Sunday, March 27, 2011

All's well that ends well

All's well that ends well; and happily last week ended well because Alcalde, who gave us heart-failure by stumbling between the last two hurdles at Newbury on Friday, has returned home more or less unscathed from the incident. For a few awful seconds, it looked as if Alcalde (seen being led by Adam around the pre-parade ring and clearly looking forward with relish his forthcoming race, obviously unaware that it wasn't going to go well) might have been badly injured; but thankfully he's fine, so we can look back on the week with pleasure, notwithstanding his unsatisfactory experience. Friday was the final of a succession of lovely warm sunny spring days (as this shot on the Heath in the morning of James Fanshawe and his assistant Charlie Fellowes illustrates) which was great - although when running jumpers one can find that good weather is a thing of which it is very possible to have too much. I'd rather frightened myself in advance of the race by walking some of the track. Inevitably, having staged a lot of racing over a long, wet winter, the course isn't in good condition. It is rough and very bare in places, and the complicating factor is that the lovely weather has made it dry out quickly. To prevent it becoming dangerously firm, nearly an inch of water had been applied earlier in the week, leading to what Nick Luck described on Racing UK as "unusual watered ground". This was officially described as good, on the basis that it wasn't firm and wasn't soft, but basically 'good' certainly wasn't the word which came to my mind as I walked it: it was bad ground with some patches significantly softer than others, and many horses, some of whom would have returned home sore, just couldn't handle it all. While walking the track, I bumped into Seamus Mullins, who was doing likewise, and remarked to him that we shouldn't really at this time of year ever walk the tracks which have had a lot of racing over the winter, because if we gave close inspection to the surfaces on which were were asking the horses to race, we would never have a runner. Certainly it was a surface on which we wouldn't do any more than pacework at home. Anyway, the upshot of it was that, for reasons which aren't clear, Alcalde jumped the second last hurdle, galloped for two strides - and then stumbled, unseating his jockey. It appeared as if he had broken his leg, but thank God he didn't do that: my assessment is just that he stumbled while putting his foot on a patch of false ground. No harm done - unlike to poor Alverstone, who appeared to do something similar on the bend after the winning post the next day. Her racing career appears to be over, so I can only offer my commiserations to her connections. We should fight another day, as Alcalde seemed keen to emphasis while frolicking around the yard the next morning, with Ethics Girl (of course) joining in the dance in the background.

Friday's trip to the races, although not a disaster, thus clearly wasn't a success. Happily, though, the trip to Kempton the previous evening had been much more rewarding and straightforward, with Kadouchski posting a fairly smooth victory in the two-mile handicap under a typically sound Rab Havlin ride. As outlined in the previous chapter, I'd hoped that his Flat rating in the 40s might give him a good chance in a race whose conditions appeared very suitable for him and at a time when he seemed to be bang in form - and, for once, the theory became the practice. I would have been disappointed if he had been beaten, but then again that fact made victory far from certain: disappointment is an occupational hazard with horses, and thinking that a horse ought to win certainly doesn't mean that he is going to do so. On this occasion, though, things did go as one hoped, which was really, really good. He is now no longer (as far as the Flat goes) a seven-year-old maiden!

As regards the other racing this week, Dubai obviously featured the best racing of the weekend, even if not the best horse: that honour has, surely, to go to Black Caviar, who took her record to 11 from 11 by winning the William Reed Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night. (All she has to do now is to win the race in 2012, '13, '14 and '15 and she'll be up there with Manikato!). It was good that the quinella in the Dubai World Cup was filled by two of the Japanese horses because they are clearly world-class gallopers and they ensured that the race can be regarded as a top-class contest, which wouldn't necessarily have been the case had victory gone to some of the other fancied runners. It was, though, a pity that they found themselves the beneficiaries of a race in which half the field were ruled out of contention by their jockeys, the horses held up in a slowly-run race, including Buena Vista who was arguably the best of the Japanese trio, finding themselves with no chance. What was also a shame was that a piece of really strange race scheduling meant that, while what are arguably the second- and third-best sprinters in the world (J J The Jetplane and Rocket Man, who had fought out such a great finish in the HK Sprint in December) both showed up, they were, unbelievably, able to run in different races. One would suspect that their connections tossed a coin to see which would mop up which race. It seems bizarre that when Dubai had a dirt course, there was only one sprint on World Cup night, while now that it doesn't have a dirt course, there are two. (The Tapeta course, of course, provides an alternative for turf horses, but isn't really an option for dirt horses). Hence this frustratingly missed opportunity to stage a tremendous sprint.

On a more positive note, overall Dubai World Cup night staged some wonderful racing. From this point of view, it was lovely to see Presvis provide Luca Cumani's stable (some of whose members are seen here on the Heath on Thursday's beautifully sunny morning) with its first victory at the fixture, having gone agonisingly close in previous years with both Presvis and Purple Moon. I was also very pleased to see Rewilding emulate his half-sister Dar Re Mi by landing the Sheema Classic for Godolphin. He is clearly an easy horse to over-work, but when fresh he is top-class, as he showed yesterday. That was great, not least because it provided his sire Tiger Hill, a beautiful horse whom I greatly admire, with his second big win of the weekend, his four-year-old daughter Nakaaya having landed the Sunline Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night. Rewilding was the third winner on the night for Godolphin, and I'm always happy to see that team do well at the fixture. Sheikh Mohammed is clearly one of the greatest patrons racing has ever known, and Dubai World Cup night and Godolphin (another team pictured in this paragraph enjoying the Newmarket sun on Thursday morning, with the spring blossom making a lovely background to some of Saeed's Godolphin Stables incumbents) are clearly his two dearest projects, so it is fitting that his stable should figure among the winners. One can analysis the Sheikh's various endeavours from 1,001 different angles and come to umpteen different conclusions, but there is one conclusion which nobody could dispute: he deserves to enjoy success, particularly at Meydan on World Cup night.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Thanks for the update on Alcalde John.