Thursday, June 03, 2010

Derby week

Yesterday's chapter said all that needs to be said about the Hatchfield Farm business, which stands out as the major episode of life in Newmarket during the current week. However, there's plenty on otherwise. We've had Anthony for three days, which was as brahmaful as ever; and it is, of course, Derby week, which is a week of great excitement in all stables, irrespective of whether one is involved in the racing at Epsom or not. I don't think, though, that Anthony will be losing too much sleep over the Derby as he remains among the unconverted as far as the magic of our sport is concerned. We had an illustration of that yesterday. Larry Stratton, the bloodstock agent, was here in the morning. He had been chatting to Anthony while the latter was eating his breakfast. I came into the dining room with Peter Corbett, who had come to watch Jenny Dawson (pictured yesterday leading Destiny Rules along the canter, and in whom Peter has a share) work, and I said to Anthony, "Would you like to come up to Warren Hill with Peter and I to watch Jenny work?". Anthony indicated that he would prefer not to, at which Larry, clearly surprised, exclaimed, "No? You don't want to go up to the Heath to watch the horses work? But you've just been sitting here telling me that you like racing!". To which Anthony, cool as you like, explained, "I meant car-racing."! On that basis, I'd say that, rather than send Anthony up a chimney as they used to do in the old days, I could hire him out to the Racing For Change quangoes and they could use him as a guinea pig: convert him and they'll have cracked it! Give him his due, though: he is very good at mooching around the yard 'supervising', as the above photograph, taken during today's lovely sunshine, of him de-briefing Hugh (who is really good with him) and Silken Thoughts in advance of that filly's run at Doncaster tomorrow evening, shows. That filly, incidentally, has done everything right since her debut three weeks ago and should go to the races in good form, having done her final canter under Hugh this morning in the sunshine up Long Hill (pictured here, the filly on the left).

In weather such as these photographs show, it is a pleasure to get out of bed in the mornings and head outside. I was very glad that I had my camera in my pocket when I rode onto the Severals just after 6.00 this morning, with Don Cantillon's string of three topping off the splendid sight the trees in the morning sunshine. Mornings like this are what we spend the winter (and spring and autumn) dreaming about, so we might as well revel in them while they are here! It wasn't like this at the start of the week, though, with some heavy rain on Saturday and then a decent band of rain passing over the country on Tuesday. Yesterday dawned very foggy as the rapidly-rising temperatures caused the rain-soaked grass to steam - and visibility was not at all good as I went to Railway Land on Ethics Girl shortly after 6.00. John Gosden's string was working on the Limekilns at the same time and the horse who particularly caught my eye as he emerged from the fog to cross the Norwich Road after his gallop was William Buick's mount, a big, strong dark bay colt with a white face. My Racing Post today (whose highlight, of course, is the photograph of Anthony et al. in protest mode outside the FHDC offices before last night's Hatchfield Farm meeting) tells me that that was Showcasing, a colt I have always liked and whom I like even more now. He has to be a big danger to the Aussie and HK raiders in whichever Royal Ascot sprint he contests. Nicconi, who looks to be strolling around the Heath as if he has lived here all his life, is the most obvious chance for the King's Stand, but his compatriots (pictured here, the former on the left) Alverta and Gold Trail looked extremely well and content when Anthony and I cycled down the Bury Road to pay them a visit on Tuesday's damp afternoon. More immediately, we have Epsom to looming, with Workforce being the Derby contender of whom I have seen most. I even saw him at Lingfield last week: around the time of the last race, I was surprised to see Michael Stoute's truck drive into the box park and to see Stuart Messenger, Paul Grassick, Allon Gur, Neil Varley and Steve Carroll emerge from it. All became clear when Workmate and two stable-companions followed them off: they were to spend the night there and gallop on the all-weather track in the morning. Workmate, generally ridden by Paul Grassick, has been easy to spot on the Heath recently in his crossed noseband and I'd be very happy to see him win the Derby - while Sariska (pictured here, back in the winter, under her lad Ian Smith), whom we see every morning and who looks really well (and probably looks more supple than she did for most of last year), would be another nice local winner were she to beat Fame And Glory in tomorrow's Coronation Cup.

