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19th June 2024 4:28 pm

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

Brigadier Gerard – who knew…

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Tonight is Brigadier Gerard’s night, the wealthiest race evening in the calendar, the bane of my life for several years, the provider of much fun in others. In brief, worthy of note.

It was the bane of my life because it tended to be run on the Thursday before the Derby – a day when a distinguished Club I helped administrate would be running its Eve of Derby dinner. That always impacted the numbers and, thus, the finances. On other occasions, I have had a great evening’s racing there and then gone off en masse to dinner locally, often finishing at single-digit o’clock.

The evening and the race honour the best racehorse trained in Britain in the 20th century. An unbeaten 2yo colt, winner of 17 of his 18 races, an unbeaten 3yo – famously defeating Mill Reef in probably one of the best 2000 Guineas ever run, and going on to win the St. James’s Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes, Goodwood Mile and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile, before moving up in distance to win the Champion Stakes over ten furlongs. As a four-year-old, he won the Lockinge Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Eclipse Stakes before moving up in distance to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 1+1⁄2 miles. Brigadier Gerard’s only defeat came when Roberto beat him in the inaugural running of the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup. He was bred by John Hislop and foaled on 5 March 1968 by Queen’s Hussar ex (the non-winning mare), La Paiva, by Prince Chevalier. On the dam side, he had Triple Crown winner Pretty Polly, his fifth dam. He had good conformation, an excellent temperament and stood 16 hands 2 inches high. Brigadier Gerard was trained during his racing career by Major Dick Hern and ridden in all his races by Joe Mercer.

He was named after Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero, Brigadier Etienne Gerard. Sir ACD wrote 17 historical short stories about this French Hussar during the Napoleonic Wars. Gerard, it is fair to say, lacks understatement and is utterly convinced that he is the bravest soldier, greatest swordsman, most accomplished horseman and most gallant lover in all of France. Fortunately for him, ACD allows him to display notable bravery on many occasions, but it is always slightly spoiled by his smugness. He constantly seeks recognition for his achievements and is always the first with a stirring speech or gallant remark. He is like Flashman, but braver, shades perhaps of Blackadder’s nemesis Flasheart. I urge you to do so if you’ve never read the stories. They have a wry sense of the Victorian’s perceptions of “Johny Onion “, as Nanny used to call them.

As an aside, I rarely get irritated by anyone treating the French badly, but for heaven’s sake, will somebody please hoick Marcus Waring away from St Remy de Provence by the strings of his pinny? The essence of his early-evening cookery series from there is: You’re very lucky to have some nice ingredients here, which you have quite foolishly cooked in this facon for many decades, but this is a much better take on it, because I’m an award-winning chef and you’re a french peasant. He then invites M et Mme Rochard to try his version of their food, which always appears to have added lavender to the seasoning and to which they must give a stilted approval. In one especially horrific episode, he invited himself into a game of Petanque. He played loudly and badly and filmed several bemused locals, who did not wish to be ingratiated but, in the end, had to eat his homemade tapenade on some baguette and declaim it delicious. Inevitably, some grand mere suggested it was edible, to which he said, “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Talking of trying to extract something edible from a perfectly nice racing dish, here are my thoughts for tonight.

The going is now Soft and heavy in places, and this drying sun will make it very sticky, one would have thought.

18:07 World Horse Welfare Hcap 3YO only, 9 run, C4, 1m

If ZIPSTER can learn to stop hanging around in the stalls, he could be very decent. He always finishes with a rattle, and he showed an impressive turn of foot from off the pace to win a 1m Yarmouth handicap on his seasonal return – his first race since gelding in November. Raised 6lbs to 75 and Buick in the plate; the only question is the ground. I have EBT’S GUARD and GET THE MUSIC ON to fill the minor places.

ZIPSTER 4 pts Win – with EBTS GUARD and GET THE MUSIC ON 2 x ½ pt RFC – 6 x ¼ pt Tricast

18:37 Orbital Veterinary Services National Stks 2YO only, 6 run, C1, 5f 10y

I don’t fancy the favourite, and ENCHANTING EMPRESS could win this for Dom Ffrench-Davis. He beat the re-opposing ROCK HUNTER LTO by a neck – a risk there surely of being overturned. I wonder if ZMINIATURE is overpriced at 25s? He won the Brocklesby by a length on debut and has clearly been waiting for the ideal conditions – these – and he has done everything asked of him so far

ZMINIATURE 2 pts e/w

19:07 Chasemore Farm Henry II Stks (G3) 4YO plus, 6 run, C1, 2m 50y

Will this be wet enough for TRUESHAN, who is now 2 lbs in hand of his last winning mark? SWEET WILLIAM poses the danger and CAIUS CHORISTER has been placed on this ground before. The top four in the betting have all got Pattern-form and the ground conditions will be the key. Mark Prescott is giving MISS CYNTHIA and is my very speculative selection for very small stakes. She has never been out of the first three over 1m6f+. I’m playing her on the grounds that Sir Mark is a genius, and that the forecasts will be enormous.

MISS CYNTHIA 1 pt e/w – the Field to beat her 5 x ¼pt SFC.

19:37 Chasemore Farm Brigadier Gerard Stks (G3) 4YO plus, 4 run, C1, 1m 1f 209y

It’s hard to see past ROYAL RHYME with CERTAIN LAD filling the runner-up spot, but this looks like a weak race, and I don’t think there is any value to be had.


20:12 Chasemore Farm Stud Staff Heron Stks 3YO only, 6 run, C1, 1m

This is a lot trickier than it might at first appear. The runners are a real mish-mash of talents, from wannabees and handicappers to pattern runners trying to find their niche. REMAADD has won over a mile, and has a 3rd in a G3 over 10f here LTO. Dropped in class and trip he must have a chance. KIKKULI won the Alex Scott Newmarket maiden LTO after a promising 2nd on Heavy over the same C&D before that. He did just enough despite looking green and was immediately suggested for this post-race. ICE MAX could be a monster and he won his last race by 5½l and took three weeks to pull up. He doesn’t want ground faster than Good – but this might just be too sticky. Finally, I do wonder about SON, who was a 1¾l 4th in the Greenham. – after a 203 day break. Is that as good as it gets, or is there more?

ICE MAX 5 pts Win – SON 2 pts e/w – 1 pt RFC

20:42 Horse Kick Cider Whitsun Cup Hcap 4YO plus, 9 run, C3, 1m

CRACKSHOT must have had a chance, but my eye was taken by the entry of REGHEEB, who ran decently at Ripon LTO after being gelded. MAGIC MEMORIES has the faint whiff of a plot horse. His seasonal debut was 3¾l 5th of 18 in the Lincoln consolation race and then a too-bad-to-be-true effort at Leicester LTO. DUAL IDENTITY has a course form of 5121 and won off 87 here last September, and this would be 6 lbs higher.  CLASSIC isn’t without hope and was a ½l 2nd to CRACKSHOT at Newbury last August, now 7lb better off. He might need the run.

REGHEEB 3 pts Win – MAGIC MEMORIES 4 pts e/w


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