Saturday, October 30, 2010

Still shorts' weather

I can't believe how dozey I was this morning. I'd got up a couple of times through the night to watch the races at Flemington which I was most interested to see and then got up early to watch the other ones on video, plus one of the later races live - and I suppose that I must have been so bamboozled by the sight of the solid rain which was lashing down on VRC Derby Day that, when I put my clothes on, I donned long trousers without even thinking. It was only when I was halfway down Exeter Road on a horse in a very mild and clear-skied pre-dawn that I realised my blunder: at this time of the year there's always a decision to be taken as to when to jettison the shorts and replace them with longs, but today, a day which could have passed for a spring day, was surely not the day. By the end of the morning the shorts were back on and I was going around in shirt-sleeves, which was lovely - so hopefully the shorts might see out the end of the season (one more week).

What was also nice about this morning, apart from the weather, was the fact that we had William here. He's so good to us. Unbelievably, with two National Hunt cards, he didn't have any rides today, so he came up to school and put Alcalde over 17 hurdles and Kadouchski (pictured) over ten. Not, of course, that Kadouchski needs the practice, but the exercise will have done him good. We are almost reaching the stage of saying that Alcalde, too, doesn't need the practice either, as he is extremely proficient, but it would, of course, be foolhardy to say that any horse is the finished article as regards jumping who hasn't yet run in several hurdle races, never mind who hasn't yet run in one. It's amazing that William, who is a top-class jockey, gets so few rides. I know that I've said this previously, but there is no harm in repeating it. His coming up from Lambourn today to school the two horses wins him my Jockey of the Week award, but he had a contender for that honour as Tom McLaughlin was kind enough to accede to my request to put Asterisk through the stalls on Thursday morning without mentioning that he wouldn't (because of suspension) be able to ride her in her race on Tuesday. I felt rather bad about it because I wouldn't have asked him had I known that he wouldn't be riding her in the race, but he happily turned up at the stalls at 7.15 in the half-light and rode her through. By that time I had discovered that he will be suspended on Tuesday, and I duly apologised for dragging him up to get the filly ready for someone else to ride, explaining that I hadn't known of his unavailability when I'd called him. Characteristically he made light of it and, as usual, couldn't have been more helpful. So if there are any budding jockeys reading this, all I can say is 'Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest': if your work ethic matches those of these two jockeys, then you'll do fine and, assuming that you can ride well, you have a full career ahead of you. And if it doesn't, you might like to reconsider things.

The other highlight of this morning was seeing a woodpecker as we rode up to the Links. There are a few of these lovely birds in the trees around the Heath (it's not unknown to see one on the Severals or along the bottom of the Heath somewhere between Heath House and Beech Hurst) but I've never previously been quick enough on the draw to photograph one. In fact, looking at the picture which I managed to take, it's stretching the truth a bit to say that I was quick enough on the draw to take one today, because you have to take my word for it that that is a wood pecker on the fence. But still, it's not the worst photograph ever to have appeared on this blog, as Kevin Peckham-watchers will testify. This wood pecker wasn't the best ornithological sighting of the month, however: sadly we haven't had the rosella back in the yard, but Emma and I saw a flock of about 40 small lime green parrots flying past the round-about at the junction of the M4 and the Windsor Link Road as we drove away from Windsor races the day that Batgirl ran there a couple of weeks ago. That was a very pleasant surprise.

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