Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Life goes on

Life does, of course, go on, and that's just how it should be as it's in human nature to try to survive. Happily for us, life went on very successfully at Yarmouth last Wednesday as Batgirl won in very gritty fashion. Dane O'Neill had suggested that when she'd won on firm ground over six furlongs, she'd done so despite, rather than because of, the ground and the distance, and her victory last week on a wet track over seven furlongs suggests that he got that one spot-on. The only shame was that Tony Fordham, her owner, was not there to see it, the only time that he's had to miss one of her runs, but I'm sure that it was nearly as exciting watching on the television as it was there. The victory also provided an illustration of the adage that one should back the first jockey one sees: I'm not sure that Tom McLaughlin was actually the first jockey whom I saw on Wednesday, but he was surely the first jockey whom I saw twice. When we were returning first lot we passed him heading out to the Heath among Ed Dunlop's first lot, and then when I was coming home on my second horse I saw him heading out on a second one of Ed's horses, as the photograph at the top of the chapter shows, with him riding alongside Lyndsey Hannah, formerly a good apprentice with David Barron but now best known for looking after the Oaks winner Snow Fairy. I saluted Tom with a "See you this afternoon", and happily that is exactly what I did, seeing him riding into the winner's enclosure on Batgirl (pictured) after the last race, by which time conditions were considerably gloomier than they had been a few hours previously.

Leaving aside the fact that the runner won, it was very good just to have a runner at Yarmouth that day as it provided an opportunity to visit Iva in hospital. It turned out that she had chosen a very good day to get injured: being hospitalized on the first day of a three-day meeting ensures that one gets plenty of visitors on one's first couple of days of confinement, even if not thereafter. Sure enough, there was a good turnout of colleagues and friends taking the opportunity to call into the ward either before, during or after racing - and happily she came home five days later, her operation having taken place last Friday. All she has to do now is wait two or three months, and fingers crossed she'll be as good as new.

Our trips to the races later in the week unfortunately didn't turn out as well as the outing to Yarmouth. Unfortunately, Silken Thoughts didn't get the run of the race at all at Wolverhampton on Friday evening so, although I was sure that she headed there in great form, she had a very low-key end to her season, it having been decided in advance of the race that - win, lose or draw - she'd have done enough for one year by having her seventh start of the campaign. Still, no real harm done and she lives to fight another day - and we can spend the winter dreaming of getting things a bit more right with her than has been the case in 2010. I'll be very disappointed if she doesn't enjoy a rewarding campaign in 2011.

Saturday was more straightforward. Ethics Girl, well ridden by Hayley Turner, did her best at Newmarket, but in a very competitive race her best wasn't good enough. I watched that race from Catterick, where Destiny Rules (pictured at the start under Paul Quinn) ran. Her run was disappointing, but she gave it her best shot and we had no excuses. She's a sweet filly, but sadly if she is going to make the grade as a racehorse, it won't be in the immediate future, so she has now come out of training. However, all might not necessarily lost. She has several of the attributes necessary in a racehorse (she is sound and she tries her best) but what she doesn't have at all is maturity: if one put her in a parade ring of two-year-olds now, she'd probably look less mature than most of them, which is remarkable as she is three. Immaturity, however, is always cured by time, so it might be that a very long spell will see her a much stronger horse, and better able to cope with the tests which training and racing impose. It's not uncommon for horses to show no worthwhile form prior to the age of five and still end up as very satisfactory racehorses (Ex Con springing immediately to mind, and, from a few years back, Monacle, a dual winner for this stable both on the Flat and over hurdles, being another classic example) so who knows what the future may hold for her? Anyway, I came home from Catterick very, very tired at the end of a long week, disappointed by the confirmation that Destiny Rules was indeed finding things too tough - but not unhappy, because how could one be unhappy about taking a nice, genuine horse to a nice racecourse on a nice day? Further cause for pleasure was the fact that, out of the blue, John Egan popped up there with a full book of EIGHT rides on an 8-race card, not having been down for anything mid-week and not having ridden in the UK for several months. Needless to say, even though none of his mounts had an obvious winning chance, John (pictured here cantering Mark Johnston's second string, old Record Breaker, to post before the mile-and-a-half handicap) managed, great jockey that he is, to find his way to the winner's enclosure, on board a 20/1 shot, and it was very good to catch up with my old ally again. Fingers crossed that, now I know that he's around again, next time he'll be riding for us, not against us.

Finally, on the recurrent subject of life and death (not, of course, that this blog is in any way influenced in its choice of subject matter by the writings of either Woody Allen or Leonard Cohen), I think that we should leave the final word to one of Britain's best trainers and, seemingly, best philosophers: David Evans, as quoted in Peter Thomas' excellent feature in Sunday's Racing Post. "It would be nice to get a couple of decent horses off some nice people, but my ambition is just to stay alive these days, and that's ****ing hard enough."

No comments: