Mad Rush to prove Cumani's class again
Published 17/08/2008 | 00:00
Friday, August 2 1985 was a filthy day on the Sussex downs. Goodwood racecourse, usually a picturesque party of style and elegance, was rather less than glorious as the rain lashed down. But that did not matter because we all knew that Fish 'N' Chips was going to win the Extel Handicap -- after all, he was trained by Luca Cumani.
Some of us scuttled up and down the long line of bookmakers in the Silver Ring, oblivious to the rain, taking 3/1 whenever it appeared. Others were content to take lesser odds in the main ring and that day it did seem that the whole course had launched themselves on the Cumani horse.
The most memorable sporting commentaries have been those that encapsulated the moment and John Hickman, I think it was, did not let us down. It cannot have been easy trying to pick out the shapes of horses in the gloom as they thundered down the hill into the home straight, but Hickman painted the picture as he spotted the favourite making his run.
"Here comes Fish 'N' Chips" may not sound like "They think it is all over..." now, but it did then. A huge roar went up and the colt surged to the front to win comfortably under Pat Eddery.
Not everyone backed Fish 'N' Chips that day but to the Cumani acolytes like me, it was just a case of putting the money down, much as it had been the year before with Free Guest in the same race. To underline just what a good thing Free Guest had been, the day after Fish 'N' Chips lit up the Downs, the filly won a Group Two by seven lengths.
The Extel was Cumani's race and, even when his favourite, Celestial Storm, was beaten the following year, it was stablemate Chinoiserie who stole the prize. For one of the racecourse 'faces', Curly Geoff, that win was the lynchpin of the sort of day everyone has dreamt about as a punter -- he went through the card and, briefly, Curly's life was changed.
The Extel still exists in another guise, but it is no longer Cumani's race and the Italian has moved on, training two Derby winners in Kahyasi and High-Rise. Yet, for some of us, he is still the handicap king and for Extel, read Ebor.
The Newmarket trainer's last seven runners in the huge York handicap have finished 1021521 and on Wednesday, Cumani will send out three to do battle on the Knavesmire, having confirmed top weight Mad Rush will run.
Until he won the Old Newton Cup at Haydock last month, Mad Rush looked something of a good thing for the Ebor. The handicapper, however, has had his say and he will be 9lb worse off with Haydock runner-up Young Mick.
I still think Mad Rush is going to hold Young Mick, third here two years ago, so I will be backing him, even though Cumani's Bauer is my number one for the race, having run a marvellous trial when second to Sanbuch at Goodwood last time. Cumani was hardly being cryptic when he said afterwards: "I think Sanbuch will have trouble beating Bauer in the Ebor, with his penalty."
Bauer missed out last year when he failed to win a race at Pontefract that would have given him the 4lb extra to reach the Ebor line-up. This year, he has had the sort of quiet preparation that suggests this has been the big target.
Another filthy day, weather-wise, was July 11 this year at Newmarket, when Fantasia created a big impression in a two-year-old event. It was a race Cumani won with his subsequent Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Gossamer and Fantasia is worth looking out for later in the season. Closer at hand, Presvis (4.40, York, Tuesday) and Swop (2.50, Thursday) are more Bedford Lodge inmates to note.
There are other trainers to consider. The soft ground will not be a worry for Andrew Balding's Prince Siegfried in Tuesday's Acomb Stakes (2.15) after his saunter at Salisbury and Karl Burke's Irish Pearl is capable of a surprise on Thursday (4.40).
The York meeting will start with a bang after Jim Bolger's confirmation yesterday that his New Approach will line up for the International on Tuesday. The Derby winner is now a top-priced 7/2, with Duke Of Marmalade, unbeaten in four Group One races this year, eased to 4/5.