Saturday night had barely become Sunday morning when Jason Hart and Clifford Lee set off from North Yorkshire to Manchester Airport.
They were booked on the 5.55am Air France flight to Paris and the only thing that made them stand out from their fellow passengers was the fact Lee’s saddle was resting on his carry-on bag.
Like the rest of us, they waited patiently to get through the miserable, hour-long queue at passport control.
Lee, who rides primarily for Karl Burke, was full of excitement to be going to the Arc meeting. The previous day he’d been back and forth to Newmarket — a 380-mile round trip — without success. With the glorious weather having turned the going quick in France, he felt it would be a similar story at Longchamp.
Darnation was the pick of his two rides, the pair having won Doncaster’s Group Two May Hill Stakes last month. But she was beaten a fair way by Opera Singer (what a filly she is) in the Prix Marcel Boussac.
Highfield Princess and Jason Hart won the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp on Tuesday
Lee had a smile on his face again in the unsaddling enclosure and believes there will be better days for Darnation, who finished fifth, when the ground is easier.
Hart would have better fortune. Entrusted with steering Highfield Princess in the Prix de l’Abbaye, he had walked the course early in the day to see if there were any advantages to be gained and his research paid off, as he rode a peach to get the popular mare in front in the shadow of the post.
What joy he felt. Highfield Princess will retire at the end of this year and Hart knows another of her quality is unlikely to come around for him to partner any time soon.
Wherever she runs next, either Santa Anita in California for the Breeders’ Cup or Sha Tin in Hong Kong, will be emotional.
Moments like this, then, need to be made to count, so Hart pushed and nudged and squeezed his willing partner along to land the fourth Group One of their association.
It was all in a 21-hour day’s work for the jockey, pictured riding Highfield Princess in September
Lee, by contrast, watched it all unfold in front of him, having come seventh on White Lavender — another Burke filly.
Prizes collected and debriefs completed, Hart and Lee left the course around 6.30pm local time to get back to Charles de Gaulle Airport for the 9.40pm return to Manchester. They could have done without the 20-minute delay to take-off but such is life nowadays with air travel.
Back on the ground around 10.30pm UK time, neither of them wasted any time scuttling back to their cars with another two hours ahead of them on the road.
Mercifully, border control was quiet and the end of a 21-hour day was in sight. Surely Hart was going to take things easy on Monday after all this?
‘No chance!’ he said, with a spring in his step. ‘Six rides at Newcastle tomorrow!’
With that, he was off into the darkness and rain. There is a perception the life of an international Flat jockey is all private jets and fast lanes but Hart and Lee showed, again, these dedicated individuals will do anything to be in with a chance of winning.
When rewards come, they are richly deserved.
Clifford Lee (above at York Racecourse in August) thinks there’ll be better days for Darnation, who finished fifth and was beaten a fair way by Opera Singer in the Prix Marcel Boussac
Rosallion repays the faith
Richard Hannon stood in the winner’s enclosure at Doncaster and wanted to tell the small audience gathered in front of him what he thought.
‘This is a good horse,’ he insisted. ‘I promise you. This is a very, very good horse and there will be another day.’
Hannon really didn’t want to talk to us on that Saturday afternoon last month after Rosallion had tamely been beaten at odds-on in the Champagne Stakes.
It had been a dreadful day, with issues on the journey to the course, and the defeat of this young colt topped it off.
After Hannon had spoken, he went home to gather his thoughts. It would take time for some light to illuminate the dark. Those words, though, remained in his mind as he made his way to Longchamp on Sunday for a retrieval mission in the Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.
What did Rosallion do? He produced a performance that showed why Hannon had such faith in him, scooting away from his rivals with a thrilling burst of speed.
Richard Hannon’s faith in Rosallion was repaid after he insisted he is a ‘very, very good horse’
Everything that could have gone wrong at Doncaster did go wrong, including Rosallion taking blows to his nose and an eye. In the final furlong, as he tried to challenge, Oisin Murphy, riding Sunway, made contact with his whip and stunned Rosallion but Hannon would not use that as an excuse for losing. He expected so much better and was devastated by the loss.
The scene at Longchamp on Sunday was totally different, with smiles all round and the ready acceptance of a celebratory bottle of champagne. One thing that remained the same, nonetheless, was Hannon’s belief in Rosallion.
With that in mind, let us make a prediction here. It pays to listen to a man of Hannon’s class and knowledge, and if he thinks Rosallion is the real deal, make note: this young horse is 16-1 for the 2,000 Guineas next May and it is hard to see him being outside the first three.
Rosallion will win another Group One next season. It could be at Newmarket or Ascot, in Ireland or France. But be sure, as Hannon said, there will certainly be another day.
High hopes for sibling of Frankel
Roger Charlton passed the baton at the historic Beckhampton Stables on to his son, Harry, last weekend. The decision to retire ends an outstanding career in which he won — among other big races — the 1990 Epsom Derby with Quest For Fame.
That horse carried the famous green, pink and white silks of Juddmonte, the breeding operation of the late Prince Khalid Abdullah, and through the course of four decades the relationship led to triumphs across the world.
Kikkuli, one of the best-bred horses in training, is half-brother to the mighty Frankel and was given an entry to run at Salisbury (Runners pictured above at the racecourse in September)
Retirement, though, does not mean this alliance will dissolve. Far from it. Harry Charlton, at some point in the coming weeks, could give a debut to one of the best-bred horses in training — Kikkuli is half-brother to the mighty Frankel and had been given an entry to run at Salisbury on Wednesday.
There is great poignancy with Kikkuli, whose name derives from a master horse trainer in the land of Mittani, dating back to 1350 BC. Roger Charlton began training his mother, Kind, 20 years ago and enjoyed a fair amount of success with her before she headed to the paddocks.
Kind died a couple of years ago but Juddmonte wanted Charlton to train her last foal, as they believed it would be fitting.
If Kikkuli has a fraction of his elder sibling’s ability, the next generation at Beckhampton Stables will see more success.