Tanya's Blog - June 2014
Tanya Stevenson from Channel 4 Racing has a busy month to preview, with the Oaks, Derby, Royal Ascot AND Northumberland Plate!
The 2014 calendar has moved swiftly, with such haste that the historic Downs at Epsom are the focal point for all who love racing. I’ve been treated to over forty years of history and dramatic finishes on the unique course and I never tire of the challenges it presents.
Many with Derby and Oaks entries clambered for the opportunity to test their dexterity at Breakfast with the Stars on May 29, which was heartening to see. Sadly commitments meant I was elsewhere, but with social media there were up to the minute reports and quotes from this most informative day.
You may or may not have had a chance to read this offering before the Investec Oaks is run as I’m told it is due to drop in your inbox late Friday morning. The fillies’ classic is always overshadowed by its colts’ counterpart yet this year has stealthily bubbled up to be a treat.
Taghrooda has been usurped as favourite by Irish 1000 Guineas winner Marvellous. The supplementation of four fillies suggest those connections really think they have a crack at the ultimate equine dream. To me there is real strength in depth with the Cheshire Oaks winner Anipa, Lingfield Oaks Trial victor Honor Bound and Goodwood winner Marsh Daisy along with Musidora runner-up Madame Chiang all adding their names to the fray. There was plenty of late money forIhtimal late on in the 1000 Guineas yet to me she didn’t automatically come across as an Oaks filly.
I like the brute strength (yes brute, I know an inappropriate description for a filly) of Madame Chiang, and her conformation gives me the thought that she won’t be inconvenienced by the cambers. Another filly I like is Tarfasha, if only for the insistence of her trainer on her participation, especially as her owner also has Taghrooda!
Yet it is hard to dislike Marvellous, she was awesome at the Curragh and I don’t often go for favourites but Aidan O’Brien’s filly is hard to resist.
I’m fortunate that it’s a short journey home for me from Epsom and Ascot, not the double hundred plus miles when I travel to York and Haydock and beyond. This means I have valuable extra time to study stats and research the history of the Surrey racecourse.
On to Saturday, I can remember having to leave my one time home in Essex in the early hours of the morning on a Wednesday, pre-M25 to get within a couple of miles of the course ensuring our pitch on the Downs. Then the crowd was enormous, it is still of vast quantity but grass can clearly be seen on the Downs and where once there were spectators is now car-parking.
Not enough has been said about the Coronation Cup; the grandstand should be packed for that race alone. It is a pity Derby winner Ruler Of The World is a late absentee but there is still an Oaks winner (Talent) and Cirrus Des Aigles. I’ll be cheering the latter as I believe if ever there was a racing Hall of Fame he should be in it. The likes of Cirrus Des Aigles assist in writing the chapters of racing’s folklore, the way he has bounced back from defeat with his charismatic trainer at no point losing faith. He has also raced against the greats and his form can help quantify the era.
Personally I love the Investec Dash as much as any race at Epsom, the thrill of the speed accentuated by them racing downhill. The timer should be reintroduced despite soft potentially being in the ground description. To understand the speed of these lightning fast horses their swiftness can be measured and paralleled with other runnings on similar surfaces.
Those who compete do so against each other for quite a few seasons allowing us to draw conclusions of our own. Steps and Eton Riflesare my immediate selections however if Stone Of Folca is allowed to take his chance it will be worth watching him scorch over the early part of the five furlongs of turf.
On to the Investec Derby itself and I’ve dusted off my big yellow Australia cricket hat and my Matty Hayden replica one-day international shirt just in case such a gimmick is needed if the long time favourite prevails.
His run in the 2000 Guineas did little to convince me he was a superstar. He didn’t seem to have the power to come again and it was winner Night Of Thunder who to me would have superiority for a further distance. Sadly the Guineas winner won’t be at Epsom on Saturday, he is waiting for Kingman at Royal Ascot.
