Israeli Thoroughbred on dusty trail to Britain (UK)

As she wearily stepped off the horsebox to receive her first glimpse of verdant Warwickshire last Thursday, Vanilla Bally was entitled to feel a touch disorientated.

For a start, scorched earth and sand usually crunch under her hooves. Then there had been the seven days stranded in Belgium waiting to enter Britain in the aftermath of the Channel Tunnel fire as the route via Calais and Rotterdam remained fully booked.

But the frustration merely added to one of the most ambitious and romantic racing tales of modern times, never mind this year.

Vanilla Bally (centre) winning one of her seven races at the Pardess Hanna racecourse, Israel.
Dream ticket: Vanilla Bally (centre) winning one of her seven races at the Pardess Hanna racecourse, Israel.

The task facing Vanilla Bally ranks alongside a bobsleigh team from Jamaica shooting for glory at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and the near miss of Lebanon reaching the last rugby league World Cup.

Vanilla Bally, by far the best horse to have been bred and raced in Israel in recent years, is pursuing a dream.

Her tale evokes the cinematic fictional spirit of National Velvet and Elizabeth Taylor winning the Grand National on an unknown family pet, which is exactly what Vanilla Bally is.

The chestnut three-year-old, however, has far more modest ambitions – victory at Southwell would be mission accomplished.

Rookie trainer George Baker will steer her through a six-month stay in Britain and his yard will seem like an equine Ritz.

Home has been the backyard of owner-trainer Oren Sada, who spends his working life driving a refuge truck for Ranle Council, a town around 15 miles from Tel Aviv.

Paul Alster, head of media and communications for the Israeli Jockey Club, said: ‘Oren works on the nightshift for Ranle City Council. He built a stable in the backyard of his house and there was open land near where he lives with sand tracks on which he trained Vanilla Bally.

He has done a remarkable job and dedicated three years of his life to her. She is very much a family pet and he has gone as far as he can with her. She is the only horse he has, although he has quite a lot of dogs and canaries, a real menagerie.

‘Vanilla Bally has won from five and a half furlongs to seven furlongs. The local opposition can’t keep up with her. She has run nine times, won seven and finished second and third in the other two.

‘Her last run was a first against older horses and she beat a previously unbeaten rival, making us think we should try to give it a go.’

Oren added: ‘When we first spoke about sending her abroad, it was all just a distant dream and now I can hardly believe it is happening. I am very grateful to the English owners (James Dean Partners), who have leased her for half a year and made this all possible.

‘I am not saying she will definitely win but think she will bring credit to Israeli racing and breeding.’

Arrow Daily Mail

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