Saturday, January 01, 2011

Another year gone

Thank you Ian, Nathan and Alan for those replies to the last few chapters. Just while I remember, I think that Paul Doe is on the side-lines with an on-going back problem. Let's hope that 2011 sees him able to sort that out, and that the many other jockeys currently on the side-lines can regain full fitness. As regards my own hopes for the next year, I think that they're pretty much the same as everyone else's: staying alive, staying healthy and uninjured. Let's hope that we can all do that. Mark Tompkins and I saluted each other with New Year good wishes as we passed each other in Rayes Lane this morning, and he asked me if I had any particular hopes for the New Year - but he then took the words out of my mouth with the one word which was clearly uppermost in both our minds: "Survival!". Anything else truly is a bonus, whoever you are. To be more specific, obviously I have aspirations for each and every horse in the stable on behalf of everyone concerned with them, in particular so that the faith which their owners have shown in us won't go unrewarded. Some of my dreams will prove to be unrealistic, but let's hope that some can prove warranted - and if one or two could be proved to have been insufficiently optimistic, then that would be the icing on the cake. Two winners tomorrow would be nice (but, admittedly, unlikely)! Taking a slightly longer-term view (ie looking beyond January 2nd), three hopes I'd have for 2011 would be that Hannah can ride at least one winner, Iva can firstly regain soundness (which, I'm afraid, is still a distant goal because her badly broken leg, while able to bear her full weight, is taking a worryingly long time to regain its former suppleness) and then ride us a winner, and - while I'm loth to give voice to any specific hopes I hold for any of the horses here - that Cape Roberto can win a point-to-point.

Looking at the broader racing world, rather than at just our little corner of it, I suppose that if there was one particular result I'd like to see it would be Time For Rupert and William (pictured on Kadouchski up on the Links a couple of days before Christmas) winning the Sun Alliance Chase at the Festival. William so deserves the one high-profile victory that seems to be required for his merit to be appreciated by the wider racing world, and this lovely horse might well be the one to provide it. (Of course, a Festival win for him on one of these horses would be even better, but that might be asking for too much). As regards Flat racing, a fourth Breeders' Cup Mile for Goldikova would be a truly magical moment, while a Triple Crown for Frankel would be even more special for many reasons. It would be a special moment indeed if Frankel were to follow up a 2,000 Guineas victory by winning the Derby - and in the aftermath of that triumph, Prince Khalid Abdullah and Henry Cecil were to answer the press' inevitable queries about future plans with the announcement that his principal targets would, naturally, be the 2011 St Leger and the 2012 Ascot Gold Cup. Wouldn't that be a magnificent step back in time!

The start of the New Year, of course, follows the end of the old one, and the final day of 2010 should not go unremarked. From this perspective, several results on Old Year's Day stood out, not least the win in the last race at Lingfield of the Exceed And Excel filly Estonia, who is owned and trained by Michael Squance (pictured here supervising one of his charges in the freezing fog last month) and who has now won her last two races. Our neighbour Willie Musson had had a winner earlier in the card when the lovely Mongoose Alert won as easily as one would have expected on his very surprising descent into selling company. I note that the horse was bought by Jim Best in the subsequent auction for 9,800 gns, which on the face of it wasn't a huge sum, although the fact that he was set to turn nine a few hours later obviously held down his value to a significant degree. Two National Hunt winners for Neil King (one at Warwick and one, ridden by the admirably resilient Mark Bradburne, at Uttoxeter) helped to make it a good day for Newmarket stables - and no doubt helped Neil's string to start the New Year freshly. Pulling out at the usual time this morning, I'd expected that we'd have the Heath to ourselves, but I did see (or, rather, discern, as visibility wasn't very good) Neil's string arriving on the Severals as we left them, and then two of Henry Cecil's horses leaving Warren Place when I got to the top of Long Hill. But arguably the happiest result of all yesterday came at Warwick when Don Cantillon's home-bred mare Alpine Breeze finally got to her feet after a very heavy fall at the last hurdle: it would have made a horrible end to the year had she failed to do so. I saw her in her stable across the road this morning and she looked fine, while Don (pictured back in September when the weather was still nice) told me that the sight of her getting up was made even more special by the massive cheering which it evinced from Warwick's sporting crowd. He had clearly found that response very moving indeed.

