Cattermole: More Angel delight
Mike Cattermole appeals to Mecca's Angel's owner David Metcalfe to keep her in training and pays tribute to Tom O'Ryan and Robin Gray.
Mecca's Angel: Deserves to stay in training
MECCA'S ANGEL MUST STAY IN TRAINING
We have seen stunning performances from some of the best in the world in the past week – California Chrome in the Pacific Classic, Songbird in a class of her own at Saratoga and Winx looking better than ever at Randwick, and of course Mecca's Angel's dazzling display at York last Friday in the Nunthorpe.
It was the way she surged clear approaching the final furlong that got the hairs standing on the back of your neck. Limato, in spite of coming clear of the others, never looked like pulling her back and was dwarfed in stature by the powerful mare who had Paul Mulrennan grinning from ear to ear. It must have been some feeling he was getting.
Last year Mecca's Angel gave 24lb away to the crack juvenile Acapulco, and won comfortably, but this performance was even better. Timeform certainly think so and rated it 3lb higher than that display – and also superior, by one pound, to Dayjur's win in 1990, which set the modern British benchmark for sprinters.
And what is this need to have plenty of give in the ground? Mecca's Angel posted a staggering time of 56.24s, just 0.08s slower than Dayjur's track record that day (on good to firm). You just don't get times like that unless the ground is on the quick side. It could be that, as she has got better and stronger, the ground may be less critical.
Mecca's Angel is clearly at the height of her powers, so it was sad to hear that connections are planning to retire her at the end of the season with the Prix de l'Abbaye likely to be her swansong during Arc weekend.
I want to appeal to her owner David Metcalfe to put her retirement back a year. There is no stallion career at stake here. Mecca's Angel still has so much to offer, including a first try at six furlongs – well worth it on the evidence from York. Michael Dods did mention the Champions Sprint over that distance at Ascot could come under consideration, but it is just 13 days after Longchamp.
It would be a crying shame if she went off to the paddocks without giving six furlongs a go. After all, there certainly was no sign of her stopping at York.
With 18 starts behind her in four seasons, including just three last year, Mecca's Angel has been relatively lightly raced; she races over the minimum distance, after all.
If Mr Metcalfe insists on getting her in foal soon, she could still race on for the early part of next year when Dubai would come into it. However, I concede that the ground is usually lightning fast out there.
No, it's easier to let her carry on and race. I, and I'm sure thousands of other race fans, want to see more of her brilliance. Mecca's Angel has a chance to become one of the all-time greats before she heads off to stud. PLEASE Mr Metcalfe, give her that chance!
BLUE POINT – SPRINTER OR MILER?
I recall thinking that Emotionless would be the horse to get Godolphin back into the Classic groove after his superb win in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last September. Sadly, he never made it to the Guineas and has not been the same horse since undergoing knee surgery last winter.
Let's hope Blue Point, who was brilliant in the Gimcrack, will at least stay sound but whether he gets the option to line up at Newmarket for the QIPCO-sponsored Classic next May has to be doubtful.
At this stage, the son of Shamardal looks incredibly exciting and what a turn of foot he showed at York. According to TurfTrax, Blue Point actually covered the last two furlongs in 22.27 seconds, that's 0.59 seconds quicker than Mecca's Angel. However, that stat has the scent of a sprinter about it, don't you think?
Blue Point's dam Scarlett Rose failed to win a race in 13 attempts and never tried beyond 7f and his close relative, Formosina, won the Group Two Railway Stakes over six furlongs for Jeremy Noseda and also never went beyond seven in a career restricted to one season.
So, it looks like the Middle Park next for Blue Point and if Mehmas comes back for a rematch – although this time, he will be taking on a man not a boy – and Caravaggio is there too, it will be some race!
There are not many racing journalists out there who are equally respected in both the weighing room and the press room. Tom O'Ryan was that man.
Racing was in Tom's DNA. He loved the sport and having got too heavy to entertain race-riding for a long-term living, his transition to award-winning journalist was seamless. His writing showed a deep knowledge and understanding of our sometimes complex sport and his pieces were always beautifully composed and a delight to read. His love of horses shone through.
Tom deservedly won the Derby Award for racing journalist of the year a few years ago and delivered a superb acceptance speech. Spoken words came as easy to him as the written ones. That said, he never wasted those words and used them amusingly and appropriately if he felt he was dealing with idiots.
Tom had no side to him and was 100% genuine and trustworthy and that is why so many jockeys and trainers turned to him to deal with a story, knowing it would be dealt with properly. There was a mutual respect.
I stayed with Tom and Wendy a few times when covering York. He was always great company and had a wonderful sense of humour.
He was of course horribly injured in an accident at home two or three years ago but, against the odds, had made a miraculous recovery. Sadly, though, his days of riding out at Richard Fahey's were over. How he loved passing on his knowledge to the young riders he was coaching. He treated them like his own.
Tom's passing on Tuesday at the age of just 61 didn't come as a shock as it was known that he was seriously ill. To think that he was working as recently as a month ago just goes to show what a tough character he was.
I admired him very much and the press room in the north will be a much lesser place without him. He was quite simply a legend in those parts but will be missed and never forgotten by all of us.
Robin Gray's funeral just outside Newbury last week was well attended by the media and several retired jockeys and trainers. He was 83 and had also been working until very recently.
Like Tom O'Ryan, Robin loved the game and was a real grafter. In his pomp, few had a busier schedule, which coined the phrase "more jobs than Robin Gray!"
Robin didn't ride as a professional but did so enthusiastically as an amateur and was still riding out in his late 70s. Always immaculately attired, he was an English gentleman of the old school and had an aura about him.
In my early days in the business, most of the senior press men kept a respectable distance. Not Robin; he was the one who was always extremely approachable and remained genuinely interested in people. I recall he drove a beautiful BMW 635 coupe, which stood out in the hacks' car park (certainly next to my Ford Escort) and reflected his classy personality.
When Robin came skiing with a group of us many years ago, he would have been in his late 60s. Yet he was the one going off-piste while us youngsters took the well-worn safer routes. What a character.
They don't make them like Robin any more.
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