Nov 25, 2008


Jonathan Sheppard’s habit of feeding Guinness to Forever Together drew plenty of comment when she romped home in the Breeders’ Cup filly race on turf. Seasoned Cup watchers remembered a similar dietary tactic employed by Clive Brittain in winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf with the glorious runner Pebbles.

Irish jockey Pat Eddery exuded confidence about Pebbles defeating colts all week long.
“Never mind the Guinness,” he told me one chilly morning at Aqueduct. “If you’re a betting man, empty your pockets on her.”

Eddery certainly rode as if his pockets were empty, squeezing through a miniscule gap to pip a startled Strawberry Road and Steve Cauthen. Guinness by a head, you might say.

Not a very ladylike drink, that, but one that can get you safely past the winning post without worrying the authorities.

A few years later, I was in England on a tour with former Daily Racing Form columnist Wally Wood who hosted a tour to the Prix de la Arc d’Triomphe in Paris. He let me tag along, gratis, as long as I could pick a winner or two for the busload of pilgrims.

I say “pilgrims” because we decamped in Canterbury to enjoy some sport in Wally’s home country. We went off to Lingfield which offered racing on a newfangled surface called Polytrack. On a raw day we spent most of the afternoon in the bar, braving the elements just long enough to engage in a punt with the bookies.

I was off my game until the last race, a two-mile handicap. Who was in the field but a Clive Brittain runner by Jupiter Island. Brittain had trained that horse to win a Japan Cup.

Obviously, this fellow knew a little bit about training for stamina. The Brittain runner went off l8-to-1 and came home a galloping winner. I wish I could remember whether the race was on dirt or Poly but, never mind, we got the money and caroused our way through every country pub we could find.

Chaucer would have approved.

We sailed on the Dover-Calais ferry on a sunny autumn day—a Canadian World War II veteran sang “There’ll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover”-- as we sailed towards the Normandy coast.

We hit Paris with a replenished bankroll. Cash Asmussen let us know that he would not be beaten aboard Suave Dancer; every Englishman at Longchamp that day laid it in on Generous who looked clearly over the top.

Our gang filled their saddlebags at 6-to-l on Suave Dancer while Cash conducting a press interview in French and English, one of the coolest things I’ve seen a jockey do after a big race.