered an injury in his final strides. This resulted, alas, in him having to be put down. He was a horse who answered the Prescott Question by his sheer zest and eagerness to compete and was clearly a brave horse too.
I love this time of year. With Royal Ascot over, Newmarket staging meetings on the matey July course, Monday nights at Windsor in full swing and Glorious Goodwood and York’s Ebor meeting soon to come, we are sorting out the potential group candidates from the handicappers and can start noting a few horses who will be worth following through their careers.
Perhaps because the bookmakers are currently obsessed with multiple bets on the incomparable Frankie Dettori, who was riding at Newmarket last Saturday, those of us who opted for Ascot instead found some surprising betting bargains. My form guru friend and I both gratefully seized upon the 9–2 on offer against Tis Marvellous winning the five-furlong sprint. He had shown his liking for the track winning a Shergar Cup race last August and last time out had finished second in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot. He tracked the pacemaker, turned on the turbo when asked and finished a decisive winner. Delighted trainer Clive Cox agreed he will have to go for something better than handicaps now.
The second race offered a regular dilemma: follow the form or follow the money? There was a significant gamble on Balding’s Berkshire Rocco, ridden by de Sousa in the auction novice stakes. Opening at 9–1, the unraced Sir Percy colt was backed down to 11–4. But Mark Johnston’s horses are carrying all before them at the moment and his Kingbrook had run promisingly at Haydock the week before. The guru and I stuck with the 7–4 Johnston favourite and he showed true grit in coming again to win after being headed within the final furlong. Mark purchased the son of Kingman for the bargain price of £22,000 and declared: ‘He’ll come on again. He’s big, weak and backward. There’s a lot more to come.’ When he says that you take notice. I took the opportunity to ask about the progress of his two-year-old Fred, who is in our Twelve to Follow, and Mark reported: ‘He flopped first time out at Ayr, finishing last of eight, and we were a bit shocked but then he went to Leicester and won. He’s a nice horse.’ The Leicester victory was at a cheering 5–1 too.
In the third race, the guru and I parted company. He went for William Haggas’s Ummalnar while I took note of the presence of Hamdan Al Maktoum and his retinue and backed his Loolwah, trained by Sir Michael Stoute. Both were 7–2 chances but the guru had it right again as the Haggas filly took control to win by an easy four lengths in the hands of Tom Marquand. Said the ever-candid William afterwards of Ummalnar’s previous run: ‘She’s a useful filly but at Ripon [over two furlongs further on a stiffer track] she looked like a donkey. It was a case of the trainer running a horse at the wrong track — though not deliberately!’ Now she too will be moving up in grade.
In the next race the guru and I differed again. He favoured the 14–1 outsider Busy Street while I had backed Simon Crisford’s 9–4 favourite Saroog, ridden by the international star Kerrin McEvoy. The guru and I are always on the lookout for apprentice riders whose riding weight allowances make their mounts good betting value and what I took out of the race was the coolly competent ride of the 5lb claimer Theodore Ladd on Busy Street. With a ferocious pace set by P.J. McDonald on the eventual third, Celestial Force, young Theo settled his mount nicely in second and pressed on two furlongs out. He went down by only a neck at the end to McEvoy’s drive on the fast-finishing favourite. Twenty-one-year-old Theo has done time with Hughie Morrison and Scott Dixon but from September will be based with Mick Appleby in Oakham. Keep an eye on him.