Most moving moment of yesterday for me, though, was Graham Goode's final call (of the Graham Goode's Commentating Swansong Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race). I know that for an older generation Sir Peter O'Sullivan is the voice of racing, but for me Graham Goode holds that honour, having been the Channel Four commentator throughout the pre-Racing Channel/ATR/RUK era when Channel Four was the only station on which one could see most of the big races at home. My admiration for Graham stems not only from associating his voice with the majority of the good races which I've watched, but also from finding him an extremely nice man. His final call, therefore, was one which I wasn't going to miss and it was no surprise to find that he made it a bit special. His way of doing this was to recite during the race a poem which he'd written in the vein of Abba's 'Thank You for the Music', a valediction which showed his appreciation for all those who have put on the shows which he's been calling for so long. I think that it is worth reproducing here:

"Thank you to all the groundstaff and the caterers and the TV engineers and the box drivers and the stable staff and the stipes and the officials and the racecourse owners. And to the trainers - the peddlers of dreams and the workers of schemes and the worriers, thank you. To all the breeders searching for that elusive mating, thank you. To all the jockeys for keeping brave, thank you. To the owners who keep paying, for the bookmakers that keep laying and the punters that keep praying, thank you. But most especially, of course, thank you to the horses."

And as for the end of the race? "That's all, folks!" kept things simple, manageable and sweet. While that, sadly, is all from GG the commentator, fingers crossed we'll keep seeing him regularly on the racecourses, most often I presume at Nottingham. The sport wouldn't be the same without him.


Nathan said...

Have to agree with you regards GG; i'll miss his tones too...

A gent indeed.

Alan Taylor said...

Yes great commentators make the job seem easy which belies the truth, which is lots of homework studying colours etc.All the great commentators have a turn of phrase or an aside during the race not just boringly calling the horses.Britain has been well blessed with great sports commentators like Peter Alliss, and Harry Carpenter (know what I mean!).David Coleman comes to mind. I often thought he was going to self implode as he often got emmotional.Can anyone add to the list?
Some of the old stagers amongst us ( I do not know if you yet classify yourself in this category John)will remember racing presenter John Rickman. In my locality it was said the only thing he could tip ws his hat!He would often say welcome to and then pause with several umms before remembering which course he was at. Fond memories.

racingfan said...

A great commentator only adds to to the enjoyment of any sporting event and GG is/was a top class.

Thanks John for the info regarding Paul Doe, Also thanks for the regular blogs which are enjoyable to read and I look forward too.

Having just read the girl with the dragon tatoo trilogy (which I thought were excellent) I now move on to one of my christmas presents Any Human Heart, I have sky plus the series from channel 4 and will read the book first (which after 50 pages is enjoyable, reminds me of catcher in the rye (not sure why).

Anyway I will recommend the book shantaram if you get a chance to read it.

No luck today with any of your runners, any views on their performances,

Once again thanks for the blogs and hopefully Iva and Hannah can ride winners and everyone remains healthy,

nearly forgot any up and coming entries?



Nathan said...

Alan, there have been some good snooker commentators over the years. Perhaps best remembered from the past are Ted Lowe, Ray Edmonds and Jack Karnehm. Imo Clive Everton was, and still is the best of all time. In motorsport you'll remember Murray Walker. Like you say we have been blessed and there are many more. Infact it's a topic of discussion worthy of a whole night in the pub...

Alan Taylor said...

Excellent input as usual Nathan.I remember Ted Lowe speaking so quietly as though he was in a church. Snooker had characters galore such as Ray Rearden, Dennis Taylor etc. It begs the question has bigger money in sport led to there being fewer characters in sport today.They seem to be more business men promoting brands and advertising.

Nathan said...

I think you are right about the money involved Alan. There is much more at stake these days...