Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pride in a narrow and perfectly-ridden defeat

I really enjoyed our trip to Towcester last night. It was the perfect idyllic English summer evening in a perfect rural setting, and Lady Suffragette ran another super race. It was just a pity she couldn't win, but I've no complaints: she ran really well and bravely and was ridden flawlessly by William Kennedy (a very impressive temporary replacement for the beleaguered Tom Greenway) so, although she was only narrowly beaten, there were no 'if only's - just a feeling of pride of having such a lovely horse running so consistently and honourably. Towcester is such a stiff track that the margins are usually exaggerated, but we managed to find the one race of the decade where you can be beaten less than a length and not finish in the first three. But it's meant to be a competitive sport, and it was just a great thrill. Aisling came along with us, and Kate Williams, who is here for a week from Snowdonia on work experience from school. As we were in the last race (8.45), it meant we had a late night, but it was a good one - and as there was light in the sky until 10pm, the drive home along the old A45 wasn't a chore at all. The perfect post script to the outing was that Lady Suffragette gave Kate further experience this morning by taking her for a ride around the Heath (pictured): hitherto I've just had Kate meet us as we come off the Heath and ride one home after its work, but today I thought that she and Lady S. could go for a nice hack around the Heath, and that went very well. (Accompanying photo might appear - we've been doing quite well for photos recently, thanks to Emma putting some up on recent blogs, so if you haven't seen any for a while you might like to scroll down to the past few chapters). Kate has had plenty of riding experience at home, although not on racehorses, so I'm probably being overcautious, but that's usually not a bad way to be with horses. I went with her on Brief Goodbye, who galloped yesterday and so was due for an easy exercise, and both horses and riders enjoyed the pleasant meander around the Heath in its full May glory.

My other two lots were less relaxing today: Racie Gracie first lot and Jack Dawson third lot. Gracie is a dear horse and actually a very easy ride, but she is always eager to be getting on with things, and wouldn't usually chose to walk when jig-jogging is an option, nor trot when hack cantering is an option. However, once you're used to her she's actually very straightforward, is a lovely ride at the canter and seems to be becoming more of an adult by the day. You could say the same about Jack, only I doubt he'll ever completely grow up: he's now ten but still behaves like a boy racer, so I don't suppose he'll ever change. I wouldn't want him to, either: you'd have to be of a very dour nature not to find a smile breaking on your face as you ride him, because his patent enjoyment of the exercise is infectious. The highlight of that ride was falling in behind Luca Cumani's string as they walked along the side of the Heath, and finding Sara observing the action on foot. She had a horrible fall a couple of months ago, in which I believe she broke a bone in her back, but seems more or less fully healed now. She said that she's itching to return to the saddle and would like to have started back already, but Luca has decreed that 1st June will be quite early enough.

I'd had the pleasure of receiving Luca's hospitality a couple of days ago, because he organised a lunch in the Jockey Club Rooms to which Peter Jones, chairman of the Tote was invited. The idea was that a few of us (ten - seven trainers, plus John Ferguson, Peter Stanley and Jack Ramsden) could take the opportunity to be filled in as to what the hell is happening with the Tote, so that the community of professional horseman, who in theory could be construed as interested parties, might feel marginally less out of the loop than has been the case. There is a blanket of silence over the Tote's dealings with the government, but Peter isn't actually involved in the deal so he was at liberty to tell us some of the little he knows or has worked out. It was an interesting occasion - and a very good lunch - and Peter did such a good job that it wasn't until at least half an hour after the gathering had broken up that I realised that I now had more unanswered questions in my head than I had had at the start.

In the next week or so we have three runners to look forward to. Brief Goodbye at Newmarket on Friday is the most immediate. He should run very well, although one can never be entirely sure how things are going to pan out for him until the race has been going for 20 seconds or so. Micky Fenton will be at Haydock, so Ted Durcan will be on board again, which won't be to the detriment of Brief's chances. Larry and Iris are coming up for the race and plan to stay with us afterwards, so an enjoyable afternoon and evening - Colin and Eileen Casey will join us for dinner - ought to be in store. By Storm is entered in two races at Leicester on Monday, and is likely to run in one of them, although if the current gorgeous weather persists that plan could be revised. And then Jill Dawson should run at Yarmouth on Wednesday. Kirsty galloped her yesterday and, from my close-up vantage point on Brief Goodbye, I'd say the filly is going extremely well, so we should be able to hope for a good run from her. Jill should again have a good supporters' club: in addition to her connections, we can expect to see a few of the friendly faces one normally finds at local meetings, plus there is likely to be a strong (friendly) contingent of the Great Yarmouth constabulary. There is a WPC in Yarmouth called Gill Dawson who keeps in touch with us, and she and her colleagues are keen followers of Jill's fortunes. Since they noticed her name in the papers early last year, they've been hoping she might run at Yarmouth, so the day has the potential to be a very pleasant one.

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