Instead Australia’s biggest challenge could come from within his own stable. While there was all the debating and speculating over the result of the Derrinstown Derby Trial the concentration on Ebanoranand Fascinating Rock was to the detriment of a real analysis of the Irish challenge for the Epsom Derby. Examine Geoffrey Chaucercloser: would he not have won the race with a clearer run? We’ll never know but he could gain compensation at Epsom.
After witnessing Arod at Windsor on his racecourse debut, I thought he was special. His next run being the Dante hinted connections thought so too. Yet I found it strange that he was detached and way behind the supposed good thing True Story turning for home, let aloneThe Grey Gatsby. He motored home to finish runner-up only ¾ length behind the latter. After Chantilly on Sunday the form isn’t too shoddy now! I’m not convinced True Story can reverse the form.
Prior to his late withdrawal I was a bit perturbed that Snow Sky had been cast aside as an outsider. Here is a horse who passed the ultimate test on a course similar to Epsom and won going away at Lingfield. Well I suppose if you were supporting him, then closer scrutiny has to be paid to Western Hymn who defeated Snow Sky at Newbury. He has his critics, for I know not why. So he has been seen to hang and he changes his legs but he sticks his head out with sheer determination and he can act on all ground. His style is the equivalent in golf of Jim Furyk. They say he has got a swing only his mother could love. Perhaps Western Hymn’s equine style isn’t the most attractive but he gets the job done.
If you are searching for a massive outsider to run a big race, how about Impulsive Moment? Andrew Balding took the trouble to give him a sighter at Breakfast with the Stars and his young rider David Probert has never been riding better.
Then destination Lords for the Test between England and Sri Lanka. I feel a bit spoilt having lapped up one of the best One-Day Internationals I’ve seen while most of you were basking at York, Chester, Newmarket, Haydock or Newbury. For me it’s cricket season and a bit of a split loyalty. With New Zealand touring next year I just hope the Lords Test doesn’t clash with anything too big!
As I sit at Lords I can contemplate the imminent five day spectacular that is Royal Ascot. The headache tablets have offset the thought of getting the outfits spot on, however I did get the hats sorted back in April. I’m organised, very organised, too much so if you listen to colleagues.
It’s of course a privilege to be at one day of the Royal Meeting let alone five, yet it is another meeting I have been attending for over forty years now. My mother takes great pride and joy in telling her friends how she took me back in 1973 and from then on I’ve been at the course under many different guises. An infant spectator, growing up to work for bookmakers, then work for SIS, back to working for bookmakers, then last year for Channel 4 Racing. Much fun and drama has passed, other than the obvious of Estimate’s win last year which will be forever etched in the memory. My favourite winners include Rebecca Sharp in the 1997 Coronation Stakes and Systematic in 2002. There are plenty more but I have a deadline to get my thoughts to you.
As for the five days Treve has to be the headline act, followed by the hope that Estimate can repeat her memorable feat of 12 months ago. Tac De Boistron poses a strong and relevant threat. The horses I am most looking forward to are Verrazano in the Queen Anne on Tuesday and Sole Power trying to defend his crown in the Kings Stand, though I have a soft spot for Viztoria and if she were to show herself I would be the first to get on.
I know a fair contingent of Racegoers Club members will go wild ifClouds Rest could win the Queen Mary Stakes for her Club syndicate with Richard Fahey on Wednesday so I’m sure I’m far from alone in wishing her good luck!
Then I mustn’t wish my life away but Newcastle is in my top three racecourses. I love the place, its grass roots feel and those that attend love the racing. On Northumberland Plate day they don’t attend for the gimmicks, they attend to embellish the atmosphere. The race is part of racing’s rich history. At this point I wish Clever Cookie well if he takes his chance. We are all getting behind this wonderful story and to think he is 66-1 for the Champion Hurdle. Others to consider are Tony Martin’s Thomas Edison, Sir Mark Prescott’s Big Thunder or Pallasator or John Quinn’s Moidore.
Finally thanks to all for your feedback on the public address systems. Recently I’ve been to courses where the offending racket has subsided. Enjoy June I hope it’s everything you’ve wished for and more.