A cold, dark December day at Wolverhampton may not make for the most fitting finale for a five-time stakes winner who was at one time one of the best sprinters in the country, but The Tatling still knows how to put on a show, and on his 176th start went out a winner in the most dramatic of fashions.
Now 14, the Milton Bradley-trained gelding, who reached the pinnacle of his racing achievements when winning the King’s Stand Stakes (then a Group 2) at Royal Ascot in 2004, proved he retains the fighting spirit by charging home late under Richard Kingscote to deny Novabridge and Grand Stitch on the line. The distances separating the first three home were two short-heads.
The Tatling, by Perugino out of the Ahonoora mare Aunty Eileen, was bred in Ireland by Patrick Power and sold for 54,000 IRgns at Fairyhouse as a yearling in 1998. Trained initially by Michael Bell, he won in the July of his two-year-old season at Yarmouth, followed up a month later with victory at Brighton, both at the minimum distance, which would prove to be his forte. He ended his juvenile year by finishing runner-up to Kier Park in the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot.
Having failed to win at three, he was sent to Tattersalls’ July Sale as a four-year-old and snapped up by the sprint king Dandy Nicholls for 11,000gns. He remained winless that season too and, dropped into claiming company at Catterick in July 2002, The Tatling eventually returned to the winner’s enclosure under Nicholls’s wife Alex Greaves. His first victory for the trainer would prove to be his last as he was snapped up by Milton Bradley, with whom he stayed for the rest of his career, with a successful claim of £15,000.
This was money well spent. Just over a month later The Tatling won over Sandown’s straight five furlongs and struck again before the season was out in the Coral Eurobet Sprint Trophy after finishing runner-up in one of the most coveted sprint handicaps of the year, the Ayr Gold Cup.
With his rating now exceeding 100, the tough sprinter came into his own at six, winning at Listed and Group 3 level and finishing runner-up to Oasis Dream in the Nunthorpe. He occupied the same slot in the 2004 version of the race, this time behind the Nicholls-trained Bahamian Pirate, but by that stage he had already won his own sprint crown in the King’s Stand, beating subsequent Group 1 winners Cape Of Good Hope and Frizzante.
As the years have advanced, The Tatling’s rating has slowly dwindled but his enthusiasm for the game has not. His victory at Yarmouth in June – the first in two years – prompted emotional scenes and raised the question of retirement once more, but he would take to the track five more times before Bradley announced ahead of Monday’s engagement that it would be his last.
Such a redoubtable warrior perhaps deserved a more lavish send-off, but whether it’s Royal Ascot in June or Wolverhampton in December, The Tatling knows only to do as he’s always done: to give his all for a job a clearly loves.
His old legs may not carry him as fast as they once did but with an uncanny sense of occasion, The Tatling lit up an otherwise dull day of racing by providing his own Hollywood-style ending to a remarkable career that has garnered 18 wins, 53 places and £687,763 from 176 runs. Well played.