Friday, October 15, 2010

Future hope (and present frustration)

It will have been a long week for those who've had to be at Tattersalls Sales all day every day, early Monday until Saturday (ie tomorrow) lunchtime. That doesn't include me: I've been quite selective as to what time I have spent up there because, having only to select a small amount of horses, I don't feel that it's necessary to be there all the time and to see all the horses. The aim, after all, is not to pick out two or three horses and to make sure that they are the two or three best horses in the sale: to do that one would have to be omniscient (which no one is) and to have plentiful funds at one's disposal (which, admittedly, a few people have - but those who do are generally going there to buy a larger number of horses). No, from the point of view of a relatively small-scale buyer, the aim is to select two or three horses and to make sure that they are all members of the minority of yearlings present which will turn out to be sound, professional racehorses with some level of ability. Racing being the competitive and attritional (is that a word?) sport that it is, it probably is fair to say that only a minority of the yearlings on show, even at this very good sale, will turn out to be as thus described - but as there were the best part of a couple of thousand yearlings passing through the ring, that still means that several hundred of them will turn out to be satisfactory. We just need to have made sure that the two or three who ended up here are two or three of that bunch of several hundred. Which, of course, sounds straightforward, but probably is easier said than done, especially when spending less than the week's average on each. Anyway, three yearling fillies have arrived here this week from Tattersalls, and I believe and hope that they will prove to be three who can go on to enjoy worthwhile racing careers. If so, this week has been well spent; if not, then it hasn't. Only time will tell - and as we wait for time to tell, we can travel onwards full of hope. One thing which gives us hope is that all three come from sources which I think will have given them a good start in life, two of those sources being ones which I have previously found fruitful: the Tiger Hill was sold by the same man (Joe Osborne) who sold us Bold Cardowan (who won three races and was durable enough to race for several years) 13 years ago, while the Barathea was bred by the same man and sold by the same stud (Ballylinch) who sold us Critical Stage (a wonderfully genuine and durable horse who won 11 races, four for this stable and seven for Jimmy Frost after he'd been sold, and who raced for nine consecutive years) nine years ago. The Sir Percy came from Ashbrittle Stud, with whom I had never previously dealt but of whom my first impressions are very good: she seems to have been raised and brought to the sale in splendid condition, both physically and mentally.

No doubt you'll read plenty more in the forthcoming months and years about this trio, but they are fillies by Tiger Hill, Barathea and Sir Percy, in the ownership of Tony Fordham, Roger Vicarage, and Barrie Catchpole and Mike Meaney respectively. I hope for a lot of people's sakes (not least my own) that these horses turn out to be decent and sound racehorses, but I hope so most especially for their owners, because I would like the confidence which they have shown in me to be repaid. There is no better sign of approbation than someone putting their money where their mouth is, so to be entrusted with the training of these horses, when there are plenty of good trainers around the country who could equally well have received the call-up, means a lot to me. Anyway, I'd like to think that we have a fair chance of seeing these horses go on to do well, because they seem, to my eyes at least, three very nice prospects. You can get a first glimpse of a couple of them, which admittedly isn't very informative as the camera can lie, especially when in the hands of an amateur such as myself. Anyway, I've taken a photo of the Sir Percy but haven't yet down-loaded it, but have photographs of the Tiger Hill and the Barathea, with the former appearing at the head of the previous paragraph and the latter appearing at the head of this one. And, just to give the filly a bit of encouragement, I've included two shots of the Tiger Hill's father and one of her maternal grand-father Carnegie, both of whom I was lucky enough to admire at Kelvinside, NSW, early last year. Is she her father's daughter? Well, time will tell, but maybe it's not fanciful to see something of a resemblance.

Enough of this living in the future (which, admittedly, isn't too bad a thing as I am all too prone to living in the past). We ought really to be living in the present. And the present is the fact that tomorrow we shall have the frustration of yet another non-runner. That's three in recent weeks. I hate having non-runners, but very disappointingly I wasn't happy with Ex Con when I rode him this morning, despite the fact that I'd been extremely happy with his gallop earlier in the week. You've got to go with your gut instinct, but even so I thought that I ought only to abandon the long-nurtured plan to run tomorrow if there was some solid evidence to do so; so I had a blood test taken, declared him to run in the hope that the blood test's result, when it arrived, would be satisfactory (and, admittedly, the expectation that it probably wouldn't be). This afternoon the result came back and, sure enough, it wasn't satisfactory, so run he won't. Which is a real shame - but that's better than us all going to Cheltenham and watching him struggle out the back, which is what would have happened had he run and which would have been no fun for anyone, not for his connections, not for anyone who backed him and, most importantly, not for the horse himself. Should I just not have declared him? I don't think so: it isn't a full field so no horse has been unnecessarily eliminated and I didn't book the jockey until after declaration time so the man engaged (Richard Johnson - William being unavailable again!) wouldn't have had a ride anyway, and so nobody has been inconvenienced by his appearing among the list of declarations but not, ultimately, among the runners. And, most crucially, I didn't have the piece of information which ultimately proved most crucial to my decision (the blood test result) until four hours after declaration time, so to act as though that result was a foregone conclusion would have been unjustifiably premature. So that's Ex Con's campaign ending on a low note - but he's won four races this time in and heads off to the spelling paddock sound and happy so, all in all, it would be wrong to be too downcast that, on this occasion, things haven't gone entirely according to our optimistic script.

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