Ashforth’s Angles: Two different stories for big money buys

Douvan and Ruby Walsh dive at last

Douvan: can add another 1 to the string of 1s he already boasts

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

EVERYBODY (using the term loosely) noticed Douvan at Cheltenham on March 15 because Willie Mullins’ wonder horse won the £86,000 Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle Chase as imperiously as he has won every other race he has blessed with his presence – almost every other race.

The previous day, at Taunton, nobody (using the term loosely) paid much attention to Konig Dax, who fell when apparently beaten in a £6,300 Class 3 handicap hurdle. Yet less than two years earlier, when Douvan and Konig Dax met in a hurdle race for four-year-olds at Saint-Malo, the more experienced Konig Dax beat the debutant Douvan by five lengths.

Less than two months later Donald McCain, acting on behalf of Paul and Clare Rooney, bought Konig Dax, who had cost €14,000 as a yearling, for €160,000.

By then Douvan had won a hurdle race at Compiegne and was soon on his way to Mullins’ yard where another set of Susannah Ricci’s silks were awaiting. I don’t know how much Douvan cost but although several noughts were doubtless involved, the purchase proved as rewarding as that of his early conqueror has been disappointing.

While Douvan wasted no time in shooting up the equine ladder, accumulating two prestigious Grade 1 hurdles en route to four Grade 1 chases, Konig Dax has run just twice for the Rooneys, tailed off in a novice hurdle at Catterick last year and not seen since Taunton this year. That, as people often say, is racing.

When a horse of Douvan’s rare ability emerges it becomes, in a way, everybody’s horse. Unfortunately this public ownership does not include the power to send Douvan to the sales and divide the proceeds so we have to rely on the official owner to do the decent thing. Broadly speaking, this means telling Mullins that it’s all up to him unless the bills become ridiculous.

Everything’s been tickety-boo so far and, as unofficial owners, we can all settle down at 6.40pm confident that Douvan will add another 1 to the string of 1s he already boasts by winning the Ryanair Novice Chase.

It’s less euphoric at the other end of racing’s pyramid, represented by the opening selling race for two-year-olds at Redcar (2.05). Early season juvenile sellers somehow seem like a premature end to the dream of brass farthings turning into gold sovereigns but there is still hope.

Paisley Abbey finished last on his debut in the Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster but in the past at least one selling horse proved up to Brocklesby standard.

In 1973 trainer Brian Lunness told Ken Richardson, later notorious for his involvement in the Flockton Grey ringer scandal, that a filly called Jubilee Girl might be good enough to win the Brocklesby. Richardson preferred to run her in a selling race at Doncaster two days earlier. Backed from 4-1 to 13-8 Jubilee Girl won by seven lengths. A month later, at Newcastle, the filly beat Alexben, the winner of the Brocklesby.

It’s not really relevant. I just thought it was interesting.


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