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Flocking to the Races

Records tumbled at Kelso Ram Sales last week: the largest number of Toyota Hilux ever collected in one place, the most Ifor Williams trailers, not to mention the biggest variation of Land Rovers. Utility vehicles stretched across the land as far as the eye could see; apparently they sold quite a few sheep too.

Despite the cancellation of a prestigious sheep-racing event this Summer in the town of Moffat, the sport is clearly thriving – with popular venues as far afield as South Yorkshire and Devon staging regular meetings. Why else would there be so much interest in the sale of 4,500 rams? The sheep carry knitted jockeys in bright colours and are rewarded with a bucket of the finest sheep-nuts at the finish, while punters presumably urge on their selections by yelling something appropriate like ‘chop-chop’.

Turnover at the single day sheep sale, the largest of its kind in Europe, reached more than £3 Million – comparing favourably with many Thoroughbred auctions. The highest price paid was £23,000, although this column has not been able to confirm the rumour that the good-looking Texel will be trained by Mark Johnston in Middleham.

Johnston took delivery of another blue-blood from the Borders earlier in the year in the shape of Elarqam. The £1.6 Million colt by Frankel, out of the super-mare Attraction, was bred at Floors Castle Stud and races in the colours of Sheikh Hamden al Maktoum. A winner on his debut at York last Sunday, Elarqam will have learnt from the experience and looks sure to go on to better things. He’s currently 33/1 for the first of next season’s Classics – the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Meanwhile, the final Classic of the British racing season will be run this weekend at Doncaster. Our selection for the William Hill St Leger is Stradivarius, trained by John Gosden, who may also be nurturing the runner-up in his stable. Coronet was a fast finishing second to Enable last time out and looks likely to benefit from the longer trip. Enable is currently odds-on for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, so a strong performance from the filly would be no surprise.

More than a hundred shearlings at the Kelso sale made a price of £2,000 or more, which prompts the question: What would you rather – three rams in a paddock or a horse with Jimmy Moffatt? I suppose you could try a combination of the two, but while Jimmy has trained many talented jumpers, I don’t think any of them have been woolly.

The key point is that you don’t have to be a Sheikh to enjoy racehorse ownership. There are increasingly attractive opportunities for owners with more modest aspirations than winning each of the five Classics. From the start of next year, nearly every Class 5 handicap hurdle is likely to have a total prize fund exceeding £6,000 – or a small flock of sheep if you prefer.

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