19 May 2002

French raider Keltos foils Noverre, Godolphin’s red-hot favourite, in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury despite a troubled passage, reports Brough Scott

Never ignore a shrewd man who has travelled. Last week Gary Tanaka was out East to see his Hawkeye just miss the board in the Singapore Cup. Yesterday the owner hit the bulls-eye with Keltos, who had merely crossed the Channel to beat Noverre in the Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes.

There was sufficient on-track awe for the Godolphin-trained Noverre that he started at 5-6, leaving the ghost-coloured Keltos available at 9-1. It’s always easy in hindsight, but Keltos only had a couple of lengths to make up on Noverre for an unlucky run against him at Royal Ascot last summer. There were no excuses as he emphatically turned the tables to win by a three-and-a-half lengths yesterday.

In fact, Keltos had troubles enough on his way to victory. While Jamie Spencer was able to park Noverre behind his pacemaker, Summoner, then have a free shot for home when the race opened up two furlongs out, Olivier Peslier found himself imprisoned behind the pack. Mind you, compared to finding himself landing at Gatwick rather than Heathrow thanks to the air traffic control problems, a bit of a barging match – as Michael Kinane, on Olden Times, tried to keep the door shut a quarter of a mile out – was a minor interruption.

So, too, Noverre’s own final throw. As the almost white French horse swept up alongside him in the final furlong, Noverre realised he couldn’t beat him so he tried to bite him. At that pace it wasn’t much more than an ineffectual nuzzle and, for the moment, Keltos is a horse you will have to do a lot more to than show your teeth at.

Kinane got a couple of days’ suspension for his efforts but a race later he ensured he will have some golfing money by landing what in the trade is called a “wholesale gamble” on Barathea Blazer. The Peter Harris-trained three-year-old was on offer at 10-1 in the morning and punters in their droves piled on to see Barathea Blazer end up 11-4 favourite. Such a flood of money adds to the pressure on the rider; on the ordinary rider, that is.

Kinane has won far too many Classics and trotted too many globes to get fazed by an 18-runner, mile-and-a-half handicap, however competitive it might have looked on paper. He quickly established himself and Barathea Blazer a good position on the rails, just behind the leader, and stayed there before committing his partner so decisively for the line that the strong-finishing Aker Wood was never going to catch him.

Kinane, of course, has bigger things to think about than Scoop6’s on Saturdays, not least which of the O’Brien pair of High Chaparral and Hawk Wing he will ride in the Vodafone Derby. If he is looking for public clues he is not going to get them because it has now been announced that Hawk Wing goes straight to Epsom, leaving Kinane free to ride Alex Ferguson’s Rock of Gibraltar in the Irish 2,000 Guineas next weekend.

The other heartening news from Newbury is that Henry Cecil looks in serious danger of getting himself out of the slough of despond into which he has been so unhappily cast these past twelve months. In the last week the winners have at last begun to roll and the brilliant, if quirky, performance of High Pitched in the race before the Lockinge was the best so far.

If High Pitched wasn’t already such a valuable stud prospect it would be worth making him a castrato to clear up the odd-tempered nonsense he shows before his races. Cecil put blinkers on him last time but this made him pull too hard. In a perfect world he would wear the blinkers for the preliminaries, but not for the race. For some, not very obvious, reason this is not, at present, allowed. It ought to be.

But on song, High Pitched is a real performer. In the straight he was cruising over First Ballot, Arctic Owl and Warrshan and when Richard Quinn asked him he set his rather odd-set head forward and with short, slightly scuttly strides just left them for dead. He goes for higher things, probably the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, next. Good to think Cecil will be flying back there too.

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