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From lead horse to Europe's leading light; TONY MORRIS'S GIANTS OF THE TURF.


BUSTED came along quite early in my professional career, creating a tremendous impression. He also briefly improved my standing as a tipster with colleagues who had marked me down as a lousy judge of form.

From the fifth crop of an outstanding Derby winner in Crepello, Busted was trained in Ireland as a two- and three-year-old by Brud Fetherstonhaugh. He did not earn much distinction there, running twice unplaced as a juvenile, and collecting only once from seven efforts in his second season.

That victory did come in the Gallinule Stakes, but to achieve it he had needed a 10lb concession from Pieces Of Eight, that season's hero of the Eclipse and Champion Stakes. He had been allowed to take his chance in the Irish Derby, and even led the field with half a mile to run, but he was a spent force from two out, eventually finishing 12th of the 23 runners.

After the Classic he was trounced by White Gloves in the Desmond Stakes, finished last of three in the Whitehall Stakes, then a well-beaten eighth in the Irish Cambridgeshire. It was hard to envisage much of a future for a big colt whose headstrong tendencies would surely always tell against him.

But there might be another role he could usefully perform. Noel Murless was training Royal Palace, a colt with Triple Crown aspirations for 1967 owned by Jim Joel. Perhaps Busted, who raced in the colours of Jim's cousin Stanhope, might prove an effective lead horse for the Classic hope in the following spring. By the turn of the year, the Irish Derby failure was installed at Warren Place, charged with the task of helping a new stablemate to achieve success at the highest level.

Royal Palace duly landed a Classic double in the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, but he did not owe anything to Busted's merits as a lead horse. The story goes that the pair had only one serious gallop together in the spring, with jockeys up. George Moore, newly arrived from Australia to take on the role of first jockey to the Murless stable, was naturally aboard the three-year-old, while Bill Rickaby had the leg up on Busted. The spin ended much as planned, Royal Palace narrowly in front, and Moore expressed satisfaction with the way his mount had gone, while noting that his galloping companion had gone every bit as well, if not better.

There might have been two ways of interpreting that gallop. Had Royal Palace deteriorated or was Busted now much improved? Murless did not have to think too hard about that. He had recognised how the four-year-old had become a much more settled individual since his arrival from Ireland; he had grown up, was now more amenable to restraint, and on the evidence of that performance, he had to be relieved of his lead horse duties and pointed at targets in top company.

The 1967 season was a fabulous one for the Warren Place stable, its record prize-money haul of pounds 287,562 more than three times the amount garnered by the team of runner-up Sir Gordon Richards. And it hit form early, taking the Wood Ditton with Hopeful Venture, the Nell Gwyn with Cranberry Sauce and the Fred Darling with Royal Saint. Before April was out doubles were registered on both days at Sandown, the best of those wins coming from Busted, who trounced smart rivals in the Coronation Stakes, the race that would later be renamed in honour of Gordon Richards.

By the time May was four days old, both Guineas had fallen to the Murless string, Fleet adding the 1,000 to the short-head victory in the 2,000 by Royal Palace, a result which cost me two months' wages and cured me for all time of laying horses to colleagues in the course of alcohol-fuelled debates during the close season. By the time I could settle the debt Royal Palace had collected his second Classic win at Epsom, and Busted had notched a fantastic midsummer double in the Eclipse and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Busted had some time off after his win in the Coronation Stakes as a result of a pulled muscle in his quarters, but he was back in business in June and, as the plan for Royal Palace was the Great Voltigeur route to the St Leger, he was his stable's nominated representative for the King George. After that long layoff it was felt that he would need a run before Ascot, and there really was nothing suitable other than the Eclipse, staged only seven days earlier.

Somehow I managed to convince myself that Busted would win the Eclipse. He certainly did not have the best form, the stable jockey preferred to ride Fleet, and Noel Murless had more or less intimated that he was running just to tune him up for Ascot. But I reckoned that Fleet, who had been outstayed in the Oaks, would find the trip too long, and that the favourite, last year's St Leger winner Sodium, would find it too short. I had some respect for Great Nephew, who had thrived since his transfer to Etienne Pollet, but I could make a better case for the progressive Busted, already a course-and-distance winner, and I made him my nap selection.

OFFICE duties meant that I couldn't make it to Sandown that day, but there was an upside to that - accepting the hearty congratulations of my colleagues over the vindication of my judgement and an 8-1 triumph. In truth, it had been just a hunch; I'd had no idea that Busted was as good as he revealed himself to be that day. Still way out the back at the turn for home, he came with a strong run up the rails and Rickaby still had him on a tight rein while everything else was under strong pressure. Let loose only well inside the last furlong, the big bay soon stormed clear to win as he liked.

I made sure that I was on hand at Ascot a week later, when Busted was opposed by the two latest winners of the Irish Derby, Ribocco and Sodium, by the previous year's French and Italian Derby heroes Nelcius and Appiani, by the 1966 Arc victor Bon Mot, and by the clearly improving Salvo, conqueror of Sodium in the Hardwicke last time out. And I saw a performance of the highest quality.

Ridden this time by Moore, but again last into the straight, Busted came with a devastating late challenge that first left Ribocco for dead, then put paid to Salvo's pretensions. The verdict was three lengths, but that by no means defined the degree of his overwhelming superiority.

Busted seemed to be a certainty for the Arc after that, and he duly came through his prep, in the Prix Henry Foy, with aplomb to confirm that he was on course to crown his campaign with a triumph at Longchamp. But it was not to be. A tendon injury incurred on the gallops sent him instead into retirement, while Salvo and Ribocco, whom he had trounced at Ascot, finished a neck and a short head behind longshot Topyo in the Arc.

I have a permanent souvenir of that Arc, as one of Topyo's shoes serves as a paperweight on my desk, but I treasure rather more the vivid memory of the colt who ought to have won that race and was justly acclaimed as the best horse in Europe in 1967.

BUSTED b c 6-5-1963 Pedigree Blenheim Donatello Delleana Crepello (ch 1954) Mieuxce Crepuscule Red Sunset Wild Risk Vimy Mimi Sans Le Sou (b 1957) Court Martial Loan Bred by Snailwell Stud in England Race/stud record Ran 13 Won 5 2nd 2 3rd 1 Earned pounds 59,515 Big races won Eclipse S, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S Gr1-winning progeny Weavers' Hall (Irish Derby), Bustino (St Leger, Coronation Cup), Busaca (Yorkshire Oaks), Tromos (Dewhurst S), Erins Isle (Californian S, Sunset H, San Luis Rey S, San Juan Capistrano H, Hollywood Invitational H), Opale (Irish St Leger), Romildo (Prix Ganay), Sharannpour (Bowling Green H), Mtoto (Eclipse S twice, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S)


Busted, ridden by George Moore, wins the 1967 King George at Ascot after a devastating late run
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 8, 2011
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