Fahey in a tricky position

Filed on 19 Sep 2006 @ 13:21

Fahey in a tricky position

The Ayr Gold Cup did not appeal to me as a betting medium. For a start, Dandy Nicholls - or someone in his office - forgot to make the entries so the puzzle was very different this year. Normally, you can spend a couple of hours working out which one of his is the ‘plot’ and then decide whether anything else in the field is likely to foil it. ‘No’ is safest answer.

The problems last Saturday included the draw, the drying wind, the fact that Borderlescott looked just about good enough but was up 3lb - and the presence of Fonthill Road. Especially the presence of Fonthill Road.

To anyone who approaches these multi-runner handicaps with a staking plan, Richard Fahey’s horse presented no difficulty at all. He was, of course, a 5 unit ‘saver’ because, if the trainer had coaxed him back to his best (which was a very big ‘if’ indeed on the horse’s running at Haydock not so long ago) he was the pick of the handicap. Not only had Fonthill Road been beaten a matter of inches in the race last year, he had suffered the same fate in the Stewards’ Cup. Add to that his narrow defeat by the very talented but injury-prone Soldier’s Tale at York last spring (2005) and it didn’t require much imagination to save on him.

Purists were in more of a quandary, though. Purists don’t back horses ‘blind’, which is why they often feel that life has dealt them a low blow. Most days, if the truth be known. Rationally, backing Fonthill Road was a foolish move because he had shown nothing in four outings this year. But one of those outings came in the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes, so how good must Fahey have thought him? Logic versus gut feeling, where gut feeling pays out at 16 to 1. No use to a purist.

Anyone backing Borderlescott was unlucky

In the various places where I advise on sprinters, I warned that Fonthill Road could upset any applecart going. Big deal. I think that anyone who backed Borderlescott was unlucky, because here we have real lionheart of a horse, a strapping individual who once came back from a gelding operation after 12 days and actually won. Imagine that. He did it the hard way at Ayr, making all and keeping on too strongly for the opposition on his side without knowing that Fonthill Road was ahead on the other wing. He is probably close to Group 3 standard and it would be good to see him given his chance in something like the Diadem.

But to return to Fonthill Road. In Sunday’s Racing Post, an e-mail correspondent remarked that, whereas Fahey had professed bafflement regarding the horse’s poor form this season, after the race he praised back specialist John Patterson, who had put things right as if my magic, or words to that effect. The correspondent did not appear angry or bitter, just wry and slightly cynical.

Baffled beforehand, after the race he praised back specialist John Patterson

Well, if you can get through a lifetime’s racing without being wry and slightly cynical there’s probably something wrong with you. Sometimes I make a superhuman effort to disguise my cynicsm, and not only where racing is concerned. When the Jehovahs are at the door I take the leaflet and offer them tea and coffee (I always forget which lot never touch either, the Mormons possibly, and I’ve long since given up offering them a drop of chilled fino sherry, though I only ever did that when Madame was out of the house anyway, as you can imagine). But although I found them misguided I was always polite and found myself saying: ‘I think you must try to understand that, no matter how strongly you believe, total faith is not the same thing as proof. But, if your total faith gets you through this vale of tears, and even as far as Backwell, I am very happy for you’. And the strange thing was, although they were pretty baffled by this, it seemed to leave them content and they wandered off down the road, dutifully avoiding the houses where, I surmised, they would not encounter such politeness, far less be offered a chilled fino, even supposing they wanted one.

Anyway, I liked the e-mail but I still think Fahey was in a tricky position. Personally, I think that marrying into the Easterby family would hardly have a man climbing on the stable roof and crying: ‘We’ve had the back man in, boys! All is well. Fill your boots in the big one tomorrow!?

But I suppose he might have indicated somewhere along the line that the aforesaid Mr Patterson, a man who would surely have been of interest to Glenn Hoddle in this life or possibly the next, a man with the true power of healing at his fingertips, had been on the case. That way, gut feeling would have given logic a bloody good hiding and we’d all have had a 5 units saver or, by cracky, even the full 10.

Filed on 19 Sep 2006 @ 13:21