Saturday, October 09, 2010

That time of year

At any time there is always a percentage of horses (usually well in excess of 50%) in the stable who aren't at their peak. Getting everything to fall into place, so that a horse is 100% fit, 100% sound, 100% healthy and, in general, just at a physical and mental peak so that he can perform to his full potential is easier said than done. Some horses one can never get to that stage. With some others, it seems to take forever to get them right - and then they just seem to come right and everything, which had previously seemed so hard, suddenly seems so easy. And some horses (and these are the ones who make you look good) just find everything coming easily and just look after themselves and keep themselves right. Anyway, even at the best of times you never have all the horses right at any one time, but in the autumn any trainer with a string of Flat horses will find that there is an irritatingly large amount of horses whom he is struggling to keep at their peak: they've been on the go all summer, are starting to signs of wear and tear and of being ready for a spell, and while one's concentrating on getting one thing right with them, another thing goes wrong. We're no exception in this respect and some of the horses have already started their end-of-season holidays. However, while I'm struggling to get/keep most of them in a state so that they can show their best form, there are a few who are just in great fettle without any effort on my part. One such is Ethics Girl (pictured with her friend Ex Con a few weeks ago when the field was drier than it is now) - but can I run her? There's nothing for her! I thought that there was one suitable race (on Monday) and thankfully it didn't attract a huge entry - but, needless to say, when the declarations came through this morning, she'd been eliminated, missing the cut by one. Ah well, it's that time of year - I just hope that she's still as well another ten days on when there will be the next suitable race for her. And I also hope that she won't be eliminated from that!

Still, if it was annoying to find that Ethics Girl had been eliminated from her race at Kempton on Monday, I bet that Gay Kelleway was even more non-plussed about the elimination of the 62-rated Eastern Gift from his chosen race on the same card. This race attracted 58 entries. The maximum field would be 14 so there were clearly going to be many eliminees. Gay's horse was the 15th in order of entry, so I think that she'd have felt safe in assuming that she'd get a run - not so, because, amazingly, 53 of the 58 entries were declared, including the top 16. That's so rare. I've only ever once previously noted a handicap in which the full field of x was the x horses at the top of the original handicap (that race being one which Jack Dawson won at Chester a few years ago) with even the (x + 1)th horse eliminated. Amazing, but it's that time of year: there are plenty of horses wishing to run (or being wished to run, I should say) despite the large amount of horses who have clearly had enough for the time being (mind you, there are probably some/many horses who fall into both categories) and only a relatively small amount of races for them to run in. And please don't come back to me with, "And what about that race with whatever large amount of prize money which only attraced however few horses?" - because when races are run on heavy ground, as has been the case a lot recently, there's only ever going to be only a small proportion of the Flat population suitable for running in them, and when the conditions of the race favour better-class horses, the races are always going to be unsuitable for the bulk of horses in training, because there are always considerably more horses unsuitable for running in good-class races than suitable for doing so.

I'm not, by the way, trying to make any point or to try to suggest a re-think of the racing programme, which by and large works fairly well; I'm merely commenting on the world from this viewpoint. And when something catches my eye, it goes into the blog, not as a lesson or a gripe, but as an observation. It's autumn and that's what autumn means from this point of view (other than deteriorating weather and shortening days): a ever-reducing number of horses in the stable ready to race and an ever-increasing difficulty in finding races for the few who can run. That's not a complaint; it's just that time of year again.

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