Sunday best for stars on show as Malton opens stable doors
Who wants to go to a museum to study heroes of the past when you can visit the stars who are going to make the history of the future?
That's the real attraction of an event like the Malton Festival of Racing, back after a year's break and luring folk from far afield to a town recently nominated as one of Yorkshire's eight best places to live.
Some would argue it could be number one if you were a racehorse, perhaps one inhabiting a des res at Richard Fahey's yard, with equine spa, horse walkers and choice of treadmills.
But it's the inhabitants as much as the facilities that ensure 53 backsides are firmly in place on the first 53-seater coach of the day bound for Musley Bank, so that it actually arrives a good five minutes before the official opening.
People are understandably keen to see inside a yard that has sent out nearly a thousand winners in the past five seasons and could have at least a couple more at Group 1 level this autumn.
Star of the show is Ribchester, who has his trainer purring as he contemplates his bid for a fifth success at the top grade in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
"As long as he's in the form he is at the moment we're comfortable," says Fahey, who also has the highest of hopes for Gimcrack winner Sands Of Mali in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket a week on Saturday.
"He'll be a tough nut to crack," he says. "The Middle Park has been his target in my mind all year; it was a bonus he won the Gimcrack on the way because we felt he'd get better as the season went on.
"His work last week was the best he's done, so we're very happy."
Wells will go far
Habton Grange is a little further out of town but if you've got them they will come – and Tim Easterby has certainly got them.
So it is that plenty of the two or three thousand attending the festival make it out to a yard with Group 1 aspirations of its own for Acomb Stakes winner Wells Farhh Go.
He's being aimed at the Racing Post Trophy and Easterby forecasts: "He'll be a Group 1 horse when he gets age and strength on his side. He's shown us great potential at home."
More immediately, the luckless Orion's Bow is reported in good form before his bid for a change of fortune in Saturday's Ayr Gold Cup.
Definitly one to look out for
This is a yard that was put on the map by Easterby's father Peter, with a string of outstanding jumpers like Little Owl, Night Nurse and Sea Pigeon.
And if it's chasing stars of 2017-18 you want, you could do a lot worse than hop on the coach to see Brian Ellison, to the south of Malton.
Last season's smart two-mile novice chaser Forest Bihan is 'definitely a Grade 1 horse this year" in his trainer's mind.
The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby will be the key test for Definitly Red.
Will the Rowland Meyrick and Grimthorpe Chase winner be a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse in 2018? Ellison reckons he needs to improve 10lb but adds: "He's improved every year, so we hope he's improved again; he's done very well physically."
All those paying to visit the 16 yards in and around Malton are contributing to Racing Welfare, for whom it is an important fundraiser as well as a chance to engage with the racing community.
Money also goes to the equally worthy causes of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the Injured Jockeys Fund's Jack Berry House, which stands proudly on Old Malton Road.
But the fun element is never far from the surface at an event that was first staged in the early 1980s.
Wonder if Crufts will take its cue from Malton's 'racing personalities dog show' and introduce classes for 'dog most like its trainer or jockey'?
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