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Monday, 19 November, 2018

Luke back at Taunton while a remarkable filly heads to Chelmsford

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Leg Lock Luke is shameless. Just ten days after throwing a race – and jockey Tom O’Brien – away at Taunton, the rascal is back at the same track. Someone doubtless told him not to show his face there again so he’s wearing blinkers. (3.00). Will Leg Lock Luke behave? Who knows?

While Leg Lock Luke was disgracing himself, Amour De Nuit was romping home on his handicap debut and now returns in the hope of doing the same under a 7lb penalty (Taunton 3.35). Will he succeed or will Alcock And Brown fly off with the prize? (Sorry, that’s such a feeble joke that you probably didn’t notice that it was one).

Later, the eye is caught by a remarkable filly or, at least, a filly with a remarkable namesake. Lady Hester (Chelmsford 5.45) is, presumably, named after Lady Hester Stanhope, who has too many letters in her name to be a horse in her entirety although she could squeeze in as LadyHesterStanhope.

Anyway, Lady Hester was an extraordinary woman, born into privilege as the daughter of Earl Stanhope and niece of prime minister William Pitt the Younger but dying in poverty and senile confusion in the Lebanon.

Hester was a cluster of adjectives, from brave and intrepid to arrogant and foolish but she did some amazing and often alarming things, which explains the number of books that have been written about her. Given to belief in prophecy, she was said to have kept a horse in readiness for the arrival of the Messiah.

She was waiting for him in the Middle East, where she lived, often in men’s clothes, for most of the last 30 years of her life and was known, at least to herself, as the 'Queen of the East'.

There are countless stories about her. One of my favourite was related by Dr Charles Meryon, a member of her entourage, reporting Lady Hester’s characteristic decision to visit a local Emir with a reputation for violence. “They say,” Meryon wrote, “that he is a very good man. It is true he blinded his three nephews and had his prime minister strangled but ….”

Lady Hester the horse, her dam appropriately called Questing, has led a much quieter life and now finds herself faced with the challenge of an apprentice handicap. The Queen of the East would surely have considered it beneath her, for she was a woman used to acting as Downing Street hostess for William Pitt and given to describing herself as “clothed in the sun”.

Never mind, you have to start winning somewhere and as Lady Hester is owned by Godolphin there’s always the chance that she may end up back in Arabia.

That is a prospect unlikely to face any of the runners at Warwick, although Cyclop provides an exotic touch in the handicap chase (3.25), having an Irish father, French mother, American grandfather and an owner, Professor Lorna Hardwick, who is an authority on Classical Studies. Shouldn’t it be Cyclops? Oh well, she’d know.

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Someone doubtless told him not to show his face there again so he’s wearing blinkers
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