There can be few more dispiriting places for trainers to find themselves than on the dreaded “cold list” for out-of-form racing trainers. It happens to the best of them, of course, sooner or later.
One such trainer who is enduring a barren spell is the hugely likeable and just as talented Roger Varian. Varian’s Newmarket string is one of the biggest in the country and despite being a relative newcomer to the training ranks, he has rapidly established himself as a top-tier campaigner, thanks to the likes of St Leger winner Kingston Hill.
Nowadays, the brightest star in his galaxy is Postponed. I’ve written before about this horse and the vital role that Luca Cumani played in his development, but just now we have the concerns around the form of the Varian stable at the forefront of our minds as we ready ourselves for Postponed’s tilt at the Juddmonte International Stakes.
In the past week or so, a number of Varian horses have been turned over at very short odds, and talk of relatively widespread coughing in Newmarket has done little to calm the jitters of those who want the current Arc favourite to cement his place as the best middle-distance horse of the season.
It will be no cake walk: King George winner Highland Reel and Eclipse victor Hawkbill are enormous threats and those who backed Postponed antepost at even money will be very nervous indeed as the horse continues to drift.
Cast your minds back 12 months when Golden Horn came a cropper to the unheralded Arabian Queen and nerves jangle ever more loudly. For Varian’s sake, there can be no better time to come off the cold list, but defeat for Postponed will throw the middle-distance division into turmoil. A fascinating race awaits us on the Knavesmire this week.
On Friday night at Newmarket, superstar jockey Frankie Dettori finally landed his 3000th winner in front of some 20,000 spectators. It was a moment for all of racing to unite and celebrate as the most popular jockey of our time completed a memorable flying dismount to mark the outstanding achievement.
Dettori has long since given up chasing winners at whatever cost on whatever track. He values the time with his friends and family more highly than once upon a time and whilst he may have shaken off some of the excitement of his youth, he is still nothing short of beautiful in the saddle.
What a debt of gratitude we all owe to the Italian genius when we look back on 20 years of brilliance in and out of the saddle.
I have tried to keep a level head on the ongoing debate around the appeal of racecourse entertainment, which seems to divide opinion right now.
Many feel that the racecourses are abandoning the primary appeal of the thoroughbred as they seek to populate the on-course bars and restaurants and drive revenue ever upwards. They may well be right, but at Market Rasen earlier this week, they saw their record attendance by some considerable margin.
With all due respect to the horses on parade, the vast majority of the crowd were there for the supremely talented Jess Glynne (yes, even I have heard of her!). Barely half an hour before midnight, they were still queueing in their cars to leave the car parks. There was no trouble, lots of fun and some of the bigger tracks suffering from very evident social behavioural problems in a few of their enclosures might look to Market Rasen as a guide in how to draw in crowds, boost revenue and put on a rattling good night of sporting and musical entertainment.
Sorry to the purists, but I just don’t agree that racing is selling out.
My ongoing capacity to put the skids on horses has continued, with Nemoralia missing Newbury’s meeting at the weekend. It is quite some feat to have tipped more non-runners than winners this season, but I will keep the faith with Jeremy Noseda’s filly this week at York.
She deserves to go well, the trainer deserves some good fortune and although your correspondent deserves very little indeed, I am heading to York with unbowed optimism.