Sunday, May 27, 2007

Holding out for summer

We had a sure sign that summer's here during the week with our first sighting of Newmarket's favourite summer resident, Michael Holding. It's great to have him around the Heath during his UK summers, because his enthusiasm and friendliness to everyone is a real ray of sunshine. The only problem in this instance is that he's missed part one of summer and there's no sign yet of part two. The rains hadn't arrived prior to Brief's run at Newmarket on Friday, which should have been good news for us but actually was academic because he wasn't in the money even on his favoured fast surface; but even so he ran another very creditable race, confirming our optimism for his forthcoming summer. He's probably a victim of his own consistency as his rating rarely receives signficant reductions, but his genuineness is also his strong suit: you've always got a chance with a horse as honest as he is. Anyway, the rain is here now in a big way, which should be good news for By Storm, whom I declared for a seller at Leicester tomorrow - again, however, that's academic, as she, too, won't be in the money, as she was eliminated. And a surfeit of rain is the last thing we want ahead of Jill's trip to Yarmouth on Wednesday, so we'll just have to keep an eye on the situation there.

Brief's outing at Newmarket was the catalyst for a very pleasant 24 hours. Larry and Iris drove down from London on Friday morning for the race, and then stayed the night with us afterwards. Colin Casey accompanied us to the track - joking that Frank Morby had ridden a double on the last occasion he'd been on the Rowley Mile (at least I think it was a joke) - and then he and Eileen had dinner with us here that evening. On Saturday morning we had one very special and emotional task, as Iris had brought her urn of Joe's ashes, some of which we scattered over 'his' grass in the field here. It is a privilege to have part of Joe forever part of this property.

Emma took Larry and Iris up to the Heath yesterday morning to watch Jill enjoy an easy gallop along the Cambridge Road all-weather. He'd had a harder gallop earlier in the week under Kirsty and seems in top order, so she wasn't required to do anything too taxing merely four days before her intended race. We'd had another gallop along the same strip earlier in the morning and this, too, wasn't too strenuous, as Imperial Decree had her first shot of fast work, accompanied by Jack Dawson. She's coping with things so well and quickly learned that she was expected to go a lot faster than ever before, putting herself into the task in a very professional manner. She walked off the gallop under Hugh in a relaxed manner, blowing quite hard but seeming to have enjoyed her spin, so it looks as if she's going to continue to relish her increasing workload. A week can be a long time in the career of a young horse so we won't count our chickens, but it's easy to envisage her being ready for a race in around six weeks. Others to please during the week were Racie Gracie, By Storm (who put in a great gallop under Martha on Thursday, which doesn't make her elimination any easier to swallow) and Milton's Keen.

I've been riding Gracie (I think I mentioned her in the preceding chapter) and am getting really fond of her. She's a real sweetie, naturally impatient but ever so willing to please: now that she's learning that I'd prefer her to adopt a more patient attitude, she's doing just that, and is on her way to being a model conveyance. She seems a nice strong filly, so let's hope that she won't be long in proving herself to be yet another smart two-year-old to benefit from starting life under Chris Dwyer's care. Chris was here yesterday, and brought back memories of perhaps the best two-year-old he trained, the lovely Connemara: he said that he'd really enjoyed re-making her acquaintance the other day when, quite by chance, she'd passed through his stud, in-foal and en route from Ireland to Italy. I had received other news of the Dwyer family when walking into Newmarket racecourse on Friday, when I had bumped into Chris' younger son Mark, who works for Darley. Hitherto Mark has been in the stallion nominations' department, but he is about to be transferred to the racing department, which oversees all Sheikh Mohammed's directly or indirectly owned horses in training or pre-training, bar the Godolphin string. Mark has a very good racing brain and excellent knowledge of the form book, so I suspect his talents will be better used in his new role than previously, and I reckon this is a good move from his point of view. He seems very pleased about it, and so am I. I'm sure he will flourish in it.

Milton's Keen is due to have his first run for the stable and first run of the year nine days hence, and I'm looking forward to that. Kirsty's been galloping him, and we seem to be in good company in having her on our horses: she rode for Michael Tabor on Friday, on a lightly-weighted handicapper trained by Neville Callaghan which finished third at Pontefract. Cliff has told me an unlikely story that Michael Tabor sent her a text message to tell her she was the first female hoop ever to ride for him, but I'd prefer to accept her version of it, which was that Neville told her that she was having that honour. It seems slightly hard to believe that she is indeed the first girl to do so, bearing in mind just how many horses Michael Tabor has raced around the world, so perhaps this can be the next task for our correspondents: have there been any previous instances of female jockeys sporting the Tabor silks? If so, chapter and verse, please. On the subject of Neville Callaghan, I'm sure he'll be delighed to know that the world and his wife will have taken note of the promising debut at Newmarket about five minutes ago of Let Us Prey, a Hawk Wing two-year-old colt whom he trains and who has just finished third behind a Mr Greeley quinella in the five-furlong maiden (the lovely David Elsworth-trained Swiss Franc beat Godolphin's first juvenile runner of the year, Wolgan Valley). Coincidentally, Mr Greeley had sired the winner of the juvenile maiden at the Curragh fifteen minutes previously (the Jim Bolger-trained Saoirse Abu), so the omens seem good for Finsceal Beo 40 minutes hence. As we're always on maiden race pedigree-watch, it's worth pointing out that Aidan O'Brien's two unplaced runners in that maiden race were King Of Westphalia (Kingmambo ex Quarter Moon, a Moyglare Stud Stakes winner who finished second in three Classics) and Prairie Hawk (Hawk Wing ex Oaks winner Lady Carla).

I've just watched Notnowcato (who could now be the latest very good MIchael Stoute-trained horse to become a great in maturity) prove just too strong for the magnificent Dylan Thomas in a thrilling finish for a typically good Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh. We started yesterday with a great duel between two mighty horses (Takeover Target and Gold Edition in the Doomben 10,000) and this was another treat. It's always good to have a top-class weight-for-age race on a Classic card, to remind us that, for all the thrill of the Classics and the class of their contestants, the weight-for-age races are the real cream. I haven't studied the Epsom runners yet, but no doubt we can look forward to another great Coronation Cup. We don't need to study the Derby field closely, because we all know that Authorized is a certainty (isn't he?). Whether he wins, though, or whether something else does, I doubt we'll see such impressive displays of male bonding as were on view in the aftermath of the Irish 2,000 Guineas yesterday. As mentioned post-2,000 Guineas, any big win for Cockney Rebel is a good result in my book, but we had an extra bonus here with the sight of Geoff Huffer kissing anyone in his path. Ted Walsh coped with this surprisingly well, but Robert Hall looked even more non-plussed than normal after his pair of smackers.

Oh yes, and one last thing. Problemwalrus mentioned in a past response that he was at the Rowley Mile for last weekend's fixture. Well, Walrus, do please feel free to drop into the stable for a cup of tea (or something stronger) any time you're in town. I enjoyed your Moscow State Circus musings, by the way: we'd been chuckling a few weeks ago when the Chinese State Circus came to town, saying that all the best circuses (circi?) nowadays had to be from outside zone of the EU's health and safety czars. We'd been thinking of heads being put into the mouths of lions and knives thrown at people on rotating wheels etc., so the edict that Russian tight-rope walkers must wear crash helmets (as if that would do any good!) was right on cue.

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