Never mind the horses, though: the best sighting of the week has to have been a Lancaster bomber! On the drive to meet Anthony's mum in Hitchin at the start of his visit, I drove, as usual, past Duxford Air Museum, which is a wonderful place. Monday was a public holiday so there was plenty going on - and, unless I'm mistaken, that included a Lancaster bomber flying. I thought I saw one airborne as I approached Duxford and, as I drove away along the A505 towards the pet crematorium, I saw it turning round to begin an approach to land. I was so excited as it was going to pass very close to the road. I didn't have my camera, but a phone was to hand, so - probably breaking every rule in the book - I managed to take a photo in which it just appears. In this photograph it doesn't look very close, but I reckon it was only about 100 feet away, which was great. 'Shooting' it wasn't easy as, not only was I going around 45 mph in one direction while it went faster than that on the left-side (ie not the driver's side) of the car in the other, it was also passing through the smoke from the crematorium's chimney, which meant that it kept coming into and out of sight; so that, allied to the shutter-delay on a phone's camera, meant that, poor though this photograph is, it was a relief to have captured it at all. And, having done so, I can ask the question of anyone who is more clued up than I am: is this indeed a Lancaster?

8 comments:

tidmarshmichael said...

Wath

Possibly not a Lancaster from photo.I'm sure that they had a twin tail configuration and four engines, though hard to see for certain from photo the number of engines. Whatever type it is, truely a wonder to see and a credit to those that maintain and fly them. My pulse would have been racing.

John Berry said...

Thank you, Michael. We've had a suggestion that it's a Flying Fortress, in which case it's probably the Memphis Belle, which is a really exciting thought. I'm lucky that I didn't crash the car!

tidmarshmichael said...

That makes sense. We did see her on the tarmac on our last visit there and appeared air worthy.

Nathan said...

Duxford Air Museum; now that brings back childhood memories. I'm with the Memphis Belle theory too. If you google Memphis Belle in google images, it looks spot on. As for the Derby i hope Workforce runs well but i rather hope Rewilding wins, as he's carrying my ante-post winnings ;-)

p.s. great photo's as always - keep them coming please John...

Nathan said...

Forgot to add; Anthony's 'supervision' obviously had some effect as Silken Thought's ran a very promising race. She has the look of a nice miler given time...

Nathan said...

Wonderful victory for Newmarket.

John Berry said...

Cheers Nathan. Yes, great win for Workforce. Clearly a colt of the highest class and, fingers crossed, one with a huge future, given that he can do that on only his third start. Being owned by Khalid Abdullah, he's likely to be raced thoroughly rather than given a few runs and retired.

Alan Taylor said...

R.I.P. The Derby.
Congratulations to Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore on their professional win. That was what it was because it seemed devoid of excitement or emotion. In fact it seemed just business as usual.Racing pundits are wary of approaching them for interviews as if any grudging answers are given they are usually stinted and consist of one word.
The Derby did not make the back page but was confined to the racing sections. Racing for change may as well disband now as this was a P.R. disaster. Either their message isn't getting through or it is being ignored.When Frankie or Lester won a Derby the publicity transcends the racing industry and involves the general public.
The trainer and jockey dont seem " to do emotion".When Ryan Moore says he cant get excited about winning The Oaks, to my mind he should retire and allow someone who appreciates what the sport has given him and wants to give something back, to take his place. If he cannot "do emotion" then do what a lot of women do, Fake it.A simple punch in the air on passing the winning line or God forbid a flying dismount.Surely not to much to ask.
The Derby does not attract the best horses in the world and needs stories and emotion to keep its aura.Measure the human emotion of Tony Mcoys Grand National win and the media coverage. This years Derby is now just a statistic and another nail in the coffin of British flat racing.