Monday, August 28, 2006

Mostly about Jack

Another busy week, hence the lack of blogging by me, but however busy I am I can find the time to pay tribute to Jack. What a star! As most readers will be aware, he's been the mainstay of this stable for yonks, despite having several setbacks along the way. A fractured pelvis a few years ago was the most significant, but then on my birthday last year (June 7th) he fractured a front cannon bone. Recuperation from that is normally straightforward if one can wait, but Jack was already well into his seventh year racing, so what future he would have remained to be seen.

His return turned out not to be straightforward. He began with more than the usual amount of rest, followed by a gradual return to work. He was about three weeks away from a run early this spring when he went lame again, in the same place. There was no treatment one could give him, other than another rest - at the end of which he was re-X-rayed, just to check that there was no chance (or as close to no chance as one can say) of the leg re-fracturing if he resumed work - followed by another attempt at a comeback. Anyway, this time, assisted by the joint lubrication supplement which Michael Eddery sells, all seemed to be going well, and he made it back to the track. As you'll have read, that was a complete non-event because he was tailed off. So the choice was either to retire him there and then, or to have one more run just in case that that terrible run had been a Brighton-induced aberration, then either retire him or, if he had improved by about fifty lengths, press on. There didn't appear to be anything wrong with him and George Baker had given us every encouragement at Brighton to give him another chance ("I don't think he's lost it"), so we did, as soon as possible. Which leads us to the fairytale, when the nine-year-young Jack won the inappropriately-named Rising Stars Handicap at Yarmouth yesterday. It was just great. The Premier Cru had a syndicate barbecue at Paul and Margaret's house in Buckinghamshire yesterday, which they all attended bar Trevor and Sheila who came to Yarmouth, and I think the only reason why we couldn't hear their cheers at the racecourse (100+ miles away) was because we were cheering too loudly ourselves to hear anything. Magic!

The downside to Jack's win was that we also used the race as a last-chance saloon for China Pearl, who badly "needed to lift", as the Aussie form guides would say, to justify remaining on the team. Sadly, he did the opposite, because he trailed in last and lame. It didn't look good, but I don't think his injury is too severe. There is a lot of swelling around his near fore fetlock and he is lame at the walk, but he isn't distressed and it's no worse than that. We'll have to wait for the swelling to disperse before we can assess the injury further, but I don't think it will life-changeing. That's as maybe, though, because his life might be changed soon anyway, because one can't continue to race a horse who gives no cause for optimism that he might ever win, so he could be destined for a more relaxed career. And he'd be very happy with that, so it might not have been such a bad day for him after all.

Other than Jack's win, recent runs haven't been great. It was a full week. Monday evening saw Timmy (Limit Down) and Rem Time both struggle in an usually soggy surface at Yarmouth. Water there usually just runs through the sandy soil into the sea a foot or so below, but they had had two inches of rain over the weekend; and then another half inch midafternoon saw the track very slow and the carparks awash. So that was an unproductive trip, even if no worse than that. That was dear old Rem's swansong as she has now gone back to Ireland to concentrate on the important task of nourishing her Mull Of Kintyre embryo.

On Tuesday we accomplished the unlikely feat of going to Brighton again and having the horse run every bit as badly as our previous runner there (Jack) had done. Once again Brightonitis was the only diagnosis as By Storm, who had finished a neck second on her previous run, was beaten about the distance from here to the clock tower. However, we didn't come home empty-handed, after purchasing a copy of Graeme Roe's second novel 'Odds On Death'. I read its predecessor 'A Touch Of Vengeance' a couple of years ago and enjoyed it, so it was an easy decision to back up. I've already started it and I'm not disappointed. It's very easy to read and, like its author, can be described as a brahma. Richard Sims, who would I am certain hero-worship Graeme Roe if he knew him, would definitely approve.

The following day saw me repeat my visit to Folkestone with Chilly Cracker. It was another very wet day and, after doing a big too much early on, she failed to run out the five furlongs and weakened into fifth, having been in front just over a furlong from home. Her behaviour was an improvement on the last time, up to a point; that point coming about seven minutes before the race. Liam Keniry performed wonders to get her down the start - the "fractious to post" in the form book is an understatement - but once there she was good again. There is definitely a race in her, but she'll never be a betting proposition as there will always be scope for things going badly wrong. It is annoying that he still gets so worked up before her races, because she really is enjoying life just now and there is no reason for her to be so afraid, especially as when she races, she does so willingly and genuinely. I guess there are just some habits which are hard to break.

