Saturday, July 24, 2010

Days at the races

As you might have worked out from the previous chapter, we only had five runners during the period in which I went to the races on six consecutive days. The reason for this anomaly is that, with runners on Saturday to Tuesday inclusive and then on Thursday, I took Alpen Glen to Lingfield on the Wednesday. As this photograph of her surveying Side Hill in the morning sunlight suggests, she's a sweet, intelligent mare with a kind disposition. However, she's also prone to finding things a bit stressful and, for one reason or another, I've found it keeps her and my life simpler if I don't do too much fast work with her at home. She's my first ride every morning (we go out quite early when the Heath is still quiet, and sadly we are now already far enough past the longest day for mornings to be starting to be a bit gloomy when we set off, which is rather a depressing thought at a time when the summer holidays are only just starting) and is generally a really nice ride, so I thought that, rather than put her under pressure at home, I'd give her a racecourse gallop as the finishing touches to her preparation for her seasonal debut. It would have been perfect had it been feasible to do this at a meeting when we had a runner, but Lingfield AW was the obvious venue, and after racing on Wednesday, when we didn't have a runner, was the obvious time. So I took her down there, was delighted with her conduct before, during and after our solo gallop around the track, and have decided that she can resume at Thirsk next Saturday. She's a lovely mare who has, on her best form, a lot of ability. She also has questions to answer as she clearly lost her form badly towards the end of last year, so it's going to be an interesting project - but it's a project which I wouldn't be undertaking unless there was some realistic hope of a happy outcome. We'll see.

While my mind wasn't really on the racing at Lingfield becauase I was more concerned with my own post-racing business, it was an interesting card. I found the 12-furlong maiden particularly interesting. We were initially accustomed to thinking of AW racing as the second-class variety, but currently its maidens appear the strongest of the lot. This is understandable with the turf tracks being very firm: people with good horses about whom they feel protective seem understandably to be thinking that the Polytrack surface might be the safest option. This maiden was a case in point as it contained some real blue-bloods. Obviously not all of the blue-bloods can or want to gallop (a three-year-old colt by Kingmambo out of the Oaks winner Eswara seemed happy enough to finish last, about one and a half furlongs behind the winner, acting as if he believed himself well enough bred to go straight to stud without the need to prove his credentials by winning races) but some of them could, most notably the winner Zigato, an Azamour half-brother to the mighty Sariska. I was very pleased to see this lovely colt win, not least because I was able to share in the pleasure which the victory gave to his lad, Glenroy Brown. As I've mentioned in the past, this blog isn't a tipping column, but one useful betting system is often to follow any horse which Glenroy looks after. I recall him looking after a very good horse when he worked for Jeremy Noseda (I think it might have been Sixties Icon, but I could be wrong about that) and he now seems equally adept at unearthing useful prospects in John Gosden's stable. I'm sure that we'll see more of Zigato, and I'll be very surprised if a two-year-old which Glenroy rides every day (a Galileo half-brother to Showcasing, pictured above) doesn't turn out to be very good too.

