Turf Talk: Lightning Lochsong fondly remembered

York Press: Lochsong, above left, leaves the field behind on her way to winning the Nunthorpe Stakes at York Racecourse in 1993 Lochsong, above left, leaves the field behind on her way to winning the Nunthorpe Stakes at York Racecourse in 1993

SHE was the filly with lightning in her legs.

Lochsong, the super sprinter who was the best of her generation, died earlier this week after falling ill with colic. She was 26.

Renowned for her blistering speed, she was trained throughout her career by Ian Balding and shot to prominence during her four-year-old career when she recorded the treble of the Stewards' Cup, Portland Handicap and Ayr Gold Cup.

She would win 15 of her 27 starts and coop more than £600,000 in prize money.

But it was at York, in the summer of 1993, where she graduated to real stardom.

Balding, at first, wasn't convinced by his headstrong soon-to-be legend. She was difficult in training and was tough to handle unless she got everything her own way.

"I had an old hack called Quirk who was instrumental in her success," he told me in an earlier interview. "She wouldn't go anywhere at home without him. We would go down to this all-weather gallop (at Kingsclere) I would lead her on to it and away she would go, flat out to the top, and then she wouldn't move until Quirk had come up.

"She just fell in love with him and adored him and wouldn't go anywhere without him. She was very difficult - not easy to train - but she was some racehorse. She was absolutely amazing."

A rags to riches story, she began with victory in a Redcar maiden and went on to top the sport.

By the time she came to the Nunthorpe Stakes in 93, the first time she was taking on Group 1 company, Lochsong was five.

On board was a young Frankie Dettori, fresh from a high-profile split with Luca Cumani and with his days of Godolphin glory still in the future.

Balding was looking for a jockey to commit to Lochsong with Willie Carson, who had ridden her in the past, having prior duties.

In many ways, the Italian was perfect for her. His tactics were simple. Let her get on with it. Just steer.

With no-one to fight, Lochsong just ran - beating Paris House by a length and a half in a five furlong dash she controlled from the outset.

She was a 10-1 outsider.

"The Nunthorpe that day was the most amazingly emotional occasion that I have ever known on the racecourse," Balding added. "She just flew down there from start to finish. I was so incredibly excited and thrilled by it."

Adding the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp just a couple of months later, Lochsong returned for her sixth year in dominant fashion.

The Palace House Stakes, Temple Stakes and King's Stand Stakes - all fell to the remorseless partnership.

But not the Nunthorpe of 1994. Where her best moment had come 12 months earlier, here would be Lochsong's worst.

In front of packed York stands, the famously buzzy and brittle mare boiled over and erupted - taking Dettori with her for a ride.

"She was a difficult lady," Balding explained. "I said to Frankie 'for God's sake don't let her out of a canter'. We led her onto the track and as soon as I let go she plunged twice and then was gone.

"No one could hold her. I was worried about her running into the starting stalls. It was pretty horrible."

The image of Dettori being carted along, desperately trying to bring Lochsong to a stop, would lead to changes at York.

John Smith, the clerk of the course on Knavesmire from 1987 until 2002, changed the parades for sprint races in a bid to prevent such a fractious episode being repeated.

She did finally come to a halt, but her race had already been uselessly run. She took part, regardless, despite the trainer's view that it was a pointless exercise and it is perhaps testament to her stamina that she even led after a couple of furlongs.

Gassed out, though, she was swamped at halfway and Dettori let her roll in last.

She would have one more great day on the track, retaining the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp with a five length thrashing of Mistertopogigo but was retired to stud after finishing unplaced in the 1994 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs.

Lochsong spent her retirement in the surroundings of Littleton Stud, in Hampshire, which is the property of her owner Jeff Smith.

Stud manager David Bowe said on Tuesday: "Sadly she got a colic.

"She had been absolutely fine, the same old character. She was great to have about the place and she was a fantastic racemare.

"She was conceived here, foaled here and lived out her life here - she was part of the fabric and when her racing days were over she returned as one of the foundation mares of Littleton Stud.

"She had a great innings, and it's nice to see them happy and healthy to the end and she had that.

"She was a great personality and leaves a big hole, but hopefully we will have some of her progeny back here.

"Her last foal, Swan Song, is in training with Andrew Balding and we look forward to seeing him here one day."

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