McCain rules the roost at Chester
FRESH from his best National Hunt season, Donald McCain turned his attentions to the Flat yesterday and saddled the first two home in the Chester Cup.
McCain brought two horses up the road from Cholmondeley for the ancient handicap that distills the gorgeous, chaotic Chester carousel.
One of them, Overturn, had won it last year, and in the meantime confirmed himself in public affection with a typically obstinate second in the Champion Hurdle.
But the other, Ile De Re, would prove the one and only horse in the field still hanging in there as the top-weight completed his second lap and swung into the straight.
The rest were strewn exhausted in their wake, conditions having made for an unsparing test.
Proceedings had initially been delayed while a tractor hauled clear a marooned ambulance and they did not risk stalls for the big race, which might at least have relieved some of the notorious emphasis on the draw.
As it was, the start was all about the familiar alacrity of Overturn, which was soon dictating as usual and, by gradual increments, drawing his pursuers to the limit of their commitment.
Harrison's Cave, last with a circuit to go, was cutting stealthily through the field, but that effort had to tell and McCain knew, turning in, that his pair had it between them. In the event, it was Ile De Re which wore down the leader to win by nearly two lengths, the pair five and then 13 lengths clear.
Such were the demands of the race and, Ile De Re being a relatively recent recruit, McCain found it impossible to suppress an instinct of pity for his talisman. "The old horse had everything else beat, but did not quite get home on the ground," he said.
"A lot of credit for Ile De Re must go to Ian Williams. I've had the horse for only a few weeks and he arrived looking a million dollars.
"But we all have a lot of affection for Overturn, and he showed again how tough and hardy he is. He only has one way of doing things, but he's so hard to pass." The Northumberland Plate is the obvious option for Ile De Re, while Overturn may well show up at Royal Ascot.
Marwan Koukash, whose grey silks have obtained such ubiquity over the past couple of seasons, instructs all his trainers to make a priority of this meeting. Mark Johnston admitted that Good Morning Star would never have lined up in the Cheshire Oaks but for Koukash, who had tried to buy several other runners with a more obvious chance.
If you can't join them, however, you can always beat them.
Good Morning Star had lost for the seventh time in eight starts, off a mark of just 75, in a Beverley handicap last time, but somehow she was able to run down Betterbetterbetter, after the favourite had seized the initiative turning in.
There was a sting in the tail for Joseph O'Brien, rider of Betterbetterbetter, who was given a four-day ban (May 23-26 inclusive) for using his whip above the permitted level.
The ban covers the Irish Guineas meeting, but it appears O'Brien will be able apply to the British Horseracing Authority to defer it as Group One racing will be taking place. O'Brien did get on the scoreboard later with the beautifully-bred Father Of Science in the GL Events Owen Brown Maiden Stakes.
"He was very green first time and he still looked that way, but he kept going and handled the ground," said O'Brien. "He's a half-brother to High Chaparral by Galileo. He has a lovely mind, he could step up into one of the trials yet. I hope he keeps progressing." (© Independent News Service)