Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Went our way

By a fortunate chance, it transpired that, after musing in the previous chapter about the quirks of fate by which things either do or don't go one's way, I found that things definitely went our way the following day, ie Saturday. It's only right that a day which turns out well should start well, and Saturday duly started with a lovely dawn. As it was set to be a busy day, I only rode one lot, but that lot was a pleasing one, not least because of the conditions: by the time that we got to the far side of the Heath, a beautiful dawn was breaking as light was starting to appear above the eastern horizon, enough to light up both Asterisk's head next to me (spot her pricked ears) and the stalls in the distance as they poked up out of the mist which was lying across the grass. This surely was a good omen, and the omens continued to come thick and fast: Mr Shammie was parked at the top of Hamilton Road as I drove out of town at 9.00, while an hour later I overtook a stretch Hummer on the A1, something (for reasons which aren't totally clear) I'm always enjoy doing. This stretch Hummer appeared to be in the queue into the Burghley Horse Trials which was rather odd: it wouldn't seem strange to see a hen party arriving in a stretch Hummer for the post-racing concert at a Newmarket Nights evening meeting, but I'd say that one might rub one's eyes a bit if one were in a car park at a horse trial and such a vehicle were to pull up alongside one's car or truck. Still, such is the diversity of the human race that what seems strange to one man seems entirely normal to another.

The afternoon at Thirsk also started well, even if not quite as sunnily as the morning had started at Newmarket. Our friend Lucy Wadham sent out the winner of the first race, the Elusive City filly Picabo becoming what I am sure was Lucy's first ever two-year-old winner (she, as you probably know, mostly trains jumpers) by winning under Paul Hanagan, thus helping that admirable young hoop on the way to what I am sure most people hope will be the jockeys' championship. (Not, of course, that I have anything against the other two potential champions - but Paul is such a decent, likeable and assuming lad, as well as reliable jockey, that it would be lovely to see him end the season as the first northern-based champion since Kevin Darley a decade ago, and thus only the second in the past hundred years). An hour after Picabo's win, Ethics Girl lined up for the impressively titled Hambleton Cup, a race which must surely have a rich history (any information in that respect would be much appreciated, please) - and we duly found that, for once, things did go our way: every aspect of the race went just as I'd hoped/planned and she got home under a copy-book ride from Franny Norton by half a length from the filly who had stood out in the parade ring as the classiest horse in the race, a daughter of Galileo called Lady Luachmhar who carried saddle-cloth number one and found the concession of a stone to the bottom-weight Ethics Girl slightly beyond her. After a succession of races in which Ethics Girl had raced with merit but without victory, it was just so pleasing to have things work out just so; she's a lovely, tough and genuine filly who is raced by the our long-standing and loyal patrons Lawrence Wadey, Gerry Grimstone and Bill Benter, so it was great to see her land her first win of the year - and particularly as it came in what, by our standards, could be described as a big race, being a Cup race and a Channel Four/Scoop Six race to boot. It was nice also to see her score with Franny Norton, who has been a very lucky jockey for us over the years, riding umpteen winners for the stable, including in the same colours in years gone by on both Il Principe and Warring Kingdom. And a further nice touch was added to the success by the fact that the filly was led up by Toby Stewart, a really nice young lad who has been coming in to the stables on the weekends during his recent placement with Tattersalls. I am sure that Toby (pictured leading the filly out onto the track) has a bright future as he's a very likeable and diligent man and, being keen to make progress in the bloodstock world, has been doing what he can to increase his hands-on experience with horses - which is what he found himself doing on Saturday when, after inviting him on the trip to Thirsk, I steered him, rather to his surprise, into the task of leading the horse. Ethics Girl is such a trouper that all went well, so Toby has a 100% strike rate of leading up winners, and I hope that he enjoyed the day nearly as much as I did.