I paid rather more attention to the racing at Yarmouth on Monday, the day when Jenny ran. This was just as well because I'd had the call-up to help Luke Harvey on At The Races. Usually my tipping is lousy on the TV, but this time I managed to find four of the six winners (there were seven races, but I didn't have to report for duty until after Jenny had run in the first) which was just as well: I had made rather a major blunder early in the show, so thereafter felt that I had some considerable need of redemption. Thankfully Luke saved me from drowning in my own stupidity so I almost got away with my mistake, but I might as well own up. One's used to seeing a two-year-old seller on seemingly every card at Yarmouth in the summer. There was only one two-year-old race on the programme. I did the form on it properly, working through the runners alphabetically. Having studied the credentials of the first one, a seemingly unremarkable colt trained by John Jenkins, I then came to the second one, a gelding trained by Bill Turner (who seems to have a runner in every Yarmouth two-year-old seller) who had already been beaten in a seller. Stupidly, I thus got the notion into my head that this race was a seller, and that notion stuck there. Although I subsequently found that most of the runners had already shown promise in maidens, my initial misconception had taken root, and rather than re-think the initial premise (or read the title of the race) I merely kept shaking my head and mumbling to myself, "Mmm, I'm surprised that he's dropping this into a seller quite so quickly". Anyway, the show began and Luke kicked off the pre-race analysis by discussing the favourite, a Barathea filly trained by John Dunlop who had followed up an ordinary debut in a Newmarket maiden with a very promising staying-on third place in a maiden at Doncaster. My comment was something like, "Yes, this is a very promising filly who ran really well last time in a maiden race at Doncaster, which ought to mean that she's a good thing here. I must say that I'm surprised that John Dunlop has dropped her into a seller so quickly, but the strange thing about the race is that there several horses here who have shown promise in maidens and one could make exactly the same comment about them too". Thank God for Luke's quick thinking! I'd clearly thrown myself out of the aeroplane without a parachute, but Luke was kind enough to reach out and pull me back on board before I plunged to my doom, turning to camera and saying in a matter-of-fact way (but emphatically enough for even me to pick up on it), "This race is, of course, a median auction maiden ...". I'm well accustomed to being embarrased by the consequences of my own stupidity, but this occasion took the biscuit. So you'll understand why I was thereafter more than anxious to tip a few winners!

Things picked up considerably at Yarmouth thereafter, one of the more memorable aspects of the afternoon being that three good apprentices rode winners. One of these has featured on this blog previously - the hugely promising Adam Beschizza, who rode the Chris Dwyer-trained Rough Rock very well to beat Kieren Fallon in a photo-finish - while the other two were Harry Bentley (apprenticed to Gary Moore) and Sophie Silvester (apprenticed to Jeff Pearce). The latter (pictured here in the winter/spring, with Simon Pearce on the horse behind her) won the closing apprentice handicap on Count Ceprano, who must now be a popular horse within Jeff's stable, having been ridden by the stable's other apprentice, Jeff's and Lydia's son Simon, to victory at Newbury ten days previously. So that race was a good one for the little enclave of stables at the bottom of Warren Hill, especially as the runner-up was the John Ryan-trained Clearing House. I see plenty of this horse and his workmate Weeza as they are usually on the Heath when Alpen Glen goes out: the ever-industrious Iva and her colleague Lewis Walsh ride one lot for John before starting in Jane Chapple-Hyam's stable at 6.30, and this is the pair of horses whom they ride. It was rather a shame for poor Lewis as he missed riding Clearance House. Iva obviously wasn't eligible to ride in the race, but Lewis (who usually rides the horse in the mornings while Iva rides the filly, as this photograph of the pair on Warren Hill one morning last month shows) was, but sadly he was meant to ride a horse for Jane in the race - and by the time that Jane's horse was scratched, Alan Bailey's apprentice Natasha Eaton had been engaged for Clearance House. But that's racing: luck is either on one's side at the time, or it isn't.

Luck wasn't on Ryan Moore's side today as he found that he had elected to ride the wrong horse in the King George at Ascot. It would have been hard, though, to ride against a horse on whom one had won the Derby last time out, whoever the alternative might have been - and especially when that Derby winner appeared to have thrived greatly since his famous victory. It's been one of the pleasures of the summer to see plenty of Workforce, pictured here under his lad Paul Grassick four days after the Derby, and he really is a mighty horse: I'm sure that on better ground we'll see him regain his former dominance, assuming that he hasn't taken any permanent harm from racing on what was clearly a very firm surface today. One can't, though, take anything away from the brilliant, record-breaking Harbinger though, a horse who has occupied a special place in my affections since the Sunday last autumn when I caught him when he was loose on the Heath. My one concern on that occasion was that he might have tried to cover the filly I was riding as he approached (Destiny Rules) - after today's victory, I should perhaps have encouraged such a union, rather than prevented it!

No comments: