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Battle of the exes takes centre stage at Breeders’ Cup

Article by MARY HANNIGAN

TV VIEW There was Hank and Kenny and Joe and Randy and Jerry, not forgetting the reporter on horseback, Caton Bredar. And that was only the half of them. By the looks of ESPN’s Breeders’ Cup coverage, brought to us by At The Races on Saturday night, the channel employs more Americans than Walmart.

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And Hank, Randy and the gang cover horse racing in quite a different style to the one we’re accustomed to this side of the world – you don’t see John McCririck, for example, galloping after the winning jockey to tell them they’re totally awesome and then grill them about an ex-lover. Not on a horse anyway.

That’s Caton’s ESPN job, and one of her earlier tasks on Saturday was to ride like the wind to grab a chat with Chantal Sutherland after The Breeders’ Cup Classic when she and the majestically named Game On Dude had been pipped at the post by Mike Smith and Drosselmeyer.

“How did you feel when you saw it was Mike going past you,” Caton asked. “I thought, like, you’ve got to be kidding me: arrrrrrrrrgh,” Chantal growled.

We were none the wiser, until Hank told us it was “the ultimate battle of the exes”. “Fans of reality TV will know all about Chantal and Mike,” he said, intriguingly. Google. Search. Oh. Crikey. They were an item for six years, even engaged at one point, until parting ways the summer before last. After they split they actually squared up in a “Battle of the Exes” race. Regrettably, Mike won. And they starred in Animal Planet’s Jockeys, in which Chantal revealed that the first thing Mike said to her when they met was: “I don’t think you should be a jockey, you being pretty”. Oh Lord.

And it was the very same higher power Mike thanked for helping him (win the race and) beat Chantal on Saturday – “man, thank you Lord, thank you Lord” – when he spoke to Hank.

Chantal was more gracious. “I’m happy for Mike. He’s a pretty good rider,” she told Caton through teeth so gritted you feared they’d fall out. All the while Caton heroically tried to maintain control of her microphone while her horse Riverdanced on the Churchill Downs track.

The highlight of the evening, not to be parochial about it, was Joseph O’Brien romping home on his Da Aidan’s horse in the Breeders’ Cup Turf race, but the outcome of the big one, the Breeders’ Cup Mile, was greeted by a deafening “huh?’ by the crowd, the 64 to 1 Court Vision leaving the bookies Riverdancing all over the Churchill Downs track.

A sad end for Goldikova, the lady horse who was seeking a four-in-a-row. She now retires to have baby horses. “And I hope next time to be riding her babies,” her French jockey Olivier Peslier told ESPN, pluckily looking to the future after the disappointment that was in it. If Goldikova was denied her four-in-a-row, there was no stopping Sligo Rovers doing an FAI Cup two-in-a-row yesterday, goalkeeper Ciaran Kelly providing us with a deja-vu-all-over-again feeling in the penalty shoot-out against Shelbourne. “Last year four saves, this year two – how does he do it,” as Stephen Alkin put it. Not that many tipped Shelbourne to take it that far. “My heart says Shels, my head says Sligo – and anyone who picks Shelbourne to win the match has lost the plot,” the legend that is Dermot Keely told RTÉ before the game. And with that Shels took the lead. But Sligo equalised, and the evening ended with the shoot-out. Sligo manager Paul Cook couldn’t even watch, he disappeared in to the bowels of the stadium, but the one and completely only Damien Richardson was loving it. “Penalty shoot-outs are one of the eccentricities of modern day professional football,” he declared, “but in this politically correct world we live in, we love those eccentricities.”

There was, though, nothing more eccentric on telly over the weekend than the World Senior Snooker Championships in Peterborough, brought to us by the graveyard of sporting telly that is Sky Sports 4.

“Tortoise v Tortoise”, they billed the clash of Cliff Thorburn and Doug Mountjoy, the pair up against a countdown clock, having 30 seconds to play their shots after the opening 10 minutes of their clash.

As snooker-watching veterans would know, Cliff takes five times that long just to chalk his cue. He was, then, slightly frazzled by it all, but prevailed, the encounter leaving commentator Clive Everton tingling. “Almost 10 minutes played, and not a ball has been potted,” he sighed.

It was a snooker loopy trip down memory lane, Willie Thorne and Joe Johnson reminscing about the old days in the commentary box, sounding for all the world like Statler and Waldorf. The event, alas, was marred by young Andy Goldstein’s ageism. “85 when you won the title,” he said to Dennis Taylor. Dennis, still wearing his upside down glasses, looked hurt. That’d make him 111. A more than decent break, but a very senior senior.

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