Football, names and the Queen’s Plate vs Sussex Stakes vs Lockinge Stakes – Turf Talk: 13 January 2020

VARDY had a better day than his footballing namesake, showing international class. (Wayne Marks).
VARDY had a better day than his footballing namesake, showing international class. (Wayne Marks).

Football, names and the Queen’s Plate vs Sussex Stakes vs Lockinge Stakes

VAR conspired against Vardy on Saturday. Eh? What am I talking about?

A high percentage of overseas observers know who Jamie Vardy is. The Leicester City and England striker plays for a team that astounded the football world by winning the Premiership in 2015/16, slipped back a bit, but now under a dynamic manager is sitting second in the table.

Leicester City is famous for other reasons. Gary Lineker is one, although he moved to Tottenham Hotspur after a time, the team that way earlier in 1961 had “done the double” (League and Cup) by beating Leicester 2-0 at Wembley. This writer has all those team autographs, obtained in the scrum of short-trousered signature hunters politely waiting at the gates of the Final teams’ hotels, both being a 10 minute bike ride from our home.

JAMIE Vardy in Leicester kit. (talksport.com).
JAMIE Vardy in Leicester kit. (talksport.com).

Leicester City has also been in the spotlight since late 2018 when their chairman was tragically killed along with some of his family in a helicopter crash, taking off from the football ground.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – owner of the King Power Duty Free shops – was enormously popular in the city having developed a true community club. Whereas the county – Leicestershire – is traditionally hunting country – hence the team’s nickname “Foxes” – and the county’s top class rugby team also plays in the city with huge support, Leicester is probably the most diversely populated city in the country thus offering delicious restaurant alternatives to racegoers before – in our case – heading south for a 3 hour drive home after a runner.

Leicester Racecourse is a so-called “small” track but is a pleasure to visit, and suited to very balanced individuals with its downhill/uphill straight. We have had our share of winners there – as did the Leicester Chairman whose King Power Racing owned many horses in training, almost all with “Fox” in their names.

Recently, Leicester beat Southampton 9-0 away. Not a common occurrence. Jamie Vardy scored three of them. So they anticipated a gritty response at the return (home) fixture yesterday – and got one. Southampton led 2-1 in injury time when Leicester seemingly equalised but the goal was ruled out (for offside) by VAR = Video Assistant Referee technology. So Leicester and Jamie Vardy surprisingly lost, scuppered by VAR.

Whether Leicester City’s (and England’s) supporters are aware of a horse named Vardy by Var is not known. I myself have had name choices refused in South Africa on the grounds of “famous people not allowed”.

My gentle protestation that Galileo and Frankel were also quite famous people fell on deaf ears. It should be said that this was under an earlier regime and that the rules in SA are being clarified by the present NHRA team who are drawing praise from the International Stud Book for their efforts to unscramble our SA version.

If we may soon see opportunities to send good horses to race in (say) UK and bring them back quickly as for any other mainstream racing nation, and given the duplications in SA of well-known names of recent European horses, it would be good to have a digital trigger that at least warns an applicant who might not know of such duplication, and/or guides as to whether or not permission from the famous person is required.

This still concerns breeders and even pinhookers who, uniquely in SA, name their products ahead of the racehorse owner, although the numbers so named have reduced. The actual owner of the horse can change, with or without concerns for superstition, which thus renders the original breeder naming void, only generating extra fees. Neither negative thought or action would arise if horses were all sold unnamed (with no charge to breeders), and the NHRA dispensed informed advice to namers.

So… if the admirable Vardy (I mean Saturday’s excellent winner) were to be a candidate for “raiding” overseas, as surely he could be if the owners so decide, and the EU Commission finally does its stuff in a few months’ time, any SA racing PR efforts should be sensitive to the naming resonance that would attract a lot of attention and, ideally, get the famous human and/or his football club’s associated racing arm involved.

When Vardy flashed across the line Saturday and having shouted the admirable One World home for reasons of association through friendship, I turned to my neighbour and said “World Class Mile”.

Clearly a small float full of some of the best horses in the country ran in this race, held on such an attractively organised race day that shows the superb Kenilworth layout off in such a good way. True there were UK and Irish horse players in the immigration queue who were not coming racing or buying but were heading off for weddings or holidays, but there were plenty who were on course for a super racing experience.

Too Darn Hot (Frankie Dettori) takes the Sussex at Goodwood.
Too Darn Hot (Frankie Dettori) takes the Sussex at Goodwood.

Rhododendron (Ryan Moore) winning the Lockinge at Newbury.
Rhododendron (Ryan Moore) winning the Lockinge at Newbury.

Vardy won in a time of 1 minute 37 seconds – a 4 year old carrying 60kg over about 9 metres less than a UK mile. The ground was pretty quick.

In the UK/Irish whacky weather world of Good, Good (Good to Firm in Places), Good to Firm (Good in places), Good to Firm, Good to Firm (Firm in places), Firm (Good to Firm in places), Firm – yes really – and I haven’t listed all the “Softs”! – the Kenilworth ground would have been one of the “Good to Firms” – safe racing ground, well prepared, but definitely on the quick side, again reinforcing the postulation that well selected SA bred horses are tough and generally well conformed.

Too Darn Hot won the 2019 Sussex Stakes (Goodwood, Gr1) 1 mile ( = 1609 metres) in a slightly slow time (against the standard) of 1 minute 38.57 seconds. He was only a 3 year old carrying 9 stone (= 57.3 kg). Handicapping and Weight for Age geniuses out there can analyse all this. The ground was Good i.e. a bit slower than Kenilworth, although Goodwood is a sharper track.

Alternatively, look at Rhododendron on the broad, slightly on-the-collar Newbury straight mile, winning the Gr1 Lockinge Stakes in 2018. Newbury can still be spongey in May but was Good to Firm on that occasion. I choose this Galileo sired winner for variation – she is a she who was 4 and carried 8 stone 11 pounds (= 55.9 kg). Her time was quick – 1 minute 35 seconds.

Irrespective of such micro-analysis, Vardy in the Queen’s Plate, along with One World and Rainbow Bridge and surely some others (who may or may not have been inconvenienced by an astonishing catalogue of extraordinary pre-race events), are globally there or thereabouts! – tt.