Thursday, December 23, 2010

Just chillin'

I had a lovely trip to Lingfield yesterday. One of its many good aspects was that it brought it home to me just how lightly we have got off with the weather so far. We've had very, very hard frosts in Newmarket, but we've never had more than a covering of snow, whereas most other parts of the country have had it a lot worse. Although Gatwick's 3-day closure three weeks ago made it plain that Surrey had things very bad in the first bout of winter, more recently that area has been far from the worst affected part of the UK - but seeing Lingfield yesterday gave us a small glimpse of what most of the country has had. They did so well to race, having done a great job of clearing the AW track plus the enclosures (of course, nowadays a racecourse would want to have all the public areas completely ice- and snow-free because in these litigious times one couldn't risk someone falling over and sueing - especially ATR tracks, with, as we know, all regular ATR viewers being very aware of the options open to one if one has "had an accident and it wasn't your fault"!) so that racing could take place. This shot, looking down the straight at the steeplechase and hurdle race courses, makes it clear that they'd have a long way to go before jumps racing could take place there, which suggests that the race on 3rd January for which Alcalde has been pencilled in is most unlikely to take place.

I didn't, of course, go to Lingfield solely to gaze at the snow-scape; no, we went there to run Asterisk, who provided Hannah with her second race-ride when contesting the 10-furlong apprentices' handicap. This was clearly going to be a much tougher assignment for Hannah than riding Kadouchski at Kempton had been: this was an inexperienced horse on a notoriously tricky track. However, she rose to the occasion very well. The filly behaved and ran very well for her and, although Asterisk got a bit lost mid-race, Hannah kept her well-balanced and, once she'd found her stride after straightening, she worked home very well to finish a creditable fifth.

When the horse runs well and all runs smoothly, a trip to the races is almost by definition satisfactory, but yesterday's outing was made even more pleasant by how relaxed and unrushed it was. I had the luxury of being driven as we went down on a truck with three other horses - and you can be sure that we had a smooth ride, with Hannah's father Richard, who was obviously keen to ensure that Asterisk arrived at the races in the best of form, driving the truck! What was rather nice is that the other three horses managed a win and a close second between them, the winner being the grey Gay Kelleway-trained South African-bred D'Artagnan (pictured) and the second being Alan Bailey's good and honest old handicapper Lowther. The highlight of D'Artagnan's victory was watching the race with Stuart Williams while we speculated whether the commentator would announce that he had put his rivals to the sword (disappointingly, he didn't), while the pleasing part of Lowther's good run was that he was (well) ridden by Slade O'Hara, who has recently returned to Newmarket and seems to be trying to get his career going again. Slade was formerly in the town, apprenticed to Chris Wall, but he left there to continue his apprenticeship with Barry Hills before moving thence to Alan Berry's stable, where he used to ride a lot of very moderate, and often badly-behaved horses, plus one real star: the lovely sprinting mare Look Busy, on whom he won several good races including the Group Two Temple Stakes at Haydock Park a couple of years ago. Even being associated with a good horse, Slade never really managed to pick up any outside rides, so when he left that stable he seemed to disappear altogether. However, he is now back in Newmarket and riding out for both Alan Bailey and David Lanigan; and the fact that Alan has put him up in a race on a horse as good as Lowther (pictured coming off the track yesterday) suggests that he'll be race-riding regularly again. Which would be good as he's a good rider and a hard-worker who deserves some success.

The other competitor whom I was pleased to see in action yesterday was Diplomacy, a horse who has been on my radar for a long time. He's a five-year-old (nearly a six-year-old, obviously) who made his debut yesterday. He's a Sheikh Mohammed cast-off who apparently has had all sorts of things wrong with him, which is a shame as he has a great pedigree: he is by Cape Cross and both his dam (Embassy) and his grand-dam (Pass The Peace) won the Cheveley Park Stakes, while his close relative King's Apostle won last year's Prix Maurice de Gheest. I think Michael Squance has probably had him a couple of years by now and he's shown great patience with him. Over the past few months Michael has been slowly and cautiously getting him ready for a debut - and I was ever so pleased that when that debut came, I was there to see it. One couldn't have held any expectations at all for the run, so it was good to see him show a bit of dash in the race and keep on willingly to finish fourth of the five runners. Assuming he's come home from that race OK, he might have a future after all, which would be no less than Michael (seen leading the horse out towards the track) deserves.

1 comment:

Alan Taylor said...

As the year comes to an end lets reflect on characters who if there were more of, there would be no need for racing for change.John Gosden,Mick Channon,Sir Mark Prescott,Mark Johnston,Michael Bell, Clive Brittain,Hannon sen. and jun.,Paul Nicholls,Nicky Henderson,Pipe sen. and jun.
The common denominator of all these trainers is humility ,civility and a willingness to promote the sport in the press.Rarther than "a Suit" running racing I would select a dream team of Martin Pipe and Richard Hannon senior. I ommit your goodself from the above list to spare your blushes!!