SPENCER’S VICTORY CARRIES A HALLMARK

13 May 2001

Young Irish jockey keeps his cool on a steamy tropical night to lift the prize.

Two blazing young  young talents lit up the steaming tropical night.

Endless Hall is just five years old, jockey Jamie Spencer but 20 summers through, but between them at Singapore’s dazzling new Kranji racecourse they put themselves and their resurgent trainer, Luca Cumani, on to the world stage their assorted talents deserve.

The whole raison d’etre of the £600,000 Singapore Airlines International Cup was to attract interest and raise the profile of racing in this mighty atom of an Island state. With runners from England, France, Germany, New Zealand and the United States against the four best locals, Singapore knew that the first target had been met. Endless Hall’s defiant holding of France’s greatest ever money winner Jim And Tonic in a track record 2min 0.8sec for the 2,000 metres, ensured the second.

As the gates clanged open it was the American-trained Lazy Lode who jumped to the front with the world’s most successful pair of hands on the reins. They are as massive and heavily veined as a blacksmith’s. They have already guided home a record 9,000 winners. At 54, Panamanian-born Laffit Pincay does not fly the Atlantic to canter round the back.

His presence was a real professional challenge for Spencer. For Endless Hall is best ridden from the front. A foolish youth would try to rush the old stager. But Pincay was setting regular 24-second fractions. The half-mile was reached in 48sec, the mile in 1m 12s.

Spencer rode his first Classic winner as a 17-year-old schoolboy and was not even thought of when Laffit clocked up his first thousand. But the young head on the old shoulders kept Endless Hall poised just a length behind the master.

Behind him the race had already taken shape. Gerald Mosse had forsaken some of his over extravagant waiting tactics on Jim And Tonic. He was quite close enough in fourth to use the finishing kick which has now amassed more than £3 million in prize money.

They spent £200 million building the racecourse on what was just jungle four years ago. But to their eternal credit the first millions were spent on the track itself. It has a wide, level surface, beautifully cambered turns and a slightly uphill finish which meant that Spencer and Endless Hall now had international racing’s currently most difficult task. In front in the final quarter with Jim And Tonic striving to cut you down.

These horses can mean a lot to people. Jim And Tonic was not only bred by Franois Doumen, he trained both the dam and the sire Double Bed, who, in 1988, became this most versatile of trainer’s first international winner by winning the Hialeah Turf Cup in Florida. Jim And Tonic has been nursed through all sorts of ailments by family Doumen and Franois’s wife Elisabeth was helping saddle yesterday. Imagine their screaming as Jim And Tonic strained his long lean chesnut neck in pursuit.

Harder and harder he tried. The gap was closing but not fast enough. In front Endless Hall had his head set and nostrils dilated, atop him Spencer was a man possessed. The splashlight of the winning post came up and still they were three quarters of a length to the good. In the saddle, Irish-born Spencer smashed his right arm up into the steamy Singapore night in a gesture of ultimate happiness.

His father George trained a champion hurdler but now has to look down from the grandstand in the sky. The son of whom he would be so proud is pretty tall for his profession, but if his weight will steady, the mind stay cool, and the falls keep forgiving, the very heavens are the limit.

But never forget that it is the horse that does the running and in Endless Hall we have an absolutely admirable one. He’s British-bred by the underrated Saddlers’ Hall. But he is Italian in many other counts, starting his racing career in that country before moving to Newmarket-based Italian Luca Cumani last summer.

To give credit where it is absolutely due, it should be mentioned that in February Endless Hall went to Dubai, competing there in March and coming over to Singapore only last week, always under the care of Cumani’s assistant, David Phipps.

But Luca’s fingerprints are all over this latest victory. It was back in 1983 that he saddled Tolomeo to win Chicago’s Arlington Million. Two Epsom Derbies have been chief amongst the laurels since, but when the Aga Khan took all his horses, including future Breeders’ Cup winner Kalanisi, away 15 months ago, lean times threatened.

We should have known better. All that Luca Cumani needed was a “big horse.” With Endless Hall, he now has one.

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