Thursday and Friday saw a trip to paradise, ie Middleham and the Yorkshire Dales. I was quick to volunteer for the role as photographer's assistant for Emma's tour of duty, which involved snapping posed shots of 24 of the Sheikh's horses in the master trainer's (ie Mark Johnston's) stable. As ever, it was a pleasure to visit what is surely the world's most idyllic training centre (or it is when the weather is as perfect as it was when we were there as you can see from the picture) and to see inside the stable of a man whom I greatly admire. For what it's worth, Palo Verde would be my horse to follow from the ones we saw, which is high praise because we saw some magnificent ones.

The stars of Saturday were Brief Goodbye and Gerry Chesnaux. Brief's sixth of 17 in a fiercely competitive Sandown handicap was an excellent run, one of his best. Things weren't perfect for him. Rain in the morning caused the track to be slightly downgraded from 'good, good to firm in places' and, from our point of view, that was definitely a change for the worse. Then in the race our low draw meant Micky had to take right back to last to ensure that he could work out wide where Brief likes to race alone, and that wasn't ideal in a race where, after a fast opening furlong, the leaders were able to take back to such an extent that the winner made all. But Brief kept grinding home bravely on the outside all the way up the straight; we cheered and cheered, and again were ever so proud of him. He's a really lovely horse who hasn't run a bad race all year.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Gerry (aided / hindered - delete as necessary - by his excited-to-the-point-of-expiration valet James) rode a blinder, so I'm told, to finish second in the Town Plate on his trusty steed Lysander's Quest. Emma and I were delighted to head over to Balsham once we were finished for the evening to raise our glasses with the team, and it made a good ending to a good day. Fortunately James is now taking eight days off work to recover, because I think he had an even more exhausting day than did Lysander's Quest. The effort of giving Gerry retrospective (ie pointless) dietary advice ad nauseam, plus taking the opportunity for some full-on male bonding, must surely have taken a heavy toll. I'm sure that if ever James' daughter Lucy does win an Olympic Gold he'll be very excited, but I doubt he'll be more excited than he was about Gerry running second in the Town Plate.

Oh yes, and somewhere in what was yet another bloody wet week James wore the famous blue raincoat while riding out one day. Unfortunately, all breath must remain bated because I appear to have left myself lacking time to tell its tale, but that can wait for another posting. No doubt the jacket will be left somewhere in the yard during James' holiday - it will be a disappointing holiday for the family if he finds need of a raincoat in Crete - so it might catch my eye sometime and remind me to "entertain" you with the details. Or possibly I might be too busy joining in Aisling's and Gemma's celebrations of James' absence.


Kentucky Wildcat said...

Berry... not Alan Berry, but The Wath-Berry, lands a gamble...
A massive well done to the team at BHS for bringing back Jack Dawson...i knew he would win! Also well done to Gerry, however Gerry is with his 2nd in the town Plate. John maybe u should give Desiree a run at Brighton next year before Emma goes for the 2007 running of the Town Plate ....

Sinndar1 said...

Nice winner Mr B! Keep up the good work, see you all in two weeks time!

joff said...

Jack you're an absolute legend! Meanwhile in Melbourne, Dandy Kid is retired after breaking the record winning his 15th race at Moonee Valley aged 10. He won at his two starts in May 1999. Please God let me own a horse like these one day. Well played Team BHS!

westtip said...

Good to see Joff posting on this blog. I presume that's the same Joff who was described in Emma's full-page Jane Chapple-Hyam Racing Post feature as prominent Victorian owner/breeder. No doubt the Wath will be dispatching a copy of the paper Elsternwickwards.

A pity that Sims couldn't be worked into the same article. In fairness, it's hard to see how Emma could have mentioned him without straying extremely far from the subject in hand but, if she had been unwise enough to do so, she would have had a good choice of epithets: advertising guru, Australian squash international, brahmameister, grazier, media identity. Take your pick.

westtip said...

Good to hear from Sinndar1. Reading about James' near-collapse after the excitement of Gerry running second in the Town Plate, we were worried how Sinndar1 would cope with the stress of the Flying Five, as Benbaun nosed out the gifted hoop Callan in a frilling finish.

Anyway, roll on your return, Sinndar1. The master of Currabeag is having a relatively quiet season, so he needs his talisman back. And the blogmeister is itching to buy an Exceed And Excel nomination from you just as soon as you reappear in HQ.

joff said...

I am a little more prominent than I'd like to be right now. Nothing a few sets of squash with the fittest man in Caulfield can't fix.

PS Go Mudawin! Well done Janey pops.