Friday, September 03, 2010

Photo-opportunity missed

I really kicked myself this morning for not having my camera in my pocket because we had a truly glorious morning. I had no excuse because I felt foolish enough not having it first lot, and it was quite plain then that conditions would be even more photogenic second lot. It was still quite dark when I set off first lot on Asterisk towards the stalls, where I was to meet Team Yarmy and where I was more than happy to hand over the riding to Iva and the leading to Yarmy. Asterisk is a sweet filly but she really doesn't like stalls, but happily the session ended with her standing quietly in the stalls, shut in front and back, thanks largely to having a top-class horseman at her head, a top-class rider on her back, and Yarmy's "Monty Roberts" blanket over her bum. There was a very heavy dew on the ground and thick fog in the air just above it, but even at that early stage it was plain that above the fog there wasn't a cloud in the sky and that, once the sun broke over the horizon, we'd have a sensational morning. I was then later duly cursing myself all the way up Warren Hill second lot at around 7.00 am while I was riding Alpen Glen up the walking ground adjacent to the Moulton Road: string after string was filing down towards me, the sun was dazzling through the mist directly in my eyes, I couldn't make out the identity of each horse and rider until they were about three yards away from me and the farther the horses were away from me, the more blurred they were in the fog - and above us we had a brilliant bright blue sky. Even a clown like me would have been able to take some superb photos in such conditions - but not with my camera left behind in the house I couldn't. What a fool! I took a couple of pictures a couple of weeks ago as I approached the Bury Road crossing from the Severals, with one of them containing a couple of George Margarson's horses coming in the opposite direction (ridden by the ex-jockeys Gary Foster and Alan Mackay, but you'd hardly know that from this photo) and another of the back view of my companions, and I thought at the time that they were reasonably splendid - but compared to the shots which I ought to have taken today, they are dullness itself. But I'll put them up anyway for want of a superior illustration.

The rest of the day was very nice too, even if the first couple of hours had already provided the day's highlights. I hope tomorrow will be nice too as I'll be heading up to Thirsk with Ethics Girl. Nathan asked below a recent posting about how going racing has changed, but I wouldn't really say that it has very much. Not in my working lifetime anyway. The traffic is bad but it's been bad for a long time and I don't think that getting around the country is harder now than it was, say, 20 years ago: in fact, I'd say that it's probably easier, as there were millions of cars and trucks on the road even then, and the road system has been improved, even if sometimes it's easy to overlook that fact. Stableyards, hostels canteens in general have improved since I started working in racing, and the space for passengers in horse-boxes has definitely improved: formerly if you weren't driving the truck, you'd be likely to find yourself perched in a very small, uncomfortable and cold place for the duration of the journey, which is rarely the case nowadays. There are probably more people at the racecourses nowadays telling you what you should or shouldn't be doing, but that's the modern world in general, and by and large our supervisors are decent and helpful people. And that's probably it: taking a horse to the races nowadays is by and large a more comfortable procedure than it used to be, but otherwise things are pretty much the same.

I'll have now to get myself organised for tonight's Australian racing: there's a great card at Flemington and I'll have to be au fait with what happens as I've got the ATR International Review Show slot again on Tuesday. I don't know whether I'll have time to watch much of it live as I'll have plenty to do before heading off to Thirsk at roughly 8.30, but videos are a great thing (if they work). I've just re-watched the tape from a couple of weeks ago (as I'll tape over it tonight) because I wanted to refresh my memory of James Winks' interview after winning a sprint at Caulfield: when the interviewer Bruce Clarke put it him that he was in good form at present, he looked rather pissed off and just shrugged, "Oh gee, you just keep showing up, and you just hope things go your way". I remember a few years ago Micky Fenton sardonically telling me that an owner for whom he was having a few rides at the time had told him that "you're riding very well AT THE MOMENT" (believing that he was giving Micky a compliment and that Micky would be pleased to hear it) - and training is like that: we were top of the Hot Trainers' List in July, but we must now be close to regaining our position on the Cold List after an August with plenty of runners but no winners. But it's the same as with the jockeys: you get up in the morning, spend the day doing whatever seems best for maximising the horses' chances of winning, and then go to bed in the evening. Sometimes, as James Winks would put it, things go your way and sometimes they don't - but you aren't approaching or doing the job any differently when they do or when they don't. So let's hope that things go our way again soon. We'll see.

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