Monday, August 16, 2010

Recent and forthcoming runners

Where to start? We've had loads of runners and have a few more coming up, so I ought just to touch on a few of them. Not least because that will give me the opportunity to put up a few photographs. One of the trips coming up, that which takes Ethics Girl to Musselburgh on Thursday, reminds me that this week should be really nice and hot, because I remember being at Musselburgh during a very hot Ebor week 13 years ago when Il Principe won there. That has been a track which has brought us good luck more often than not (but not invariably) so let's hope that she is able to follow in the footsteps of Il Principe (and of Warring Kingdom) by winning there in the colours of the 1997 Partnership (and under Franny Norton). It would be lovely to think that she could do so in similarly pleasant weather, but sadly we seem to have had our summer as we are already on to dark mornings and cooler, overcast and often rainy days. Still, one gets some nice skies in autumn, and this wasn't a bad one to be tacking up under the other morning. It was less, good, of course, when rain started falling from it shortly afterwards.

Looking at last week first, though, we started with Anis Etoile (pictured under Sophie Silvester before the race) at Wolverhampton. It was a run which was neither good nor bad. If she comes on a bit for it - which is perfectly possible as it was her first for a couple of months - she'll do OK, and if she doesn't she mightn't. We'll find a bit out tomorrow when she runs at Kempton, where we've had our latest bad draw. I went to Kempton last week too, but not before I'd had a couple of afternoons' work for At The Races (in the studio for the International Review show on the Tuesday with Gina Bryce and at Yarmouth on the Wednesday for a brahmafest with my former colleague Jason Weaver, who has made as good a go of his broadcasting career as he did of his hugely successful race-riding career) and had gone to Epsom (on the Thursday). I love going to Epsom whatever the circumstances, and it was a pleasure to run Hotfoot there. It was her third maiden race and she ran quite well to finish sixth of the eight runners. She ran well but wasn't quite good enough to trouble the principals, but one is entitled to think that she'll be better suited by handicap conditions than by meeting superior animals at level weights in maiden races. The really pleasing thing was how professional she was: she took the preliminaries like an old hand and then went round the notoriously tricky course as if she'd been galloping on difficult terrain all her life. I went down the to start with her again, but really was redundant this time, which is just the way I like it. I think you can work out how relaxed she was by this photograph of her and Iva wandering towards the gates behind the fourth-placed Child Of Our Time (Alan Munro) and the impeccably-bred (by Storm Cat ex Last Second) winner Fork Lightning (Seb Sanders).

The following day's trip to Kempton didn't take place in such pleasant conditions because it was a very wet day indeed. Happily it didn't immediately before or during Rhythm Stick's race, which was just as well as it's hard to see the funny side of a 95-mile journey which takes nearly three and a half hours, and it would be particularly hard to appreciate it if one got drenched shortly afterwards. He's such a laid-back horse (as this photograph of him walking around the paddock like an old handicapper) that it was no surprise that he gave no trouble and, while he was beaten a fair way, it was a satisfactory enough start to his career.

After having outings every day from Monday to Friday, it was something of a relief to spend Saturday at home, but I was back on the road again yesterday when Alpen Glen ran at a pleasantly warm and sunny Bath. As is often the case, I enjoyed all the time I spent at that lovely racecourse apart from the couple of minutes it took to watch our race. Still, the mare enjoyed herself: I've rarely taken a horse to the races who has shown less stress, physical or mental, during the course of procedings. I'm ashamed to admit that the task of getting her back to the form which she formerly showed when in her prime might be proving too tough an assignment, but it's very much a consolation that, even if she isn't running as one would like, our efforts to make her do so certainly aren't causing her any unhappiness - quite the opposite, in fact, as she seemed to have a lovely day yesterday. She just didn't run very well.

As you might know, I'm firmly of the opinion that jockeys in general ride no better when they win than when they finish down the field, and yesterday's race was a case in point. As is generally the case when one uses a true professional like Darryll Holland, we got great service from our man, who approached this unsuccessful ride on a 33/1 shot in a handicap at a minor meeting as conscientiously as if he were riding the favourite in a big race. A little incident before the race summed this up perfectly. When he weighed out, he was initially half a pound light, so the clerk of the scales gave him a small half-pound piece of lead to make up the difference. Rather than just open a pocket on his weight-cloth at random, Darryll opened all four and counted how many pieces were in each before deciding in which one to place the extra slab. I remarked to him that the fact that he'd done that was a tribute to his professionalism, but he handled my remark with the same bewilderment which one would exhibit if someone congratulated one on being good at tying one's shoe-laces. His reply, in tones which suggested that it this was just so obvious, was, "Well, of course you want to make sure that the lead in your weight-cloth is evenly distributed", to which I said with a smile, "Yes, you and I both know that, but most of them wouldn't give a sh*t!". We had another true professional here this morning as William Kennedy (who is pictured in these two photographs taken at the Links this morning) drove up to give Keep Silent yet another schooling session ahead of her jumps debut at Hereford on Wednesday. This filly really ought to handle the race well because she's had a very thorough preparation, and it'll help too that her jockey knows her like the back of his hand. She's maybe a bit cautious, but that's not a bad fault to have, and she certainly can jump neatly and accurately. Let's hope that she and William come home safely - and if she could run well too, then that would be the icing on the cake. She'll do well if she tries as hard as Douchkette tried at Wolverhampton this afternoon: she couldn't quit make the frame, but as usual she gave it her best shot - and that's all one can ask either man or beast.

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