Things also more or less went our way yesterday too, despite the fact that Silken Thoughts didn't win. She did, however, run another pleasing race, finishing second to the Sir Mark Prescott-trained Red Oleander, which was definitely no disgrace: at Thirsk, Lady Luachmhar had clearly been the best horse in the race and thus carried top weight, but by a quirk of handicapping yesterday Red Oleander, who I suspect was the best horse in the race, had bottom weight! So our filly clearly ran very well to finish second to her, albeit beaten three lengths (and it would have been more had Red Oleander been ridden out to the line). I suspect that Red Oleander would have won however things had worked out, but had we been well drawn and Red Oleander drawn out in the middle of the track (as opposed to the other way round, as it was) and had it not rained extremely hard after the first race (Red Oleander is by Pivotal from a Montjeu mare so would clearly relish any cut in the ground) ... well, you never know! But that's racing: things work out as they work out, and sometimes they work out to one's advantage and sometimes they don't. But while horses are running well, as Ethics Girl and Silken Thoughts have been done in the past few days, one can't be unhappy, whatever the actual result.

You must, by the way, forgive me for rambling on at such great length about our own horses. I do pay attention to the rest of the racing world, but this little corner of it is (understandably) what most enthuses me. It's a bit like when I'm on the At The Races International Review show, as I was yesterday, and we start to discuss the Australian racing: I like to think that yesterday I was able to talk with a reasonable degree of authority about the events from Longchamp, Veliefendi, Baden-Baden and Saratoga - but when we looked at Flemington, Robert Cooper could hardly shut me up! So what of other people's horses? The ones to whom I generally pay most attention are the ones whom I enjoy seeing out on the Heath in the mornings, and one of my favourites retired last week: the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Ask, winner in the last few years of such races as the Coronation Cup, Yorkshire Cup, Prix Royal-Oak, Ormonde Stakes, Cumberland Lodge Stakes and Gordon Richards Stakes. I saw Ask, ridden as usual by Kevin Bradshaw, heading over to racecourse side early last Wednesday morning with a handful of his stablemates, but sadly the gallop which he had shortly afterwards proved to be his last as he sustained a tendon injury during it and has been retired. I don't know what the future holds for him but I imagine that he'll go to stud, presumably as a National Hunt sire, and I expect that he will do very well because he has proved himself to be everything one would like a horse to be: brave, sound, durable, genuine, extremely handsome and very, very good. I remember the first time I knowingly saw him. Kevin Bradshaw sometimes rides one of the stable's hacks and late one morning I saw him out on his own on Warren Hill, seemingly supervising the string as if on a hack - except that he was riding the most magnificent horse. I saluted Kevin on what a lovely hack he was riding, which greeting brought a smile to Kevin's lips before he put me out of my misery before revealing the 'hack's' identity. And I've loved admiring Ask ever since that day. I'd never taken the opportunity to take a photograph of him until the middle of last month, and now that the horse has retired I'm very glad that I finally did so.

Last week also saw the announcement that Ask's stablemate Harbinger, whom I've liked ever since catching him on the Heath when he got loose last autumn, is off to stud in Japan, which is a pity as Richard and Sara, the owners of Destiny Rules, had been harbouring a dream of sending their filly (whom I'd been riding when the riderless Harbinger had appeared) to him one day. That, of course, now seems unfeasible - but then history shows that stallions who head to the far east don't always do so with a one-way ticket. Once he's gone to Japan, though, he'll be nearly as well travelled as another horse I've caught this year: the Luca Cumani-trained Librettista, who is Australian-bred. It was a very cold day (as you'll see from this picture of her, being led by the Heathman who relieved me of her) on which I caught her last winter so I presume that she had just been jumping around to keep herself warm. Our good summer has probably been much more to her liking as she's thrived during it, and I was pleased to note that she won two races last month, at Brighton and Yarmouth.


Alan Taylor said...

Weight for it!!!
Over your years as a trainer have you got more winners with low weighted horses against better horses or higher weighted horses against lower class opposition. Do you favour one situation over the other or is it equally satisfying in either case. It was nice to see Ethics Girl salute the judge as she has been allowed to run up to her form in previous races and therefore running off her correct rating which makes the victory all the more commendable. It is all to easy to let horses run with a series of noughts against their name to get a favourable weight. I was impressed by the cool headed ride given by Franny Norton who deserves all the plaudits for the victory.

Nathan said...

Congratulations to all involved on a notable victory...