Excerpt from the forthcoming Summerhill Sires Brochure 2013/2014.
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There are moments in racing you never forget. Like Secretariat’s Belmont, like Frankel’s Queen Elizabeth, Horse Chestnut’s J&B Met. Two years ago, Ireland’s Kilternan Stakes was the scene for a piece of thoroughbred theatre. It was the Group race debut of a leggy, pimple-faced colt whose biological third birthday was still in front of him. The grapevine in racing is notoriously short around good horses, especially in Ireland, where the papal injunction has guaranteed big families, and there are many mouths to feed. The word from Ballydoyle was so strong, it had penetrated every pub and fairy fort worth reaching, from Thomastown to Tipperary.
Await The Dawn did not disappoint. By the time the gates opened, he was deep in the red, and he made the bookmakers pay. Easing down by nine. Never again till his illness at York, would punters see better than odds-on. The turf’s accountants know a good thing when they see it, and here was a very good thing.
Urbanization and its attendant congestion, has changed the face of horseracing wherever the sport is celebrated. We all know though, that England’s fans are sticklers for tradition, and the one thing they’ve preserved at the Chester racing festival, is the daily parade of the combatants through the city streets. The racecourse is one of those idiosyncrasies of British life, a throwback to Roman times, when it served as a harbour for slave-driven galleys. Its tight turns are more like a chariot track than a racecourse, more a coliseum than a park.
Chester’s Huxley Stakes is the setting for Await The Dawn’s next encounter and this time, the “bookies” take no chances. This fellow is “box office”. The demolition that follows is reminiscent of the naval battles that brought the Romans to these shores in the first place. As they turn, he delivers a withering sprint: with fully a furlong to run, the chequered flag comes out. It’s like the moment the big stranger steps through the saloon doors and the plinky-plunk piano dies. The new sheriff looms in the rush. Now it’s flying fists, smashed whisky bottles, and the stranger crashes through the plate glass window. This movie obviously hasn’t reached its final reel. We aren’t the only ones that see it this way. Await The Dawn “is clearly ready for Group One company now”, says Timeform.
Now for Ascot. The “Royal” version, that is. The best sporting idea the English ever had. Older than all the football clubs in Europe; older than Ashes cricket; older, for that matter, than the nation of South Africa. The Aussies call theirs “the race that stops the nation,” which is right enough, because the Melbourne Cup has been known to suspend the federal parliament. But Royal Ascot, the brainchild in 1711 of Queen Anne, stops the world for a week. True-blue racing people the world over, want to be seen among the toffs at Royal Ascot; better still, they want to be winning at Royal Ascot. Best polish up the sliver-tipped cane, and dust off the spats.
With a history dating to 1879, the Hardwicke Stakes is the dress rehearsal for Britain’s greatest weight-for-age contest, The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. You should know, if you’re up for the Hardwicke, you’re stepping into big shoes: Rock Sand, Sceptre, Ormonde, Tristan, Oscar Schindler, Stanerra, Jeune, Doyen, Scorpion, the list is endless. Just the year before, the hero was Harbinger, the world’s highest rated racehorse, bar none. For any steed with so few miles on his clock, it will take a “Tom Cruise” performance to make this mission possible. Clearly, the public think Await The Dawn is Tom Cruise; they hammer him down to odds-on again. By the time the bugle calls them to post, there is money in the air, big money, and a small share in the horse is traded at a big price. As you might expect, the field is lousy with class. In the parade, there are three Group One winners, and some of the finest blood money can buy. To own this field, you need to own a bank.
Among the picnics in the car park, you know there is something big brewing: that combination of bliss and despair that makes racing so memorable. Hendricks and tonic in the veins, a whiff of revolution in the air. They go off respectably enough, but within a furlong, you can see our man isn’t handling the heavy track, though he isn’t short of desire either. On the far outside, he’s never been on “slop” before, and he makes the first turn badly; for a moment, he’s like a semi-trailer in a sideways skid. This is where jockeyship counts. Lesser men might’ve been distracted or given to self-pity, but Ryan Moore is proof of Noel Coward’s observation that the secret of success is the ability to overcome adversity. He steadies the ship.
Reassured by his pilot, Await The Dawn is wide, but now he’s in cruise mode, back in the field but comfortable. Perfectly poised up front is the trio of Group One foes, unaware of the lurking danger. The first to move is Campanologist, who’s tasted the glory three times before. Here, you need to be smarter than your lunch, otherwise you are the lunch: Ryan Moore is playing the predator. Everyone can see what he’s going to do to Ted Durcan’s horse. Campanologist is kind, Await The Dawn is a killer. Ears pricked, he breaks his adversary’s spirit in the straight. Quickly, clinically. The rest are broken-hearted.
We were beginning to think this could be the best middle distance horse in the world. It’s clear the European’s thought so too: they backed him down to thirteen to eight for his first assignment at the highest level. The destination was York, the outcome was dull. Yes, he was third, but he was desperately sick. “His illness was life-threatening. When he recaptures his best form, he will surely win a Group One”. Strong words from Europe’s most respected rating agency. Truth is, they’d seen all they ever needed to see.
He is never the same again, but it doesn’t matter. We’ve also seen all we needed to see. Await The Dawn is a product of the best blood of two of the best stud farms in the world. His father was nicknamed the “Iron Horse”. His son has shown he could run with the best on a brick road, into a headwind, with a tailwind, in a weight-for-age and at the top of a handicap. Now he’s shown he can break hearts on a bog track. This is “Iron Horse” technology. Test him whenever you want, whatever the weather.