Beckett produces the magic to enhance an enduring family line

RALPH BECKETT enjoyed an afternoon no sane trainer would dare dream of when the tough and progressive Talent outpointed her hugely more fancied stablemate Secret Gesture for a landmark stable one-two in the Investec Oaks.

Back in Noah’s day the animals went in two by two and they did again here. As well as having the first two home, this was Beckett’s second Oaks in five years and Richard Hughes, having waited forever and a day to win a Classic, has now won both fillies’ Classics this season. There can’t be a London bus left at the depot.

Talent was sent off at 20-1, but Hughesie would have laid you 100-1 and thought he was picking your pocket after she worked like a yak in clogs in her final piece of work last Friday. After bringing Talent from virtually last to first up the Epsom straight, Hughes said: “I don’t think I have ever been so disappointed with a gallop. She only went five and a half furlongs but she was lazy, sloppy and gave me no feel at all.

“But she was totally different today and, to be honest, I knew five furlongs out that she’d win. She’s too small to get involved in a barging match round here and Tom Queally, who was on some huge thing on my outside, let me out, which was good of him because he could have nailed me if had wanted to.”

Beckett seemed almost to be struggling to get a handle on the magic of the moment and the scale of his achievement, but none of it will have been lost on him. Ever since he took out a licence at the end of 1999 he has had something about him that marked him out from some of the gilded youths who train racehorses seemingly by right or because they can’t find anything else to do.

A proper thinker about the game, Beckett is one of those trainers who has a plan for every horse, however lowly, and is a first-rate communicator who doesn’t warble on meaninglessly just for the pleasure of hearing his own voice.

Owner-breeders spend more thought on where to send their horses than on which school to send their children to and Beckett’s yard has a rich vein of them running through it, and it’s a fact that tells its own tale.

Talent’s owner-breeders James Rowsell and Mark Dixon are just such a pair and Dixon in particular is a man on something of a crusade. He is the nephew of Dick Hollingsworth, one of the finest post-war owner-breeders who had his horses with Dick Hern, and the pair won the Oaks with Talent’s great granddam Bireme in 1980.

Dixon has long been determined to keep the great Hollingsworth line alive and after yesterday you could argue that mission impossible is now mission accomplished. Amazingly, Talent is the fourth generation of her family to run in the Oaks and Dixon, who does not pretend to be the world’s greatest expert on racing, said: “I was here 33 years ago for Bireme. I know nothing about horses and am in it only to keep the family going.”

Then, with a genuine humility flecked with pride, he added: “This is simply the best racing day of my life.”

In second yesterday Secret Gesture did nothing wrong, but the last filly to win the Oaks from the dreaded number one stall was the aforementioned Bireme and Jim Crowley had his hand forced tactically.

On this evidence Secret Gesture is going to be a Group 1 filly and she may well clash again with Talent in the Irish Oaks, but although things slightly conspired against her here I am not sure she would gain her revenge on Talent, who is improving and looks both durable and professional.

THE winning trainer was at pains to stress that on home work Secret Gesture belongs on a separate planet to Talent but, as Hughes will tell you, yesterday’s winner is clearly the opposite to a morning glory and does the job where it matters most – on the racecourse.

So this was an Oaks with much to recommend it. Beckett became the first trainer to saddle the Oaks first and second since the magnificent Sir Noel Murless sent out Altesse Royale to beat Maina in 1971.

Perhaps Ralph will now be able to persuade his cousin Teddy Grimthorpe to divert a Juddmonte horse or two his way.

As Beckett stood on the victory rostrum, there in the front rank of watchers was his elder daughter Tink, all of eight years old. Dads and firstborn daughters enjoy a special bond and doubtless down the years he will spoil her on occasions. But he will have to go some gallop to match this day when, by way of a half-term treat, he took her to Epsom and gave her the first two home in the Oaks.

Sourced: Racing Post 1st June 2013

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