Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Angels aloft

We've had an illustration of the perils which can await the horseman around every corner because we had the drama of two flying Angels earlier this week in an incident that was not even remotely predictable half a minute before it happened. I had a very pleasant start to a Monday morning by following the two Angels down the sand canter on the other side of the Cambridge Road, heading towards the Links. I was able to enjoy the view in comfort because I was on my hack (Ex Con), but my pleasure at the view turned to horror as I saw a pair of large dogs up ahead, two quick-moving ice-bergs to the Angels' Titanic. Both Angels were riding very sensible horses, but there's only so much one can expect even a sensible horse to tolerate, and having a pair of large dogs run at a horse while he's going up the canter is probably as good a way as any of ensuring that that horse does a 180-degree turn in the blink of an eye. Sure enough, the leader (Kadouchski) did just that, and Gemma had little option but to fly through the air (very gracefully, I might add). It looked for a second or two as if Aisling might be OK - but then her mount reproduced Kadouchski's manoeuvre, and Aisling reproduced Gemma's. She reproduced it as closely as one could get, too, because she landed on Gemma, the sight of which, although not funny at the time, has proved one to savour once it had become clear that no lives had been lost. We know that the Angels like to do things together (as this photograph taken earlier this year suggests) but this was a true brahma. What, of course, as potentially less brahmatic was the fact that whether the Angels were hurt was not the only worry: the two horses were galloping homewards, with the most obvious option open to them being to shoot out into the heavy Monday-morning traffic on the Cambridge Road. Thankfully, they didn't do that, instead over-shooting the gap in the hedge and continuing on down to the bottom of the field by the cemetry, where, as luck would have it, a couple of Heathmen were cutting a hedge, a task they were kind enough to interrupt to the catch the horses. So that was fine, and the Angels have got off with nothing more than a stiff neck (Aisling) and a seriously bruised leg (Gemma). But it could so easily have been so much worse - as, I think, all three of us would have told the dogs' owner in no uncertain terms had the eejit been anywhere in sight, which he wasn't.

The above story is a classic illustration of my point that you go through life and the difference between a good result and a bad result is merely whether luck is on your side or not. Obviously we were unlucky to have two loose dogs there, but basically the difference between landing and being bruised and landing and being badly hurt is just luck, while the difference between those horses being caught unharmed and being killed on the road (and possibly killing some motorists in the process) was again just the toss of a coin. But, while we know that, it's best not to dwell on it too much or we'd never get back on a horse - although it might be worthwhile for dog owners to dwell on it the next time they're going to let their dogs loose on the Heath, or for hurrying motorists to dwell on it the next time they're kicking on along the roads around the town.

I had a further illustration of the vagaries of luck on Monday. I'd been ruminating about the difference of being an in-form trainer and an out-of-form trainer (and there isn't a difference, really, as you're still the same person, but on different days) so I checked on the 'Signposts' page in the Racing Post to see the 'Hot' and the 'Cold' lists - and my point was illustrated perfectly. Top of the Cold List was George Prodomou, a nice man who trains a couple of miles off the A11 between Thetford and Attleborough. George had had umpteen consecutive losers to have attained this eminence on the list - but it was merely the toss of a coin which meant that George was on a losing run of 50 or whatever, rather than a losing run of zero, because it can only have been by tossing a coin that the stewards at Lingfield on Saturday night could have decided not to demote Corr Point in favour of George's horse Tower, who had lost at least a length when hampered before rallying to be beaten by a diminishing half-length at the line. It was a strange decision which I would imagine would be reversed if Tower's connections were to decide to appeal, but it meant the difference of being top of the cold list or a trainer in form. I had, incidentally, no vested interest in the result, but I'd have liked to have seen the placings altered, not just to see justice done, but also because I'd have liked to have seen Saleem Golam ride what I think would have been his first winner since starting work for John Gosden a couple of weeks ago. Sal has struggled since dead-heating for the apprentices' title with Hayley Turner a few years ago, but he's a good rider and a hard-worker. It appears that, rather than try to eek out a living as a pure freelance, he has started riding out for John Gosden, a move for which I applaud him. John is very good to these battling hoops because he always has a handful in his string (in which Sal is seen here last week, behind his colleague Duncan)) and I'd guess that he pays them a decent wage over and above giving them the odd ride. The currently-injured Rab Havlin springs immediately to mind, as does (currently) Nicky Mackay and (previously - before he went to Australia) David Kinsella, and it won't do Sal any harm to be in that good stable either, particularly as he had a couple of race-rides on nice horses for John last weekend.

We have three busy days ahead of us so I mustn't waffle for long, because I'll have to organise myself for running six horses, spread over four meetings, over three days, which is quite daunting. Douchkette and Ex Con (pictured relaxing on Sunday with Ethics Girl, both horses getting their energies back after their races last week) will get the ball rolling at Stratford tomorrow, with Silken Thoughts running at Glorious Goodwood (great excitement!) on Friday, and Saturday seeing Destiny Rules and Alpen Glen heading up to Thirsk and Batgirl doing down to Lingfield in the evening. It'll be tiring, physically and mentally, and I'll either end up feeling elated or deflated; I suppose the fates will just have to toss a coin to decide which outcome it shall be. I came home from Windsor on Monday night happy enough. Hotfoot (pictured nearing the start before the race) ran a nice race to be sixth, doing everything right before, during and after the race. She wasn't good enough for that decent maiden company, but she's shown that her heart's in the right place and she's done enough to suggest that she can make her mark in the right company in the fullness of time. I went down to the start again with her but really there wasn't much for me to do this time other than stand around like a lemon and take a few photographs on a warm but overcast summer's evening. Still, it's better to be over-cautious and take precautions which one then finds aren't needed, than to be too gung-ho and stand helpless in the stands watching chaos break out half a mile away. And I do rather like going to the start of a race: it's very instructive to see how a particular horse copes with things down there, over and above it just being a very interesting thing to do even if one has no particular interest in any one of the runners. The added bonus at Windsor is having to go through a flock of 100 or so geese to get there, birds which fortunately never seem to interfere with the races but which just add extra charm to what is a lovely and deservedly popular racecourse.

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