Fahey fully deserves his glorious rise
The Thursday column
The sporting public love people they can relate to and that’s why the growing success story that is Richard Fahey’s training career is such a pleasing one to follow.
Ribchester’s victory in the Queen Anne at Ascot on Tuesday created yet another rung in the ladder that has taken Fahey to such lofty heights and long may he continue to rise.
Because whereas a small number of leading Flat trainers can be disappointingly aloof compared to their counterparts in the jumps game, Fahey is as down to earth and approachable as they come, and racing fans warm to people like that.
For many years Fahey’s success was built on quantity rather than quality. He created a winner factory at Musley Bank, on the south-west edge of Malton in Yorkshire, but like many who burst into the leading trainer lists in terms of winners sent out, he then faced the challenge of adding the necessary quality to his string to enable him to dine at the top table.
Gradually they materialised. Wootton Bassett, Mayson, Garswood and others. And then along came Ribchester, whose fine two-year-old career for Fahey caused Godolphin to splash out on him and, importantly, keep him where he was.
And, while it has been far from true to say Godolphin’s record of purchasing pre-raced horses is faultless, this particular investment has been extremely shrewd, as was the purchase after his debut success in a Haydock maiden of Barney Roy, who completed a Group 1 double for the blue team on Tuesday.
It was impossible to feel anything but delight for Fahey, who remains admirably grounded despite having travelled so far up the ranks.
He comes across as a man who would have been doing Lucky 15s at Ascot if he wasn’t preparing the winners of the meeting’s biggest races, and I have heard plenty of people say the ownership experience at Musley Bank is all about fun and value.
I remember spending an enjoyable but fruitless hour with him in Deauville one summer’s afternoon trying to find a pub which was showing his beloved Arsenal versus my Palace. The town proved far too snooty for that but it was not an experience I expect to have with many of those names around him in the list of top Flat trainers.
It remains to be seen whether Fahey’s skilful campaigning of Ribchester encourages other wealthy owners to give him a chance, but he can do little more than he already has to advertise his talents, and if the most expensive yearlings are sent elsewhere one suspects their owners are missing a trick.
Pakistan hoping cricket's coming home
And we English think we’ve got it bad. We sing about an ever-increasing period of hurt (it’ll be 52 next summer, albeit most of us seem to have convinced ourselves the recent success of the Under-20s was in an actual World Cup) and wonder why a nation of our size is so uncompetitive on the international football stage.
Imagine, then, what it must be like for Pakistan, which has the sixth-largest population on the planet, nearly four times the size of England’s. Sporting success comes along extremely rarely for Pakistan, where poverty and conflict mean people have more important things to occupy their thoughts.
A total of eight Olympic medals, the last in 1992, illustrates how seldom Pakistanis get to celebrate glorious sporting moments. Six of those penny-black moments of joy at the Games came in hockey, with one each in wrestling and boxing.
It would have been different if squash, which constantly tries and fails to become an Olympic sport, had been part of the action, because many great players have come from Pakistan, not least Jahangir Khan, who between 1981 and 1986 won 555 consecutive matches, the longest winning streak in sport.
And nor, of course, is cricket an Olympic sport, which has also limited the country’s medal potential.
But if Pakistan has to wait huge periods between its rare moments of triumph, when they do come it unleashes rapturous celebrations, as we have seen since Sunday’s momentous Champions Trophy humiliation of India.
Whether the TV audience reached the fabled billion mark that many predicted (that’s one in seven people, which sounds rather implausible to me), what is not in doubt is huge numbers of people in both countries tuned in for the battle at the Oval, some even gathered around ancient televisions powered by car batteries.
The shock flattening of hot favourites India was the third major victory by the Pakistan team following the 1992 World Cup and the 2009 World T20 and prompted their captain Sarfraz Ahmed to dream of brighter days ahead.
“Hopefully this win will boost Pakistan cricket and hopefully all playing nations are coming to Pakistan,” he said after his side’s 180-run win.
Time will tell, but it might take more than Sunday’s sensational victory to end Pakistan’s exile to the UAE, where they have been playing almost all their ‘home’ fixtures since a terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009.
It would, though, be lovely if the cricket world thought Pakistan was safe enough to tour again, because they have produced some marvellous players, teams and moments down the years and this brilliant sport needs all the global cut-through it can get.
Why give grief to those who give willingly?
There are many things in the world that get an illogical, irrational and unfair amount of stick, not least of which are kebabs, Coldplay and half-and-half scarves.
And to that list we can now add publicly donating to charity, which has recently become regarded as almost as unacceptable as not donating at all.
It has become de rigeur to regard as vulgar the act of digging deep for worthy causes and then, either accidentally or deliberately, allowing the act of kindness to enter the public domain. I don’t get it.
It started off in the 1990s when Fast Show spoof DJs Smashie and Nicey used to mention their charity work and then add they didn’t like to talk about it, but has since mutated into something that is treated as a proper social faux pas.
The latest victims of this weirdness are some of the sport stars who have generously donated to the Grenfell Tower disaster fund.
I was amazed on Saturday to read negative tweets after it had been revealed Raheem Sterling had given money to the people affected by the horrific blaze. Some said he should have kept it quiet and others claimed in such situations the donor’s agent tips off the media to gain good publicity.
Even if true in the case of Sterling, or other high-profile contributors to the cause like Andy Murray, Ryan Bertrand and Hector Bellerin, why such hatred? Better to give loudly than not at all, and it might even be the case that when famous people donate it causes others to do likewise.
I’d rather know about these acts of kindness so I can like and admire the generous sportspeople and so that people can see that they are not as bad as they are often portrayed.