Friday, April 30, 2010

Guineas week

We've had a couple of runners this week and we have another one tomorrow, so it's been and is being a busy time. Monday's runner, Batgirl, was particularly good because she belied her astonishing SP of 150/1 in a 5-horse race to run third. (Well, she'd actually been 150/1 in a 6-horse race, which then became a 5-horse race when one filly refused to go into the gates; so, as there was a resultant 5p in the pound deduction, we probably ought to describe her as a 142.5/1 shot in a 5-horse race). I'd been relatively chipper about her chances until I read in the race-book that she had "shown no promise" in her two previous races. Mind you, I did think that that assessment was unjustifiably harsh, as I'd thought that she'd run quite well the second time - although maybe I'm easily pleased. Or maybe I was watching the wrong horse. Or maybe the assessor was watching the wrong horse. Or maybe Timeform was watching the wrong horse, as might well have been the case judged on its summation of her in the current annual of "small filly" - if I had to sum her up in two words, I'd say "big filly". Still, it would be a less interesting world if we all saw things the same way. Anyway, she posted a very nice resumption, doing everything right and plugging away bravely in the posse who collectively gave vain chase to the 1/6 winner Party Doctor, the 109-rated horse who understandably showed his rivals a clean pair of hooves.

I had a very enjoyable trip to Wolverhampton with Batgirl, but I wasn't present at Lingfield the following day when Douchkette ran a fair race to finish sixth in a competitive handicap. I was, instead, in the At The Races studio on Tuesday as I had another enjoyable stint on the International Review Show. We had four Group One races from Randwick to discuss, plus three Group races from Longchamp, plus the two international Group One races from Sha Tin. From a British point of view, of course, the main interest at Sha Tin was in Presvis, but I couldn't help thinking, or saying, that the main talking point was the seemingly half-hearted ride given by Darren Beadman to the favourite in the QEII Cup, Collection. One never likes to be too overtly critical for fear of litigation (although, realistically, an Australian jockey riding in Hong Kong isn't going to pay much attention to what is said on a British satellite TV channel) so I was relieved to discover the following day that the stewards in Hong Kong had opened an inquiry into Beadman's ride. So, just as with the perceived promise of Batgirl's run at Newmarket last autumn, maybe I wasn't seeing things after all!
Mention of Presvis reminds us of how much we read about how much luck his style of racing requires, and also about how he only seems to win with Ryan Moore on board. (Ryan Moore's record on him is five wins from eight rides, whereas the horse's record with all other jockeys is one win from 10 runs). What we always forget, though, is the identity of the only other jockey to have won on him: Luca's former apprentice Michael Murphy, son of the former National Hunt jockey and some-time trainer Mick. Michael's a nice lad and a very decent rider and, while it's hard to see him getting on board anything of Presvis' calibre in the immediate future, he's still race-riding, and I was delighted to see him ride a winner for Chris Dwyer a couple of weeks ago. He's done some travelling overseas (I think he's worked in both Australia and America) but is back here now, working for Des Donovan, in whose in-form string he is pictured here recently, behind Robbie Hooper and Tim Bailey.

In Newmarket, the main event this weekend is obviously the racing, but during the week the most notable occurence has been, sadly, Greville Starkey's funeral. To add to the community's loss, this week also saw the death of another former jockey, Mick Miller, whose riding career peaked in the late '70s and early '80s when he was riding for Geoff Huffer, who was training for Cheveley Park Stud at the time. Mick rode the Ayr Gold Cup winner First Movement (1981) for that team, so it was nice more recently that he should have spent time working for Geoff again during the latter's most recent spell in the training ranks, when he sent out Cockney Rebel to win the 2,000 Guineas three years ago. Mick had finished riding out by that time, his last riding job being for John Gosden, for whom he worked for many years, riding several very good horses in their homework, including the Prix de l'Abbaye winners Keen Hunter and Wolfhound. I fondly remember galloping with him up the Al Bahathri one morning while he was still working there. Andy 'Oddjob' Brown and Lynsey Knocker were at the time in the process of getting their breaking and pre-training operation off the ground (which now operates so successfully in Hamilton Road and whose graduates include Extreme Conviction, who was a yearling en route to Jeremy Noseda's stable when he arrived there). Andy was still working for John Gosden at the time of the gallop, and when they were pre-training a decent handicapper (whose name I can't remember, but who went on to do quite well for David Elsworth, if my memory serves me semi-correctly) they asked Mick to gallop him for them one day. I provided a workmate. Again, I can't remember which horse that would have been, but I do remember enjoying the gallop - and I also remember enjoying Mick's company on that day and on numerous occasions subsequently. He was a very nice man indeed and he is sorely missed.

I won't be watching the 2,000 Guineas tomorrow as I'll be en route to Doncaster at the time, as tomorrow sees the debut of First Pressing (seen here enjoying the afternoon sunshine with her mate Silken Thoughts earlier this month). She's a lovely filly, a real pleasure to train, so I'm really looking forward to seeing her run. Even the most superficial analysis of ten-year trends makes it plain that victory for her would be a surprise, because winning two-year-old debutant(e)s from this stable are as commonplace as snow-balls in hell. Go back to 1996, though, and we did have two two-year-old first-starters each finish second on debut (Seaside and Largesse) so a decent run isn't impossible. It's a hot race, though, so let's just hope that she acquits herself well, enjoys the experience and comes home safely. If she does that, then I'll enjoy the day and I hope that her very nice bunch of owners will be able to do so too. And if her half-brother Lord Zenith could put up a bold showing in the 2,000 Guineas, then that would be further cause for pleasure.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I hope the weather holds up for you at Doncaster John. I'll be watching the 2000 Guineas, hoping Awzaan runs a big race...