Sunday, August 08, 2010

Another long day

Today (yesterday) was another long day, but another good one too. It's rather depressing that we've already reached the time of getting up before dawn, but fingers crossed summer will last a fair bit longer yet, despite the fact that we're now getting quite a lot of rain and the days seem to be starting grey rather than golden, as this first lot shot over Bury Hill on Tuesday suggests. I had a nice start to today with the relief of finding Alpen Glen still in an amenable frame of mind: she is a feisty mare so today, the first time she'd been on the Heath since she ran last weekend, could have seen me having a lively ride, but she was as well behaved and relaxed as one could have hoped for. She's clearly thus come out of her race well, so let's now plan for her next outing. Also well behaved, I was pleased to see, was Iva's problem child/favourite horse Bouggie Diva, whom I saw cantering up Long Hill later in the morning, her first time up there since her win on Monday. As with Alpen Glen, Bouggie Diva is a livewire (considerably more of a livewire than Alpen, in truth) so it was good to see that she too has come out of her first-up race in a relaxed frame of mind, as she showed today by setting off up the canter with far less silliness than might have been the case. So let's hope that she can soon add to her winning tally.

That, sadly, is something which the mighty Harbinger won't be doing: today, as is common knowledge, he fractured a front cannon bone, an injury which is sure to be career-ending. In my case, receiving the news wasn't too worrying because I'd just ridden past Freemason Lodge, where the horse lives, and had seen a very lame bay horse with a white face being led out of his stable and into a horse ambulance, clearly having sustained an injury which was at once serious but patently not life-threatening; the fact that he had presumably been sound enough to walk home from the Heath, where the injury presumably had been sustained, alone was enough to tell one that. This was happening around 12.15 when Iva and I were riding along the Bury Road, so when we were told half an hour or so later that Harbinger had broken down, it was easy to deduce that he had been the horse whom we had seen, and that he thus was not in any mortal danger. Which was reassuring, because he's such a special horse that one wouldn't have wanted to have been thinking of him being on the critical list. Timing, as we know, is everything, so how fortunate that the injury happened today, rather than 15 or more days earlier, as then he wouldn't have been able to post that brilliant performance in the 'King George'. However, it's probably not a coincidence that the injury didn't happen until now: these injuries tend to be the culmination of an accumulation of stress, rather than one-off bolt-from-the-blue breaks, so it seems not unfair to conclude that the stress of galloping hard on what was clearly a very firm track at Ascot was a major factor in the accumulation of the little bits of damage to the bone which today opened up into a full-blown fracture. But at least, just as Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart would always have Paris, Harbinger's connections and umpteen admirers, of which I am one, will always have Ascot, and for that we should be very grateful.

Ascot also put on some great entertainment today at the Shergar Cup fixture. My highlight of the meeting was Luke Nolen's winner, and how appropriate it was that that victory should have come on a son of Reset. It was good also to see Hayley Turner salute the judge, as she generally does at this fixture, and it would be wrong to refer to the meeting without doffing one's hat to Mark Johnston and Andrew Balding for their doubles. We didn't get on the score-sheet with our runner for the day, Jenny (pictured) at Lingfield this evening, but she again showed a small amount of improvement on her (admittedly very poor) previous form, so it's not impossible still to justify hopes that this very late-developer will one day uphold her family's tradition of entering a winner's enclosure. Time, as always, will tell. More immediately, however, sleep takes priority: although I generally gravitate towards bed as soon after 9pm as I can, I tend to take some time to unwind after a long drive, so evening meetings (as tonight - we were in the last race at 8.20, by which time dusk was starting to fall, as this photograph of Jenny cantering to post indicates) generally see me going to bed far later than I'd like. But it's now well past midnight, so I hope that sleep will be imminent.

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