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David Ashforth: Causeway's run will live in the memory.

Byline: David Ashforth

SO you go down to the bar and order a drink and Greg says, "Sorry, sir, election day, we're not allowed to serve alcohol until 6 o'clock". And shrugs his shoulders. They're frightened that voters might drink too much, lose their senses and go out and vote for either Bush or Gore.

So I ask how things stand for those of us without voting rights and Greg is sympathetic but says that they stand just the same, drinkless. Until six.

Greg has voted, but he's not prepared to say who for. Possibly for the Prohibition Party, which has its own Presidential candidate and has already achieved prohibition, until 6pm.

Meanwhile, back at the sales ring, John Magnier, one of the rulers of the world, has voted with his wallet, which is the size of an Eddie Stobart lorry.

He's cast his latest vote in favour of a sister of Fusaichi Pegasus, $4 million. It's a bit like Happy Families. Magnier is collecting the Pegasus family. After that, he may move on to Mrs Bun, the baker's wife.

I can reveal, possibly exclusively, that Magnier is slightly overweight, favours blue and white striped shirts with white collars, has grey hair, which curls up at the back, wears spectacles halfway down his nose, and does mysterious things with enormous amounts of money.

A bit like Michael Tabor, who has already left, and the Maktoums, who haven't arrived.

Who really knows what's going on? What was the deal over Fusaichi Pegasus? And over A P Valentine? Who is actually buying what, with whom, from whom, for how much? Nothing, say the whispers around the ring, is quite as it appears.

It appears that a million bucks isn't what it used to be. I'm sitting in the sales ring on Tuesday morning when, guess who walks in but Oyster Catcher, soon to be followed by Rose Of Tara, who shares the same mum as Salsabil.

One goes for $2,150,000 and the other for $1,600,000, but there's hardly a ripple in the half-empty, or half-full, sales ring. Sales rings need only two people in them, as long as they're both bidding.

A few lots later, Shalimar Garden attracts a bid of $675,000, and is led out unsold, RNA (reserve not attained). What would it have taken?

Even when Sheikh Hamdan's agent goes to $4.2 million for Magical Allure, the audience take it in their stride.

You'd have thought the Maktoums would have all the broodmares they needed by now, even if this one is in foal to Storm Cat, the hottest of the hot.

Storm Cat is to mares what Errol Flynn once was to starlets, but with a better outcome.

By the end of the third day, 39 hips have been sold for $1 million or more. Nowadays, it takes a lot more than that to get the ring's adrenaline pumping.

Because this is fantasy and reality rolled into one.

The whims and strategies of wealthy men. A strange, uncertain, fickle business, but a business, with its special calculations and percentages, risks taken and risks spread. And where a Storm Cat covering costs $400,000.

Is that how much better Storm Cat is than all the rest, how much more likely to produce a champion, or at least another breeding prospect, or a fashion, just for the moment? On Monday, Magnier paid top of the sale, $4.9 million for Jewel Princess, in foal to you know who.

Storm Cat is one among many bluebloods living in the beautiful, manicured order of the stud farms that aristocratically grace the Blue Grass State of Kentucky, a scene so breathtaking it takes the money away, for a moment.

In the Keeneland barns and fine new show ring, assets are polished and paraded while asset watchers, clutching their catalogues, assess them; their age and conformation, their prospects for racing and breeding; their future income flows.

At Pin Oak Stud, Josephine Abercrombie walks along her barn of juvenile fillies, and her barn of juvenile colts, and gives them peppermints, and means it. I like that. It sweetens the dollar signs.

Every now and again, you stare at a horse and tell yourself, it's only a horse. Beautiful, engaging, but just a horse.

The horses that walk the short walk from the show ring to the holding area, where gaggles of agents and owners, breeders and trainers, buyers and sellers, chatter endlessly, are beautiful creatures, playful weanlings and professional mares, but they are not the meaning of racing.

That was when Giant's Causeway confounded those who had dismissed his chance (including me) and took to the Classic like a camel to the desert.

So easily positioned, so easily tracking the pace, never looking other than a contender to the wire. Maybe Mick Kinane's mishap with the whip and reins cost him the race, for it cost him momentum. Either way, Giant's Causeway achieved that most difficult of feats, convincing the Americans.

A lot of Americans have a blind spot for what lies east of New York, but they were talking about Giant's Causeway. In a land where losing sucks, for once, the loser counted.

So, although I will remember the beautiful stud farms and the impressive sales complex, what lingers in the mind, apart from Mrs Abercrombie, is the joy and sadness of Eduardo Inda, the gentle man with his love of Riboletta, favourite but injured in the Distaff; the passion of Michael Guidry's riding of She's A Devil Due; seeing Mrs Straub-Rubens celebrate Tiznow's victory on Saturday, only to be dead on Tuesday, and Giant's Causeway, half-victory in defeat. Oh, and he's by Storm Cat.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 11, 2000
Previous Article:The things they said.
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