Racing commentator Richard Hoiles brings us his latest words of wisdom.
The ‘feelgood’ factor was finally back for racing at Doncaster on Saturday. After the loss of the Ebor meeting and the Haydock Sprint Cup the North had been hit hard by the weather but here was a card with nearly a million pounds up for grabs that even the sun thought it was worth coming out to see.
It reminded me quite a lot of Plate Day at Newcastle in that it is very much a people’s race day. From the moment the gates opened the place had the hubbub and buzz of people just having a good time and with the new stand they have been given the facilities to ensure this happens.
It probably won’t win any architectural awards but in many ways Doncaster’s redevelopment has been more successful than most. Despite the 27,000 crowd there was enough space to move around, to get a view of the horses in the paddock and scuttle around the betting ring if so desired. That thorny topic of viewing had its niggles, namely ‘team tactics’ would definitely have been required to maintain control of any of the unreserved seats that provided some of the best viewing and the higher levels were again largely confined to corporate customers but there are areas of terracing and the provision of big screens allow races to be followed even when they disappear behind the corporate village in the centre or the treetops of the golf course.
The credit crunch was according to the bookmakers having an impact on bet sizes, but everyone seemed intent on just having a great day out. From that perspective Dettori’s fifth success in the Leger was the perfect result. There may be better jockeys but there are no better showmen, as he milked the crowd, encouraged them to raise the roof, and embraced and slobbered over Sir Michael Stoute. Stoute’s success after the history of near misses stretching back just short of 25 years was clearly the story of the race. Starting the season being beaten in a handicap off a mark of 78 hardly made Conduit look a likely vehicle for ending the Stoute drought, but after his Derby Day rout of a competitive handicap field and narrow Royal Ascot defeat, ironically to a masterful Dettori ride on Campanologist, he showed that to be no reflection of his real ability. Indeed with his trainer’s record with older horses he should make up into a leading player for next years Cup Races and a candidate to stop the Group 1’s disappearing abroad as regularly as they have this season.
Indeed earlier on in the day the Ladbrokes Sprint Cup had winged its way back to France as the Head family continued their plundering of the speed pots. After Marchand D’Or for Freddie it was now Criquette’s turn courtesy of African Rose, who despite getting warm beforehand had her energies channelled in the right direction by Stephane Pasquier. To be fair the trainer displayed almost Dettori like exuberance in shouting home her heroine and it was good to see success throughout the day whether on the track or off it being greeted with such enthusiasm.
A couple of horses for the notebook from the meeting were Headline Act who made his debut in the last on Friday. With a clear run and more experience he would have gone close to winning and clearly a maiden next time looks his for the taking.
The other was Chief Editor who continually found his path blocked in the Portland. With his trainer due to depart for Australia there will be no hanging about trying to gain compensation and he can win a decent handicap on soft ground before the season’s end.
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