26 MAY 2007, Page 58

Don’t make me tile the sea

Robin Oakley

Sadly the racing season both for purebred Arabians and even for camels was over when I was in Qatar last weekend. But I did discover that Arab mums, like British trainers, tend to wear rose-tinted spectacles. ‘To an Arab mother,’ the Gulf saying goes, ‘every donkey is a gazelle.’ I do rather like, too, the way angry Arabs don’t tell someone to ‘go and jump in the lake’ but to ‘go and tile the sea’.

I can only hope, after the traumas of seconditis that we suffered with our winter Twelve To Follow, that I don’t get too many end-of-season invitations to go aquatic tiling. And hope was resurrected over jumps. Attentive readers might recall that I offered John Quinn’s Leslingtaylor as a substitute for the injured in my Twelve. The other day he won the first big hurdle race of the new season at 16–1. Stick with him.

Let us start the summer ball rolling with Supersonic Dave, a three-year-old trained at Manton by Brian Meehan, who won more money abroad last year than any other British trainer. Supersonic Dave, a three-year-old who should stay a mile and a half, was Jamie Spencer’s choice when I asked him what he was most looking forward to riding this year.

We need a few two-year-olds. I liked the look of Mark Johnston’s Grand Fleet, a good-sized though inexperienced individual who won easily at Nottingham last month. Newmarket-based Julie Fielden looks to have something decent with the Ascot-bound Spirit of Sharjah, who cost only 8,000 guineas but has already won at Newmarket and Goodwood, quickening impressively. Another who caught the eye was Barry Hills’s filly Spinning Lucy, who was beaten into third place at Newmarket behind her stable companion Mookhlesa and would probably have won with a clear run. Both could figure at Ascot.

Having been lucky enough last week to trail round the yards of several hospitable Newmarket trainers with Harry Herbert and some of his Highclere syndicate owners, I am probably a little prejudiced by Headquarters’ prospects this year. Red Evie’s success in the Lockinge showed that Michael Bell’s horses are in good nick, and his handsome Regime should certainly win good races even if he doesn’t manage to beat Authorised in the Derby, the race Michael won with the Highclere-managed Motivator two years ago .

Ed Dunlop’s four-year-old King of Argos looked a really good handicap prospect when he cruised clear at Windsor last month but then disappointed next time out. Instead I will go for his Broomielaw, a Rock of Gibraltar colt owned by Sir Alex Ferguson. He was given too much to do when fourth behind Arabian Gulf at Newmarket, and when recovered from a minor setback will surely win races.

Another Dunlop winner over 1m 2f the day King of Argos impressed was Fort Amhurst, who has tested his trainer’s ingenuity. To settle the nervous ‘boxwalker’, whose pacing kept him too busy to eat, Ed Dunlop first put a mirror in his box to persuade him he had company. That worked for a while. Then he tried strewing tyres across the floor, but the horse learnt to move them. Some horses settle when given a companion, but goats can also eat the horses’ food. Fort Amhurst, though, has been a changed character since acquiring a little furry friend. He is in love with the black and white rabbit which now sits in the corner of his box, and has put on 60 kilos.

The Highclere syndicates have had amazing success with the horses chosen for them by John Warren, and Harry Herbert’s enthusiasm for Cliché, a filly trained by Sir Michael Stoute who won at Windsor on Monday night, was infectious. My most trusted companion in the quest for winners is Timeform’s exhaustive, chunky compendium of last year’s runners. It notes how Cliché weaved through from last place to finish in the frame in a valuable sales race at The Curragh last season, adding ‘useful prospect, sure to win races’. Packed full of intriguing essays on racing topics as well as the lowdown on every runner last year (the entry on Les Arcs is worth the money alone), Racehorses of 2006 is available at £75 from Timeform, Halifax.

Talking of Ireland, watch out for Tracey Collins’s sprinter Dandy Man on his visits abroad. He simply blew away his opponents on his seasonal reappearance at Naas.

There are some really good speed horses about to give us fun this year, including the Highclere-owned Asset, handled by Richard Hannon, and William Haggas’s Enticing, who drew gasps with her pace at Bath. You might see the Highclere-owned Conquest pop up at a decent price later in the season over five furlongs. But for the list it is Hannon’s Major Cadeaux. I am not sure yet whether we will see Major Cadeaux, winner of the Greenham this year from Dutch Art, persevere over a mile after he lost a plate and finished sore in the 2000 Guineas. But I haven’t forgotten the enthusiasm of Richard Hannon junior when the horse won as a two-year-old at Newbury. Here, he said, was a horse with a really serious engine. His legs are delicate but whether it is at six, seven or eight furlongs, I am convinced he will win more decent races.

Thurloe Thoroughbreds also run a topnotch bunch of syndicates, and although life can be tough early on for three-yearold sprinters, I liked the look of their Rasaman when he won at Lingfield. He was not fully tuned up that day and should come in again. In classy mile races, I want to be on the side of the five-year-old Ramonti, formerly trained in Italy and now with Godolphin. And I have my eye finally on a little-raced Mark Johnston threeyear-old, Colorado Rapid. He could be classy.