YORKSHIRE OAKS

THE TIMES

25th August 2023

Whose horse is it anyway? On the racecard the ownership of Yorkshire Oaks heroin Warm Heart was listed as the famous Magnier, Tabor, Smith, Westerberg Coolmore syndicate but as she came into the winner’s circle, the honour was a wider one.

A beaming James Doyle could claim his share with this his first success for delighted trainer Aidan O’Brien who has been central to Warm Heart’s development as indeed he has been to stable companion Savethelastdance who had started as 100-30 favourite. Punters happy with their 9-1 return clearly felt possession too, but as Michael Tabor took the offside rein to lead the now uneasy filly in, a little figure on the other flank staked her own part of the glory.

Hazel Galloway is 67 now, can be little more than 5 foot high, and needed all her equine understanding to keep Warm Heart from crushing Michael Tabor into the rail. But she was always going to do it. This little sparrow of a lady has been 21 years minding the great horses of Ballydoyle, and while she supposedly plans to retire at the end of the season, O’Brien rather doubts it. “Hazel is amazing,” he said. “She has so much energy, only two weeks ago she won 2 golds in the European Over 60s athletics championships.”

Such details help take the racing fan to an attraction far deeper than the money which can be won and so easily lost on these lovely summer afternoons. York is particularly good at stressing the horses at the centre of it all, both in its information on the race-card and in its retired racehorses for punters to visit on the other side of the course. Chief Executive William Derby would like to take it even further.

On Wednesday evening, after an ITV v Skybet rounders contest in which your correspondent dropped a sitter of a catch, he said how much he would like to add a horse’s weight to the information on the card. I would also add the height as they do for teams at rugby internationals and yesterday’s winners would have given professionals as well as casual punters plenty for their interest.

Warm Heart, for example is not a big filly, measuring no more than 15.3 hands, (five foot three inches at the shoulder) and 450 kilos on the weighbridge. But she is a positive giant compared to the diminutive Relief Rally who ran out a brilliantly determined winner of the opening Lowther Stakes despite being scarcely making 15 hands and 420 kilos. Both these the same breed of athlete as the massive 17 hand, 570 kilo bulk of Derby runner-up King Of Steel.

This is something of a hobby horse of mine as has been sectional timing, and the way the latter has become part of the discussion and interest is a huge addition to racing’s attraction in an increasingly statistical age. Knowing more of the athletes at the heart of it all cannot be anything but a bonus at a time when racing needs public interest more than ever.

There was plenty of it once the stall sprung open in the Yorkshire Oaks and Ryan Moore jumped Savethelastdance out clearly intent on dictating the race from the front. The clock in the Moore head rarely gets offline, and after a quarter mile it was fascinating to see him gradually bring the furlong fractions down from 12.26 to 11.50 in the hope that he could draw the sting from the opposition. He did a pretty good job, but this fast ground was not nearly as much to Savethlastdance’s liking as it was to stablemate Warm Heart’s who had been well behind him on softer surface in the Irish Oaks.

James Doyle’s pink silks moved easily to Moore and the favourite, taking over at the furlong pole only to find Frankie Dettori and Free Wind surging up on the outside. It was going to be very close but Warm Heart had it at the post and the celebrations could begin. Doyle’s lean face split into his victor’s grin, the ubiquitous dark glasses could not hide Aidan O’Brien’s delight, Michael Tabor and the Smith’s smiled with another plan that has come together – and then Hazel reached her treasure

Whose horse was it? It belonged to them all and, for a few lovely moments, to the rest of us.

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