The Turf grows in many different hues. Within barely a couple of hours, punters yesterday had their attention wrested from the soggy pastures of Clonmel, Co Tipperary, to Dubai’s spangling new racecourse at Meydan, which seemed no less than a desert mirage in contrast.
Remote as they were, both environments renewed a familiar tale from the home front.
At Clonmel, Jimmy Mangan saddled Whinstone Boy to confirm himself a genuine contender for the John Smith's Grand National.
Mangan's name meant little in Ireland, and nothing beyond, before he won the 2003 running with Monty's Pass. The resources of his Co Cork stable have remained pretty modest, in the meantime, so the fact that he now has another legitimate shot at the great race only corroborates the acuity behind the famous gamble landed by Monty's Pass that day.
Whinstone Boy was himself heavily backed when winning the Thyestes Chase at Thurles only a couple of weeks ago. That was just his fifth start over fences, but he is really blossoming now and yesterday he coped imperturbably with a drop in distance, to two and a half miles, in a small field.
Always racing with gusto in the lead, he stayed on strongly to beat Leanne by two and a half lengths. With the Aintree handicap due to be published on Tuesday week, Mangan has now shown enough of his hand to be optimistic that Whinstone Boy will end up with a racing weight.
“Liverpool is the plan and that win won't do any harm,” said Mangan. “It was mighty, really. Stamina is his plus, and I'll be doing a rain dance in Liverpool. He'll also get an entry for the Irish National — but if the ground was fast he wouldn't run in either.”
Over in Dubai, another forgotten face restored himself to attention when Crowded House finished second in the first race ever staged on the turf track at Meydan. Though Alexandros — with Frankie Dettori on board on his way to a double that also included Age Of Reason — had sewn up the Al Rashidiya Stakes at his leisure, it was heartening to see Crowded House pass the rest of the field after being dropped out and failing to settle early.