Ashforth’s Angles: Can Gresley steam his way to victory?

Frankel's pacemaker Bullet Train (left) sires a runner at Bath

PICTURE: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images Can Sir Nigel Gresley steam his way to victory?
By David Ashforth 5:50PM 11 OCT 2016

What have jockey Graham Lee and racing photographer Pat Healy got in common? Very firm handshakes, unlike another racing character I once met with a handshake like a dead haddock. It was a pleasure to meet Healy but afterwards I had to type an article with one hand.

That doesn't really have anything to do with Wednesday's racing, except that Healy and his handshake may be at Punchestown, whereas Sir Nigel Gresley, by Bullet Train, will be at Bath, running in the 4.45. Gresley should be able to run jolly fast because he designed the Flying Scotsman (born 1923, still intermittently active) and Mallard (born 1938, retired to the National Railway Museum in York). Mallard holds the world speed record for steam locomotives, at 125 mph, which should easily be enough to win a Class 5 maiden race.

Despite fast ground, Bath has got some good sized fields, helped no doubt by the appeal of a Listed race worth over £22,000 to the winner and two other races each worth almost £11,000 to the winners. Well done. Even so, the prize (if there was one, there isn't) for both the day's best and worst named horses is to be found at Nottingham.

It's not that John T Chance (3.15) is an outstanding name, presumably based on the character played by John Wayne in Rio Bravo (1959) but it reminds me of Syrus P Turntable and Hiram B Birdbath, as well as J Cheever Loophole, Otis B Driftwood and Waldorf T Beagle. They were outstanding names, tributes to characters in Marx Brothers' films. Every one, apart from Waldorf T Beagle, won races for owner Steven Astaire. Hiram B Birdbath won 10 times during the 1990s and if Astaire, a long serving member of the ROA Board, can come up with another Marx Brother character and the money to buy a horse to go with it, that would be splendid. Please try.

Today's wooden spoon goes to Fruit Salad (Nottingham 4.20). Admittedly, James Bethell's three-year-old is out of Miss Apricot and managed to overcome her name and win last time out but, come on, Fruit Salad?

Meanwhile, at Wetherby, a minor hero runs in the Bobby Renton Handicap Chase (4.00). It's Alderbrook Lad, now gently on the wane but a horse who, on his day, has been a joy to watch.

Having won a handicap chase at Worcester for Neil Mulholland in 2013 off a mark of 86 and another off a mark of 93, Alderbrook Lad was sold to Micky Hammond for 8,500 guineas. It was money well spent because Alderbrook Lad worked his way up to a rating of 144 and boasts a tally of nine wins, ten second places and earnings of over £76,000. He has put up some sparkling front running, fast jumping performances that will have thrilled a trio of conditional jockeys – Michael Byrne, Joe Colliver, in particular, and Finian O'Toole, who rides Alderbrook Lad at Wetherby.

The 10-year-old needs the handicapper to relent and the spark to return. Good luck.

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