JUAN JOSÉ PADILLA (11th: 56 corridas) Juan José continued to live dangerously in 2001. Both my sightings of him at San Sebastián, where he received the first of his three cornadas in the neck, and at Santander, where his return to the bullrings (and triumph) after almost being killed at Pamplona a fortnight earlier was on a par with Niki Laudas return to the circuits after his Nürburgring crash have already been featured in La Divisa. His clothwork at Santander was the best Ive ever seen from him, but he came back far too soon; his gesture with six Miuras at Bilbao was foolhardy given the current state of this ganadería; and it was only towards the end of the temporada that Juan José began to experience regular triumphs. Another matador to opt for a change of apoderado at the seasons end, as I write this Padilla is recovering from another cornada in Peru
JESÚS MILLÁN (13th: 52 corridas) I had hoped to get a further viewing of Millán in September in addition to his Santander performance (reported in an earlier La Divisa), arranging to go to a corrida at San Agustín de Guadalix which I knew was on the young matadors schedule. Unfortunately, an injury incurred at Guadalajara a few days earlier prevented his appearance. Jesús built his temporada on an early success with Palha bulls at the Castellón Feria (where he was proclaimed triunfador). This meant that, on a number of occasions, he faced ganaderías duras which were not propitious for his artistic style of toreo, but 53 ears cut in 52 corridas was not a bad balance to a season at a time when he is still learning his craft and, for my money, he was streets ahead of the other two young matadores on the main circuit Javier Castaño and Rafael de Julia. The year ended badly with three avisos at his home plaza of Zaragoza and there were reports of some toros getting away from him, but hopefully such setbacks will spur Millán on to greater things in future.
EL CALIFA (15th: 48 corridas) A disappointing temporada for our 2000 Annual Dinner guest, who, after cutting two ears in Las Fallas, suffered a double blow in May being excluded from the Feria de San Isidro (in which he had triumphed the year before) and then suffering a terrible cornada from a Carmen Borrero bull in Córdoba which must have affected his confidence for some time afterwards. After Santander, I caught up with José Pacheco again at Medina del Campo, when he, Miguel Rodríguez and Pepín Liria faced a very problematic string of Pinto Barreiros bulls. His cuadrilla was the best of the day, but José never controlled his first enemigo, moving all over the arena to keep up with it, and a scrappy faena and half-sword to his second toro did not deserve the two ears awarded. At the end of the year, El Califa announced a parting of the ways with his apoderado and revealed that that Córdoba goring was still on his mind, blaming his manager for his being on that particular cartel in the first place. It remains to be seen whether he will ever achieve the promise some aficionados saw in him the previous season.
EUGENIO DE MORA (16th: 47 corridas) A rather low-key season for de Mora, who failed to capitalise on his San Isidro triumph, both in terms of contracts and of strong performances at the other leading plazas. However, he impressed me in my sole sighting of him at San Sebastián de los Reyes. With both his Antonio Bañuelos bulls, Eugenio produced nice, slow, close verónicas. The faenas to both animals were patchy, although, when they were good, they were very very good. The initial series to his first toro was rushed, with lots of steps between passes and the closing half-kneeling ayudados por bajo were messy, but the work in between on the right horn was excellent, winding the bull round him then ending the encounters with fine pases de pecho. His second faena was muy templada and was performed mainly with the left hand. There were some delicate, mid-height derechazos, before a poor closing series in which the cloth was continually enganchada, but there was no doubting the estocada and de Mora secured his second ear of the day to go out on shoulders.
PEPÍN LIRIA (17th: 43 corridas) It is amazing to think that Pepín went to Sevillas Feria de Abril with hardly any contracts in his pocket for the 2001 season. His triumph with Cebada Gago bulls on his second Feria appearance reminded the taurine world just what an accomplished torero he is. Our paths crossed three times this year, Pepín appearing with the victorinos at Santander; with a horrible string of Pinto Barreiros bulls at Medina del Campo; and with a mix of toros at the historic goyesca to mark the centenary of his home plaza of Cehegín. At Santander, there were two minority petitions after a superb estocada to his first problematic toro and a fine, professional faena to his second animal. His opening Pinto Barreiros bull at Medina was very dangerous on the left horn, and Pepín wisely cut things short; with the other animal, merely tricky on one pitón, Liria began determinedly with the capote and played to the crowd in the faena, an unenthused-looking president bowing to their demand for a prize ear. His wonderful afternoon at Cehegín has already been covered in detail in La Divisa; in addition to his usual brave capework and muletazos and his commitment with the sword (Pepín emerging from his last estocada with one leg of his beautiful traje in shreds), a pair of poder a poder banderillas from the matador was simply unforgettable. Definitely one of my top ten toreros.
