The gallant Royale Knight battles to victory in the Durham National
PICTURE: John Grossick racingpost.com/photos
By David Ashforth 3:39PM 26 OCT 2016
ALL eyes, at least the ones at Sedgefield, will be trained on the Racing App Sedgefielders Durham National Handicap Chase (4.10). If your eyes are trained anywhere else, they have not been trained properly.
Tim Hailstone, the sponsor’s chairman, would be at Sedgefield if he hadn’t been at Ascot recently, where he broke one of his legs. I know how dangerous Ascot can be because I’ve had some disasters there myself.
Luckily, at the time of writing Sean Magee, the heart and soul of the Sedgefielders, hasn’t broken any legs and will be leading the annual gathering of a motley but jovial bunch who make the pilgrimage to celebrate one of the highlights of the racing calendar (Sedgefield division).
Among the many compelling features of The Race That Stops A Nation (Kyrgyzstan, I believe) is the fact that last year it yielded one of my favourite Racing Post analysis comments – “nothing of any great significance happened on the first few circuits”.
Later on, Royale Knight beat Lackamon, as he had done a year earlier, Lackamon having won The Great Race the year before that. Royale Knight is now attempting the hat-trick and, given how clever trainer Dr Richard Newland is, it wouldn’t be surprising if he succeeded.
Newland is good at improving horses. Four years ago Royale Knight won his first chase for Newland off a mark of 85. Having won the Durham National off 124 and 136 he now approaches it, armed with Brendan Powell, off a challenging mark of 141. I think I can speak for all Sedgefielders when I say that we will be shouting “Go on Royale Knight!” even though, in my experience, shouting doesn’t help. Still, it’s better than crying.
One of The Great Race’s other claims to fame is that, in 2012, it took place in the worst weather in which any racing has ever taken place. Snow, hail and gale force winds very nearly blew the roof off the Sedgefielders’ box but failed to achieve the weather’s blatant objective, to stop The Race That Stops A Nation. Well done, Sedgefield, we salute you.
It is no surprise that The Great Race has attracted several star trainers and jockeys, including Richard Johnson and Tom Scudamore, although it is worth pointing out that I hope they get stuffed in their malicious attempt to thwart the heroic, if dubiously spelt, Royale Knight. “Boo!”
Let’s hope that everyone apart from Powell (the slim jockey one, not the other one) makes a complete balls-up of it so that Magee and Hailstone (in absentia) can lead the Sedgefielders and all racefans in applauding Royale Knight’s triumph.
There are other interesting races taking place, posing some intriguing questions. For instance, how will the commentator at Chelmsford pronounce Buachaillnaheirean (6.40)? Will the stall handlers give Encapsulated a chance at Lingfield (5.20) by moving Roger Ingram’s six-year-old from stall 13 to a better stall?
Yet there is nothing to compare with The One That Matters, at Sedgefield.
Ashforth’s Angles returns on November 6.