Mike Cattermole: Day to remember
Mike Cattermole reflects on Champions Day, the new ITV racing line-up and the bizarre story behind the champion owners.
Yuften capped off a fine British Champions Day
ALMANZOR AND MINDING WERE OUTSTANDING
I don't think any of us can ever recall an Oaks winner dropping back to a mile and winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but then again Minding is clearly a very special filly.
The only thing I can loosely compare it with is Brigadier Gerard, who had won the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes over a mile and a half in the summer of 1972 before he dropped back to land the QEII by six lengths. This gives you an idea of what sort of an achievement it was by Minding.
Even so, the star of the show on Saturday had to be Almanzor who did all we had hoped for in taking the Champion Stakes in sensational style.
He is clearly exceptional, with looks and a temperament to match, and I loved the way he settled in off a steady gallop when others such as Midterm and Racing History struggled to drop the bridle.
The array of gears he has is quite amazing and it is great news for all of us that he remains in training. A return trip to Ascot in a year's time will be high on the agenda, no doubt, but until then, they could drop him back to a mile or even have a go at stepping him up.
I felt Found deserved almost as many plaudits as the winner as she battled her way to an extraordinary tenth runner-up position at Group One level. She really is a staggeringly special filly who is seemingly set to go to the well again as she heads off to Santa Anita to defend her Breeders' Cup Turf title.
Jack Hobbs is reportedly unlikely to run at the Breeders' Cup, but his third was also an excellent effort after such a long lay-off and it looked as though a return to a mile and a half would be right up his street. John Gosden must have been delighted.
The outgoing champion trainer had been all smiles after Journey's highly-impressive stroll in the Fillies and Mares, which gave the stable an overdue first Group One of the year.
Neither Journey nor So Mi Dar will be heading Stateside now, although it was great news to hear that both will also be around next season when their campaigns will be eagerly awaited.
Gosden's Newmarket neighbours, James Fanshawe and David Simcock also had days to remember.
Fanshawe, fresh from winning the Prix de l'Opera two weekends earlier with Speedy Boarding (who ran a blinder in second behind Journey in the Fillies and Mares), made it a Group One double with The Tin Man who finally had his day at the top table in the Sprint. The Tin Man is well named and has his issues and this was further proof that Fanshawe remains one of the most talented and underrated racehorse trainers in the land.
Simcock, meanwhile, remains one of the most consistent and upwardly mobile with Sheikhzayadroad getting his day off to a great start before Lightning Spear's excellent third in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Note that both of those Simcock horses are Arab-owned and yet aside from Mohamed Obaida, Fanshawe's yard remains largely bereft of patronage from that part of the world. Further evidence to suggest that he does what he does so well.
(Mike selected four of the six winners in his selections piece ahead of Champions Day)
ASCOT GOT THE TRIMMINGS SPOT-ON
The whole build-up to Saturday's action at Ascot was superb and getting some of our Olympian and Paralympian heroes and heroines to parade was an inspired idea. How privileged were we all to acknowledge and applaud them before Manchester and London got that chance during this week? A shame though that other parts of the land didn't get that opportunity.
I got to chat to one or two of the athletes and was amazed at how down to earth they all seemed to be. All of them were special in their own way, possessing a gift of talent with the attitude and dedication needed to complement it. You can't help but admire them all.
Getting Cirrus Des Aigles to parade before all of the action started was also a masterstroke. This freak of a racehorse is a personal favourite of mine and it was good to hear that he is now living with Christophe Soumillon at his farm and is still ridden. Indeed, so kind is Cirrus as an individual that Christophe allows his young children to sit on him.
It was also good to catch up again with Corine Barande-Barbe, who explained that she had decided to call it a day on Cirrus's incredible career as soon as he had developed some calcification in his joints. She never put a foot wrong, did she?
On balance, this was probably the best Champions Day yet. Especially in the overall quality of the horses lining up and also because the atmosphere was something else. There was a real buzz about the place. Once again, we got lucky with the weather, which also meant that the contingency plan to use the winter inner course was not needed.
BROUGH SCOTT BACK ON ITV!
So, at last, the full ITV line-up was officially announced on Monday and, given all the rumours and suggestions, there were no real surprises. Except for the inclusion of one Brough Scott, 74.
Brough will be appearing on some of the bigger days, thus providing a link to the old days of ITV Racing when he anchored the programme way back in the 1980s.
Brough may be in his mid-70s but I have never met a man with more energy and drive. He is forever youthful and whoever came up with this inspired idea (only last week, apparently) deserves a pat on the back. I know that Brough is delighted to be asked, and his wealth of experience will be essential to this new team.
If Brough was late on the scene, it seems that the names of Jason Weaver and Luke Harvey were not. Both men had been approached a while ago and, unlike some, had managed to keep the secret. Fair play. I do hope they get plenty of air time as their programmes on At The Races have always been refreshingly entertaining.
Meanwhile, I am also pleased for Matt Chapman whose dream to get on terrestrial TV has now been realised. I see he has already updated his Twitter profile to include ITV! I suggest then a hashtag of "raring to go"!
The interesting thing is that, for those that don't have access to Sky, the likes of Chapman, Harvey and Weaver will be new faces to many when it all gets under way next year.
GODOLPHIN CHAMPION OWNERS?
I am not sure how John Ferguson must have felt when receiving the owners' championship trophy on behalf of Godolphin from The Queen at Ascot on Saturday.
A shade of discomfort, perhaps, as he will know that Godolphin, although enjoying a decent season, has been very much second best to Messrs Smith, Tabor and Magnier.
Well, actually not – officially. And there's my problem with this. True, Smith, Tabor and Magnier (Minding, Highland Reel, The Gurkha) were indeed slightly short of Godolphin but when you add in those horses owned by Tabor, Smith and Magnier (Churchill, Found) and then Magnier, Tabor and Smith (Alice Springs, Rhododendron) then the Coolmore syndicate were miles clear.
And that is excluding other adjustments to their partnerships such as the near £250,000 won by Order Of St George who is owned jointly by "the lads" and Australian businessman Lloyd Williams.
That one I can understand but it's a question of where do you draw the line? Godolphin may be officially champion owner but, with all respect, it was a bit of a hollow victory, don't you think?
DUCHESS OF BEDFORD LIGHTS UP KEMPTON
Henrietta, the Dowager Duchess of Bedford, has been, through her Bloomsbury Stud, one of the most successful and respected owner-breeders over the past few decades.
Her purple and white striped colours with black (velvet) cap are seldom seen these days but the Ed Vaughan-trained filly Roman Holiday, one of just two she has in training, won nicely under the floodlights at Kempton on Tuesday night.
"It's my first winner in the dark," joked the Duchess, who ceased running her stud in 2010 after 45 years.
It's amazing to think that Mrs Moss, one of her foundation mares, was bought for just 2,100 guineas and had a club foot. Yet from her 15 foals she bred 11 winners, including Japan Cup hero Jupiter Island as well as top juveniles Precocious and Pushy.
Tavistock, a descendant of Mrs Moss, is doing extremely well as a stallion in New Zealand, so it is great to see the legacy continuing in all corners of the globe.
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