Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ex Con rolls on

It's hard to believe it because today it's pretty much rained all day, but yesterday was a lovely day. A bit cold maybe, but great. Of course, over and above the sunshine, the highlight was Ex Con recording his fourth hurdles victory of his current preparation by winning at Market Rasen, putting up a magnificent display under a typically excellent ride from William. After my scare-mongering about what ground we were likely to encounter, it looked to be a very good surface, one which could have drawn complaints from no one. Not that I was able to inspect it close up, mind, as I went to Wolverhampton with Alpen Glen, leaving Hugh to hold the fort at Market Rasen - just as he had done the only other time we'd had a winner there, when Lady Suffragette won there a few years ago. So that was really good - as was the fact that the win was particularly well timed as it coincided with the birthday of Ken Gibbs, one of the great bunch of people who make up the All Points West Partnership.

My trip to Wolverhampton was not successful, but that's not the end of the world as we were travelling there with a small amount of hope but no expectation whatsoever: Alpen Glen had given fairly solid indication already that she was never going to recapture her former good form, and this was just one final throw of the dice to make sure that, when we retired her, we would do so knowing that we had given her every chance to show something. Which we have now done, so she can head off to be a mum with us knowing that we aren't missing anything through her absence from the racecourse. I'm just pleased that she ends her racing career sound and happy because, having had a few things go wrong with her over the years, she's found it physically and mentally rather a strain. However, as this photograph of her approaching the stalls ever so calmly last night shows, I'm happy that, while ultimately racing was no longer for her, she wasn't upset about being asked still to compete, because she was very calm and relaxed both before and after the race. If she'd been unhappy about it, she'd have let us know. I've become very fond of her, so I wouldn't have wanted her to be worrying about her racing.

A big part of giving the filly every chance last night was having John Egan on her back. If we believe the press, the best rides are the winning ones, but of course you and I know that that is nonsense. It's great to be seeing John in action again as he's such a good jockey, and predictably his ride on Alpen Glen yesterday was spot on, notwithstanding the fact that she wasn't able to take advantage of the help which she received from saddle. His winning ride an hour previously, just before the sun disappeared under the western horizon, on the David Griffiths-trained Not My Choice was similarly good, with that horse benefitting from the help of probably the best European jockey at getting a horse out of the stalls fast. Two lengths clear from the start, he did as little as possible through the middle of the race, and the others never looked like getting near him. These photographs suggest that John was pretty happy with the result, and he was entitled to be. Less happy, I'm sure, would have been young Tom Fanshawe today, who was set to take part in a pony race at Ascot but who ended up having his mount withdrawn at the start after he had lost control, and very nearly his seat, on the way to post. Howevever, if it's any consolation to Tom, he did very well indeed because it was a great feat of horsemanship, having found himself nearly off the horse at speed with both legs on one side, to get back into the saddle at the gallop and regain control of the pony. As we know, Matt Chapman doesn't give out compliments liberally, but he was fulsome in his praise of Tom's riding, saying that he deserved 'Ride of the Week' for his acrobatic display, which we saw on ATR. So, while Tom didn't get the result which he wanted from his trip to Ascot today, he's certainly done himself plenty of good in letting the world at large know of his promise as a horseman.


Alan Taylor said...

Cometh the hour cometh the man !

John you kindly let me ride Ex Con on a visit to your stables before he had ever run. I have to be honest I thought he was a moderate animal and you would not gain any success with him. Whilst the races he has won might not be world class, the fact that you have trained and placed him to win four races is a testimony to your ability as trainer.You have achieved the maximum result from what was available to you .We know the vagaries of training mean in twelve monthes time you may not have enough inmates!!to carry on.Lets hope anyone hoping to enjoy the thrill of racehorse ownership will take up the cheap option of joining one of your syndicates.

John Berry said...

Thanks Alan. Yes, Ex Con has been our version of the ugly duckling who became a swan. That's the beauty of racing: while the majority of horses end up being less successful than you think/hope/dream, there's always the odd one who just keeps improving and keeps giving you the right sort of surprise. It's horses like this that help to keep all our dreams alive.