Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Foaming mad"

We're now in the second week of what is proving to be an abnormally wintery December Sales (in November, of course - along the lines of Clive James' 'May week was in June'). It isn't unknown for us to have snow and frost for this sale, though. I heard on the radio that we've made the earliest start to winter for 17 years, which would be right as I'd guess that it would have been 1993 that the December Sale started under snow and ice: I clearly remember leading a very boisterous Damister yearling colt out of the The Minstrel mare Tantalizing Song, consigned by my then-employer Woodditton Stud, into the sales paddocks in advance of the yearling day (which, of course, is the first day) and him slipping over on the bridge over the stream at the bottom of the hill, simply because the whole complex was covered in snow which was frozen solid, making the walking grounds like a skating rink. So we had proper winter for the 1993 December Sale - and we've now got proper winter for the 2010 December Sale too, because we're now covered in snow and definitely sub-zero.

Only a very small amount of the snow, though, had arrived by Sunday, which meant that there were no slipping worries for the stallions whom we were lucky enough to inspect. With the world's breeders in town, many of the stallion-masters have made their sires available for inspection, and Sunday (with no selling taking place) was the obvious day for them to put on their shows. Hence a beautifully crisp Sunday morning saw us take in Beech House Stud (whither Shadwell's stallions had been brought down from Nunnery Stud, near Thetford), Lanwades Stud and the National Stud. Hernando, sire of Ethics Girl and Alcalde, was naturally the focus of my attention, and the icing on that particular cake came when I was able to take a photograph which included not only that lovely horse, but also his distinguished colleague Selkirk, seen peering out of his window to observe his friend. We also saw the impressive young stallion Archipenko there, and had already seen the beautiful Nayef, his newly-retired relative Mawatheeq, Aqlaam, the admirable Guineas and Champion Stakes winner Haafhd and the Arc winner Sakhee at Beech House by the time we got there. Nayef was always a notably handsome horse while he was racing, and he remains one now that he's been at stud a few years.

The third and final port of call, the National Stud, was an interesting one because, in addition to the National Stud's sires, Makfi and Showcasing were both also present, having come up from their new homes at Tweenhills and Whitsbury Manor respectively. Showcasing is a horse I've long admired, but Makfi (pictured) I hadn't seen previously. We know that he's a top-class horse, but on television he had never really impressed me physically - which, I now know, was unjust, because in the flesh he is a lovely horse in every respect. The two National Stud horses whom I enjoyed admiring were the dual Guineas winner Cockney Rebel, who has matured into a really mighty horse, and the wonderfully tough Phoenix Reach, who was a beautiful horse when I saw him make his debut (in opposition to the equally tough Norse Dancer) in a two-year-old maiden race at Salisbury a few years ago, and who is still a beautiful horse now - albeit he is now beautiful in a much more mature and solid way, as this last photograph shows. All three studs kindly laid on some nice stuff to eat and drink (hot soup being ideal for a cold day) which was really nice; and, all told, it was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours. I'm always keen to avoid doing anything which involves leaving home on a Sunday because in a busy life my idea of a perfect Sunday is one spent at home doing nothing - which, in practice, never happens because that translates as a day spent at home doing as many as possible of the all too many of the chores which had gone undone during the previous week; but on this occasion 'doing something' was really nice.

I'll be doing something over the next couple of days too. It's a big day for the stable tomorrow as Hannah has her first ride, on Kadouchski at Kempton. Rhythm Stick runs at Wolverhampton on Thursday, which is something else to look forward to, although whether I'll be there I don't know as I'll have been at Chris' funeral earlier in the day and whether it'll be feasible to make the 7.00 at Wolverhampton from a 2.30 funeral in Bristol remains to be seen. And one more thing - this is the season for awards ceremonies and, while I'm not planning on arranging one, I do make a few awards on this blog from time to time; and there are a few people who presently are overdue for applause, so they should be acknowledged in the near future. That will have to wait for a day or three, though, so in the meantime I will content myself with saluting Northumbrian trainer Michael Smith for the perfect illustration which he provided last weekend of the fact that you can't please all the people all the time. I'm as guilty as (more guilty than) the next man in knocking the BHA at the drop of the hat, but even I had to say "Good on 'em" when I heard that the Fighting Fifth Hurdle had been relocated from snow-bound Newcastle to Newbury's Hennessy card. You had to feel for the BHA, though, because I'm sure that they would have thought that they would, for once, have done something which would meet with universal approval - so all power to Michael for declaring himself "foaming mad" at the re-scheduling (having apparently given his charge Orsipus such a hard gallop last Thursday, in the belief that the race wouldn't be run last weekend, that the horse was, it seems, unable to run two days later). With RFCgate rumbling on, we couldn't have had the BHA receiving too many pats on the back now, could we? That would never do!

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