Saturday, June 09, 2007

From St Kilda to King's Cross

From St Kilda to King's Cross is thirteen hours on a bus. So we're told anyway. However, the King's Cross Paul Kelly is singing about is King's Cross (NSW), but the one that most Aussies seem to be gravitating towards (or in the general global direction of, anyway) currently is King's Cross (UK). Cathy Payne has reappeared in James Franshawe's string a week or so ago, and then on Wednesday morning as I was riding down the Bury Road I saw Scottie McGhee, of Super Impose fame, walking into Geoff Wragg's stable. Then, later that morning, I had a pre-birthday treat as I enjoyed a viewing of Luca Cumani's two-year-olds working up Warren Hill in the company of Scottie's boss, Lee Freedman. I'd been up to watch Anis Etoile cantering around Side Hill woodchip with Steve McCormick and his parents, whose first visit to Newmarket it was. We decided to stop off on Warren Hill on the way down so they could see a bit more of the place, and as Luca Cumani's string were walking down the walking ground I thought we might as well hang around to watch them come back up; plus I wanted to see Luca, out of courtesy to check it was OK to use Heather McGhee at Nottingham that afternoon, on account of Marvin Cheung having told me (while riding out!) that he was too unwell to ride By Storm in her race that day. Luca was over by the far AW canter, so we walked on over. He was on his hack with three pedestrians, and as we drew closer it became apparent that these were Sara plus Mr and Mrs Lee Freedman. What a stroke of luck! Lee and Janelle were getting the tour, concentrating particularly on Paul Makin's horses, so we were included in the show once introductions had been made. It was a real thrill - also possibly a slight concern, as it made Anis Etoile's sedate tour of Side Hill look rather low-key, but then we just content ourselves with the parable of the tortoise and the hare, and get on with bringing our charges along slowly and, God willing, safely - and included brahmae such as "This filly (by Sadler's Wells, I think) is called such-and-such, but we just call her One Point Two, because that's what she cost" - and I don't think he meant thousand. Or hundred.

One amusing footnote to the above story was that I was tempted to tell Lethal Lee that I'd visited his property last November and been shown around by Scottie McGhee. However, a little voice inside my head cautioned silence, and I kept my recollections to myself. I don't know quite what made me think that the inevitable aftermath might be a conversation heading onto stoney ground - questions such as "How did that come about?" and "Who took you down there?" would have naturally occured - but Richard Sims' part-ownership of the Freedman inmate Monsam didn't necessarily seem the safest direction in which to steer the conversation - and I'm not just saying that because Luca used to employ Richard. Anyway, the wisdom of my decision was proved later the same day when I discovered, quite by chance, that Monsam has recently been removed from the Freedman stable and sent instead to rival Mornington-area trainer Tony Noonan. I didn't know this at the time, so thank God I didn't bring the subject up!

Anyway, that was definitely the highlight of a day which headed downhill thereafter, thanks to By Storm's pathetic effort, or lack thereof, at Nottingham. I think we've just got to say that we've done well to win with her, that the only twice she's run well (first and a close second) were in three-year-olds only sellers, and that a doubling of her tally of wins might be a long time coming. She's likely to head to the July Sale, so let's hope that she will find a home as either broodmare or racehorse (she's completely sound and does remain a racing prospect, albeit at a very low level) in a country where the standsards are less competitive than they are in the UK. Milton's Keen, however, had run very well the previous day when resuming at Lingfield, and Lady Suffragette had run OK from the worst draw (Milton too had been badly disadvantaged by his post position) at Southwell, bearing in mind that she was the widest runner with no cover at all throughout the race. And she is a horse who over-races if she isn't covered up.

My birthday didn't seem like a special day at all, as it was no less busy than any other day, but it ended very well, with dinner in the Plough in Ashley with Emma, Alix Choppin, Aisling O'Neill, Charlie Appleby and Ollie Marsh. It's always a good feed in there, and I came home with a very full belly. And a bagful of books, which was a real bonus. Thanks to various people's kindness, I won't be short of reading matter for a while, although arguably the most special one is one which I won't read in its entirety: Alix gave me a copy of the Aga Khan's stud book 2006, a beautiful leather-bound volume which will be both cherished and studied - but attempting to read it through would be a bridge too far!

Funnily enough, though, reading the Aga Khan's stud book probably wouldn't be any duller than listening to an Alec Guiness talking book called 'I can't recall my name' (or something like that) which Emma and I listened to, in part, yesterday as we drove up to Norfolk to collect My Obsession from the latest of his many holidays chez Kerry. We set off during the Jeremy Vine show, so the tape player was the obvious option. Alec Guiness was, naturally, less irritating than Jeremy Vine, but he was no less banal: it was like what a very long Seinfeld would be like if all the humour was removed, if that's possible, and if all the characters took themselves very seriously and genuinely believed that the minutiae of their social lives would be of interest to others. I'd guess it was an upmarket aural literary version of reality TV or a soap opera, although I wouldn't be the best person to tell you what reality TV programmes and soap operas are actually like. The funny thing is that I'll definitely listen to the remainder of it at some stage (we didn't listen to it on the return journey, because the Jeremy Vine show was over by then), and after that I'll lend it to my father, who I suspect will rather enjoy it. And yes, before anyone points this out to me, I am very aware that there could be an uncomfortable similarity between Alec Guiness' memoirs and my blog!

I'm currently waiting for the Belmont telecast to begin. This will be the televisual racing highlight of the day, bearing in mind that the Stradbroke Handicap and the Queensland Derby were both run after ATR's coverage of Eagle Farm this morning had gone off air. I watched quite a few UK races this afternoon and evening, the highlight of which in my eyes was the win of Annambo and Ted Durcan in the second last (8.35) at Newbury: he's trained in this yard by Dave Morris, not that you'd know that from watching Racing UK, because Lydia Hislop told us that he's trained by Derrick Morris, obviously oblivious to the fact that Derrick Morris relinquished his trainer's license three or four years ago. And never trained for Lady Tavistock even when he was a trainer. That's the second winner for Dave this week following the success of Wodhill Something Or Other at Southwell on Tuesday night, and another in-form Exeter Road trainer (Jonathan Jay) also struck on that card, as he won Lady Suffragette's race with Orchard House. That was a particularly nice occasion as it was the first win for Jonathan's industrious apprentice Gihan Arnolda. Gihan's adult life has been rather up and down, but he definitely deserved that win, and I was delighted to see him achieve it. The Don has had a few wins since moving in across the road, and Willie Musson has been in good form, so all we need now is for us to crank things up a gear or two. Jill, who has creditted us with our only success of 2007 to date, should run well on Monday, so hope can keep springing eternal in the human beast.

A couple of names to remember from today's racing are Meynell and Change Tack: each ought to win her/his next race. A disappointingly large proportion of the horses in the maidens at Lingfield this evening looked as if they had never seen starting stalls before or as if they never wished to see them again (or both), but I wouldn't criticise Meynell (or her jockey Cathy Gannon) for missing the start so badly: she'd been in there forever because of the antics of some of the other horses who were about to run in the race, or about not to run in the race in the case of the worst behaved, and just happened to be rearing when the stalls eventually did open. She'd be unlucky to be victim to such chaos a second time.

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