Doug Moscrop gets a history lesson as he talks to connections of leading Cesarewitch contender Macorville
THE MacOrville pub in Elwick, a village near Hartlepool, is named after a famous stallion who toured around the North-East for 20 years on a weekly basis throughout the summer carrying out his stud duties.
Son of the 1802 St Leger winner Orville, he eventually died in 1845, aged 32, and is believed by many of the inhabitants of Elwick to be buried in a playing field in the village with a large stone marking his grave.
He was called Old MacOrville to differentiate from his son, Young MacOrville, who proved to be as good a sire as his father. The latest Macorville to appear on the racing scene, albeit with a different spelling, also has connections with Elwick. His owner, Geoff Turnbull, a retired industrialist, lives there and is in the process of building up a stud with a couple of mares.
And Macorville’s racecourse achievements have already done much to keep the Teesside village on the racing map in the 21st century. He will probably be the subject of another chapter in the history of Elwick if he succeeds in today’s totescoop6 Cesarewitch.
Turnbull recalls the day he bought Macorville at the yearling sales. “I just fell in love with him from the moment I first saw him.” He cost 42,000 guineas, the most expensive horse that George Moore has trained, and it has provided him with his first Group One runner.
The four-year-old is related to winners in France, Italy and the United States. When he made his racecourse debut as a two-year-old at Nottingham in 2005, he was the 100-1 outsider in a field of four, yet he wasn’t beaten far in third place.
From two other runs as a juvenile, he finished second on his final start of the season at Newcastle which qualified him for a handicap mark. And when he reappeared as a three-year-old he wasted little time in showing his potential with four victories from eight starts.
Even though he has failed in six attempts to add to tally this season, Macorville goes into the second leg of the Autumn Double at Newmarket officially 16lb ahead of the game by virtue of excelling himself in the Irish St Leger last month when fourth to Yeats. He is now rated 111 but runs today off his old mark of 95 because of the early closing of race entries. Connections have no regrets about taking him over to the Curragh and having a crack at a Group One prize, knowing full well the handicapper would show no leniency if he happened to run way above his rating.
“If you’ve run in a Group One you know the handicapper’s going to give you plenty of weight even if don’t run as well as he did,” reasons trainer George Moore. “But Geoff was adamant in the spring he wanted the horse to run in the St Leger and I told him at the time he was aiming too high.”
However, the owner was proved right. “He ran a fantastic race against probably the best stayer in the world and I’m confident he could have won the race had there been a bit of cut in the ground,” says Turnbull. Of course, Macorville will need to progress again to be competitive in Listed and Group company in 2008, but the Curragh performance does augur well. Both owner and trainer still reflect on the heartbreak of losing out narrowly in the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate in which their pride and joy was short-headed by Juniper Girl.
“He was in front before and after the line and we were convinced he had won. It’s the dream of anyone in the horse world in the North to win the Plate and for four minutes I thought I had the trophy in my hand while the judge was studying the photo. The disappointment was a little bit much to take.”