It's not (just) the way she looks ...
The perfect filly, one racing sage used to say, should have the head of a lady and the behind of a cook. Although she still had some winter coat to shed on her sea- sonal debut at Newbury, Henry Cecil's lovely filly Bosra Sham was the perfect illustration of the concept. After a little belated spring sunshine, she'll no doubt turn out next time out in the 1,000 Guineas with the gleam and polish on her flanks of a Sheraton sideboard. But it was not just the way she looked at Newbury, it was the way she raced which impressed. She demol- ished her opponents in the Dubai Duty Free Fred Darling Stakes in the style of a real champion. She relaxes beautifully and she has that burst of acceleration which spells true class.
Ten times champion jockey Pat Eddery called her 'brilliant' after they had come home six lengths clear at Newbury and said she reminded him of El Gran Senor. She is proven over a mile. With David Loder's horses seeming to lack edge so far this sea- son, her chief rival Blue Duster has now been pulled out and Bint Salsabil failed to win on her reappearance so I shall look no further for the winner of the first fillies Classic. Strangely, the One Thousand is the only British Classic which Pat Eddery has never won. He must surely have his best chance ever this year of filling that gap.
The colts race for the Pertemps Two Thousand Guineas looks like being more of a contest. And there are as many opin- ions about Alhaarth's prospects as there are racing scribes after Dick Hem's colt lost his unbeaten record on his seasonal debut at Newmarket to John Dunlop's Beauchamp King. It is not only the scribes who are divided. In the Sporting Life the other day, trainer Mark Johnston urged readers not to listen to too many excuses for beaten horses. In the same edition, his stable jockey Jason Weaver was insisting that Alhaarth was still the horse they all had to beat.
I would agree with the jockey that Alhaarth looked a little over-eager on his seasonal debut and certainly John Reid rode a peach of a race on Beauchamp King. I do not subscribe to the school that says Willie Carson's riding of Alhaarth was to blame for the defeat. Grandfather Willie may be one of the senior citizens of the weighing room these days and, like the best fillies, he may need a little sun on his back before he puts in his best work. But, if I were, for example, a trainer with a stayer of doubtful temperament who needed coaxing and niggling through every yard of a two- mile slog, I would still rather have W. Car- son aboard than just about anyone.
Beauchamp King is a gutsy horse who seems to go on improving with every run. But in a stronger race in the Guineas I reckon Alhaarth has a good chance of turn- ing the tables. Nor are the bookies over- whelming us with generosity in opposing that thought. But it will not be a two-horse race. At Newbury on Saturday Neville Callaghan's Danehill Dancer, beaten only by Alhaarth last season, quickened in the style of a good horse to win the Greenham. If the other two cut each other's throats, I could see him being in at the death.
One who will not be concerned in any more finishes is that true sportsman Brian Rouse, who has hung up his riding boots at 56. It is perhaps fitting that his last ride was at Lingfield for it was on that course that he once rode five winners from his five mounts on the day. Ten months ago, a tem- peramental filly ducked out of the stalls, crushing the jockey's hand and breaking his knuckles. He still cannot make a fist and so has retired to go and teach apprentices in Hong Kong.
It is a different life for them now, he reflects. When he began in Epsom with Ted Smyth it was on five shillings a week with five lads lodging in one room. Nowa- days you sign on for a yeir. Then you served out your five years whether you liked it or not.
Brian Rouse grafted and made it. But not quickly. He rode his first winner at 16 on the old Ally Pally track in 1956. The next did not come until Chepstow in 1972, a gap of 16 years during which he took a brief spell out as an electrician. He then came back as a work rider for the likes of John Sutcliffe and Brian Swift. Jockey Geoff Lewis persuaded Sutcliffe he had a real rider in his yard and so was relaunched a career which has seen Brian Rouse stack up 900 winners in Britain and another 100 abroad.
He has relished the chance to ride good horses for trainers such as Ryan Price, whom he rates 'a genius, with a great eye for a horse like Richard Hannon'. And he says it is all about confidence. 'Keep riding slow horses and you'll be a slow jockey.'
Brian Rouse is one of those who has put plenty back into his sport, doing 12 years as safety officer for the Jockeys Association. He has already spent several winters train- ing Hong Kong jockeys and I asked him what he'll be teaching them. 'Common sense above all,' he replied. 'Riding horses is like driving a car with no brakes. If you make a mistake you can't rectify it in one stride.' I hope they will enjoy him as much as we have done.
Robin Oakley is political editor of the BBC.