Sunday, August 22, 2010

Brahmae (continued)

Another busy week. Bath Sunday with Alpen Glen. I passed on the trip to Wolverhampton on Monday with Douchkette as there's a limit to how many days I can spend away from home without neglecting things here to a dangerous degree, but Tuesday was Kempton with Anis while on Wednesday I was heading north with Ethics Girl while Keep Silent ran at Hereford. Thursday duly saw me spending the day at Musselburgh with Ethics, while Friday I spent all day at home (well, that's not entirely true because I didn't get home from Musselburgh until after midnight) before Saturday took me to Sandown where Silken Thoughts (pictured) ran. So that was the week that was. This week will be semi-similar, but then the evening racing ends, the racing programme is halved and we shall be back to a more normal routine, with less racing meaning that a day at the races is once again the exception rather than the rule.

I can't say that last week was productive - Ethics Girl, who ran below form but still managed to finish third by default, was our only place-getter - but that was predictable: as I've remarked previously, the difference between success and failure seems to be massive, but in fact is only wafer-thin, so a period of results which made us look better than we are had almost inevitably to be followed by a period which would make us look worse than we are. It was fortunate that Ethics only had four rivals because she could run below form and still pay for her trip, her genuineness ensuring that she beat a couple of them despite having looked for most of the race as if she would run last. It was a lack-lustre performance, but it was the first time she'd had to go to the races the day beforehand and one can never be shocked when a horse under-performs while staying away. The 150 seconds or so spent watching her race aside, the trip was a true pleasure because I (nearly) always enjoy visiting Musselburgh, a track which must surely vie with Kelso for the title of Britain's friendliest racecourse. The journey, too, was a pleasure: I went up via the Carter Bar and the Borders and came home along the A1 down the coast. It was lovely weather, albeit less warm overnight than down here, and the view from the top of the Carter Bar was as good as one would ever find it, with visibility good for dozens of miles.

One brahma of the trip to Scotland was staying in a Premier Inn, courtesy of Musselburgh racecourse. We are, of course, currently unhappy about the high-rise Premier Inn which is being built at the end of this road and which threatens to alter the centre of Newmarket for the worse; but the Musselburgh Premier Inn is a great place with a great dining room, even if it seems considerably more expensive than Lenny Henry would have us believe - the racecourse was billed 85 pounds for my room for the night (and it seemingly should have been 121 pounds but for the 36-pound discount which was applied for unexplained reasons). That's bloody expensive for the use of an unremarkable room for one night, with breakfast not included; while one doesn't expect a racecourse to provide one's food when one stays overnight, one would have thought that an hotel charging this much would throw in breakfast - and body lotion, which wasn't in evidence, an omission which would surely have stunned Alan Partridge, who could, of course, measure the length of his stay in the Travel Tavern on the Norwich ring-road by the number of bottles of body lotion in the cardboard box under his bed.

Another aspect of the trip to Musselburgh which was very good was the racing surface. In a week which featured the York Ebor meeting, run on as poorly-maintained a track as one would ever see, it was refreshing to walk on the track at Musselburgh which, although not in pristine condition, was in as good a condition as one could hope to find at this stage of the season. The groundsmen there are clearly very good, so it was no surprise to find one of our former Heathmen - a man called Andrew, who used to be Mike Smith's deputy at the Links before leaving a few years ago to work at Ayr - on the staff. So all was good (bar our run, of course) and the icing on the cake was that we had (naturally) a brahma. There is a theory doing the rounds that I'm not very good at putting saddles on horses, a theory which is actually based on some sort of evidence, but which I would contend holds no water. Adherents to this theory would not be surprised that a horse which I saddled at Musselburgh (the Rae Guest-trained winner Zubova, pictured in the unsaddling enclosure after the race) had to be re-saddled at the start! In my defence, I must point out that, after saddling her, I felt uneasy about the fact that she was wearing elastic girths and wasn't wearing a breast-girth (and her shape in this photograph will make you understand why) so I told Silvestre de Sousa to check his girths before cantering to the start; furthermore, after he'd re-saddled her at the start, the saddle again moved markedly backwards during the race, and he asked me to pass on the advice to the trainer that she wear a breast-girth the next time she races! So I don't feel too bad about it - and what I do feel good about is having had my first dealings with that jockey (pictured on one of his two winners on the card, the former Greg Chung-trained Mandarin Spirit, who is now a stalwart of Linda Perrett's stable) who is surely bound for greatness. He is in the same position which John Egan was in a decade ago, a relatively unknown but truly great rider (as was shown by the fact that, watching Silvestre win on Zubova, one would never have noticed how far the saddle had slipped, because he made it seem no inconvenience at all) mopping up at the minor meetings. John, of course, being human, is blessed/cursed with a few human frailties which have prevented him from realising his full potential (ie he has never been champion jockey, a position which he certainly has the talent to have occupied) and I have no way of knowing whether Silvestre has the temperament to reach the top; but there is no doubt that he has the ability, and he seems a thoroughly decent and professional man too.

While the re-saddling of Zubova was my personal brahma of the week, objective brahma of the week (year) surely has to be the "appalling incident" which saw a fancy-dressed reveller escorted off the course at Market Rasen last weekend after being found publicly masturbating in front of the stands. I don't know what we can say about this, but we ought at least to make sure that it doesn't go unobserved - and ditto to Simon Crisford's post-Great Voltigeur remarks about Rewilding: "The Leger is a race we love. We wouldn't rule out the Arc, but the Leger is his target this year. No horse is too good to run in the Leger". Hear, hear.

Our final outing of the week was to Sandown, where Silken Thoughts ran in the nursery. She's run in two nurseries now and I can't say that things have gone entirely her way on either occasion, but she's clearly going the right way, which is great. Fingers crossed everything will fall into place with her eventually - and we shouldn't forget, of course, that Snow Fairy was beaten in a nursery last year (admittedly only once). Star of the show at Sandown, though, had to be the unimposing but very talented Seta (pictured on the Heath a month or so ago) who initiated a double for Luca Cumani and J-P Guillambert (in the absence of Kieren Fallon who was in America to ride Summit Surge in the Arlington Million) by landing the opening Listed race. I didn't see Luca there, so he obviously wasn't one of the people who had come by stretch Hummer, there being two such vehicles in the car park - one of which (pictured) was still there when we left the track and one of which (also pictured) I overtook on the M25 a few miles down the road. So that was good, as was the fact that little Tom Fanshawe rode his first winner in the pony race. I don't see Tom every day, but in his holidays he's a regular in his father's string and he always seems a wonderful little boy so I was so pleased for him. The pony racing circuit seems to be generating an enormous amount of pleasure among the participants and their families, and it was great to see Tom's beaming little face, and also to see other regular participants such as Jonjo O'Neill jr and Jimmy Quinn's son Josh, who I'm told has the potential to be as great a rider as his father. And finally, while on the subject of descendants of great riders, it would be wrong not to mention the brahma of the race at Wolverhampton on Monday which Douchkette contested, in which William Carson surely earned his place in the record books: he might not have been the first jockey to win a 9.5 furlong handicap by 17 lengths, but he is surely the first to collect a ban for excessive use of the whip while doing so. That's the great thing about racing: every time one thinks one's seen it all, another brahma comes cantering over the horizon.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Although i'm sure you have enjoyed the summer months John, i bet your looking forward to a break from evening racing...?

I'd be interested to hear your views about how going racing has changed over the years from your point of view in a future blog entry.