Sheikh Fahad believes Craig Williams’ special relationship with Dunaden is key to his horse’s King George chance
Few owners spend as much time in researching their horses and their form as Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, the member of the Qatari ruling family who has taken on a high profile in British racing through his backing of the Qipco Champions Series.
10:00PM BST 15 Jul 2012
So, it is significant that he has arranged to fly in Australian jockey Craig Williams to ride Dunaden, a top-priced 6-1 for Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot.
Dunaden gave Sheikh Fahad his biggest win when landing the Melbourne Cup at Flemington last November, prior to winning the Hong Kong Vase, at Sha Tin.
Williams, 35, best known in Britain for winning the Dewhurst on the Mick Channon-trained Tobougg, won both the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate last year, and would also have won the Melbourne Cup, if not for a suspension that prevented him taking the mount on Dunaden.
Williams was aboard Dunaden when he took the Geelong Cup last October and the Hong Kong Vase, so knows the horse well.
Christophe Lemaire, who took the Melbourne Cup ride, was also aboard in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month when Williams was unavailable because of commitments in Japan. It would be fair to say Dunaden was unlucky at Ascot, having been blocked and dragged back through the field before running on again in the home straight.
“When we first met, he turned up with a folder under his arm, and inside he had the running patterns for all the opposition.
“He was able to tell me his tactical plan, and explain how he was going to execute it.”.
If Dunaden wins or runs well on Saturday, his target will be the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but if he does not finish in the first three he could be making a return trip to Australia, where the mile-and-a-half Caulfield Cup as well as the Melbourne Cup would be feasible objectives.
Lemaire was aboard Qatar Bloodstock’s Vadamar, who was touched off by Tac de Boistron in the Prix Maurice de Nieuil at Longchamp on Saturday night, but the stars of the meeting were Imperial Monarch and Joseph O’Brien, who landed the Grand Prix de Paris, making all the running, while Main Sequence finished an unlucky fourth.
Big guns should spare thought for smallest trainers
A boycott by leading trainers of a novice hurdle at Worcester last week will result in a series of small, mandatory fines being imposed on them by the British Horseracing Authority. The trainers were protesting over poor prize money at the track.
But, despite some headline-grabbing words from BHA chief executive Paul Bittar and threats from a spokesman that further action might yet be taken, the reality is that there is not a lot they can do.
The structure of racing in Britain renders the so-called rulers of the sport almost powerless in this instance, unless they were to pursue a path that suggested individuals were bringing the game into disrepute. But, that is both impractical and unlikely.
I think most in racing agree that prize money is, in some cases, pathetic. But is strike action the way forward? Surely only after all other avenues have been totally exhausted.
Racing is a broad church. It is not all about the biggest stables. Many of the smallest yards in the country also play an important part in providing the product for betting.
Some of those smaller yards were deprived of a chance to run at Worcester when the big guns entered higher-rated horses, forcing the lesser lights to be balloted out. Now, is that fair?
As trainers contemplate their next move, maybe they should remember that many small stables are happy to race for the poor prize money – and they celebrate when the major battalions stay away.
Rod Street surprise non-runner in Turkey
Newmarket on Saturday must have reminded Qipco Champions Series chief Rod Street of his days working for the late racecourse owner Sir Stan Clarke.
The sight of all that mud would certainly have revived memories of Uttoxeter on many a past Midlands National day.
Even if the track resembled a swamp, Sir Stan would appear before the press, broad smile on his face, to declare: “Racing goes ahead.” And that was before he had inspected the track.
Street’s perpetual glass half-full outlook made him one of Clarke’s favourites and it has also endeared him in his new guise to Paul Roy, Paul Bittar and all at the British Horseracing Authority, who have invested millions in Racing For Change, which has attracted such global interest that it is a topic on the agenda at the forthcoming Asian Racing Conference, in Turkey.
You would naturally have expected Street to deliver the paper on his specialist subject, but Paul Dixon, of the Horsemen’s Group, has stepped forward to take on the task – and the trip to Istanbul. In the Qipco chalet on the July Course, Street was putting on a brave face. There is one more ironic twist, however, as I hear that Street will write Dixon’s speech