FANDI (19th: 40 corridas) Time to eat my words from last years season summary, when I said I couldnt see much of a future for the youngster as a matador de toros. David Fandiola made a huge impact at his home feria of Granada in June, appearing three times and going out on shoulders on each occasion, and thereafter the contracts came rolling in and he ended up the first matador in the escalafón to run up an average of two ears per corrida. All this despite carrying a ligament injury for most of the season! At the Piedrabuena goyesca, in a gorgeous white and gold traje, he produced varied capework to his first Laurentino Carrascosa enemigo (although a quite of caleserinas was woeful), only for the animal to sit in the faena. Greeting his second bull with largas cambiadas de rodillas, Fandi switched to verónicas on his knees, producing one excellent lance after another until he was so compromised he had to extricate himself with a larga. The crowd demanded four pairs of banderillas from the granadino the first was placed with Fandi running backwards and very, very close to the horns and almost being caught as he leaped the barrera; the second was a good pair al violín; the third was a poorly-placed al quiebro cited on his knees; and the last was another fine pair begun from the estribo. In the faena (the second of his dedicated to the public), Fandi spent far too much time on his knees, but, from that position, did execute some great muletazos, running the hand well. A strong sword saw him awarded two ears and a tail. On this form, Fandi is likely to be a torero who breaks through to the big time in 2002.
JAVIER CASTAÑO (20th: 39 corridas) Castaño, backed by the Choperas, surfaced in several of the main ferias this year but, for me, rapidly became a torero to avoid; after Santander and Tudela, I managed to have no more to do with him, but I heard reports from others which indicated that nothing had changed. At Tudela, I did petition for an encouraging ear after he stood his ground in his first faena and took the Mari Carmen Camacho bull past him very slowly, but the general impression I gained of Javier was of someone with little idea of the lidia, a torero who was content to resort to pendulum citing and close work after the horns have passed his body instead of working to understand his opponent and manufacturing true toreo. It remains to be seen whether or not the Choperas investment pays off; I, for one, have my doubts.
EDUARDO DÁVILA MIURA (21st: 37 corridas) Unable to secure his annual success at Sevillas Feria de Abril this year, Eduardos contracts fell by almost 50%. His biggest triumphs came in the rincón of Jerez, El Puerto and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. He also managed to end the season well, with four successive departures a hombros, the first of these at Piedrabuena. Here, he wasted his first Laurentino Carrascosa animal by refusing to give it its distance in the faena. A half-sword brought a minority petition and oreja, although this spectator concentrated on applauding the toro en arrastre. His second bull was even better. After being on the defensive in the opening capework and simply controlling the animals charges en quite, Dávila Miura rightly dedicated al publico before bringing off an excellent faena beginning with doblones, then giving the toro distance this time and realising some fine tandas, his work with the left hand and two circulares being particularly good. A strong sword brought two ears; unfortunately, the crowds demands for the bull to be awarded a vuelta went unheeded.
ESPARTACO (22nd: 37 corridas) Having announced he planned to retire at the end of the year, Antonio Ruiz still had a relatively low-key temporada before his disappointing final corrida during Sevillas San Miguel Feria. With his absence from the Santander carteles ever since a pretty disastrous afternoon the year he came back from his knee injury, I was pleased to see him at Medina del Campos Laurentino Carrascosa afternoon. Things did not go well with his first toro; the animal hooked badly with its right horn and Espartaco leant forward as far as he could to keep it at a distance in naturales. However, with his second bull, young-looking and short-horned, the veterano produced some good verónicas and nursed it through a faena de más a menos which included some reasonable passes with the left hand. After an effective but slightly low sword, an ear was awarded, so my last memory of Espartaco in a suit of lights was of him circling the arena with that famous grin of his on display once more.
JOSÉ TOMÁS (23rd: 36 corridas) Well, well, what a strange trip its been Who would have predicted this sensational torero would end up in such a lowly position in the escalafón, let alone stand by whilst three avisos sounded to one of his San Isidro bulls? José is a complex character; his injury at Santander, which put him out of action for the whole of August, was received whilst passing an animal with whom the possibility of a triumph had already gone by the time the cogida came. With the toro taken away, the madrileño picked himself up, told everyone to keep away from him and trudged to the infirmary on his own, clearly in some discomfort. I saw him twice in September, at Palencia, where, with poor bulls, he could only give some dazzling verónicas to his first enemigo and some individual muletazos of merit to his second, and at Valladolid (an unforgettable performance, covered in the last La Divisa). There have been very few matadores throughout history with the ability to move a crowd to impassioned uproar, as he did at Valladolid that day, but that is the solitary path which José Tomás has chosen.
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