Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Ice land

Great winter conditions here. Surprisingly we had a proper thaw over the weekend which melted all the snow, but freezing temperatures returned on Sunday night and we've been significantly below zero since then. But that's fine: it's dry, the Heath is perfectly usable and very beautiful. Not that you could see much of it yesterday, though, as we had freezing fog all morning (out of which the three yearlings are seen wandering) but that in itself is good to observe, even if the novelty would wear off after a small amount of days (or hours). We had freezing fog this morning too, but right from the start it was a very different type, fog through the top of which the sun was beginning to force itself. So mid-morning today saw the Heath looking wonderful. The moisture which had collected on the trees' bare branches meant that they were ice-bound and white as snow, and the blue sky and sunshine made the world of ice look really, really special - as you can see from this photo of Kadouchski, Frankie and Ben walking along the same bit of Heath. What a difference a day makes (to conditions above, if not underfoot)! It's a very hard frost again tonight, but it appears as if a thaw might be arriving at some point over the next couple of days, so we might have the chance to run Alcalde at some point over the weekend or early next week. But we can worry about that more once we get nearer the time.

Yesterday, though, wasn't just a day of freezing fog: it was the day when the journos handed out their awards. The Lord Derby Awards, I'm afraid, don't carry quite the ring of specialness which they did prior to Lord Derby making himself Newmarket's bete noir by coming up with his plan to enlarge the town (a plan which, I'm afraid, still hasn't gone away, hence my having wasted a couple of hours last night in the Forest Heath District Council's offices in Mildenhall). Still, the fact of being voted the winner is still special, which is why I'm very pleased that my friend Matt Chapman was voted Broadcaster of the Year. That was deserved as he has delivered a massive amount of entertainment during the year, as any time of day and night one turns on At The Races he'd be roughly an even money shot to be on there; and any time one finds him on, one doesn't usually have to wait more than a minute or two to hear a brahma. On the debit side, of course, is the fact that he was a key player in the televisual low point of the year, the Breeders' Cup broadcast, but even so he can't be blamed for that debacle as McCririck surely had to shoulder at least 99% of the blame for the shambles, which James Underwood has described as "the most embarrassing experience of the year".

This, of course, brings me on to my own awards, the only problem being that by now I've forgotten who was going to receive them. I do remember, though, that I was going to salute Martin Lane (pictured in his boss David Simcock's string) for winning the apprentices' premiership. He only appeared in Newmarket at the end of last year, having previously been apprenticed to either Karl Burke or Karl's father-in-law Alan Jarvis (I ought to know but don't - he used to ride for both stables) and before that in his native Ireland. He's a very good rider who I think is sure to find the transition from apprentice to senior jockey relatively straightforward, being already a seasoned and mature professional. He did himself a lot of favours by winning the Magnet Cup in a photo-finish on the Michael Bell-trained Wigmore Hall, but the biggest favour he did himself was conducting himself consistently well and riding very soundly all year.

I'm not sure if this next salutation counts as an award, but we should salute Ed Walker on sending out his first winner (sort of) ten days ago, courtesy of the notoriously unsound Riggins dead-heating in a Listed race at Kempton - with, coincidentally, a horse (Fanunalter) trained by another former Luca Cumani assistant, Marco Botti. Ed looks to be setting up a very serious and professional stable, one in which standards will be very high, so I am sure that this first (half a) victory will be the start of a very successful career for him. He is pictured here at the end of last week heading out towards the Severals on his hack alongside a couple of his charges, the second one of which is being ridden by his head lad Billy Barden. He also appears in the second photograph which illustrates this chapter, a photograph which shows that he hasn't just been resting on his laurels since training half a Listed winner; no, far from sitting around in triumph, he attended a cracking koi carp exhibition in the court-yard of the Rutland Arms on Sunday afternoon. This, of course, was the brain-child of owner/trainer/breeder/ex-jockey/saddler/athlete/builder/singer/composer/musician/etc. Scobie Coogan, who isn't just the principal koi carp expert in Newmarket - he is one of the leading koi carp identities in the world. He organised a koi carp seminar weekend in the Rutland, which was attended by delegates from all over Europe, but to broaden the event's appeal he brought the majority of his fish over from Soham for the afternoon and made them available for public inspection. This was really good, and I was delighted to find, quite coincidentally, Ed, plus Simon and Gemma Waterhouse, spectating at the same time. Ed, Simon and I can be seen brahma-izing with Scobie in the second shot, with a couple of the exhibits then bringing a further splash of colour to the conclusion of the chapter.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Great photographs once again John. That second photo in particular is a beauty!!