Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Gather me one golden morning

Spring, like autumn, can produce a few golden mornings. The difference, of course, is that in autumn such daybreaks come with a sense of wistfulness as one knows that they are the death throes of another summer gone, and that winter looms; whereas golden dawns in spring come with the bonus of the knowledge that the weather is set to continue to improve. It's still early days yet, of course, so we certainly aren't looking at weeks and months of unbroken sunshine and warm weather stretching ahead of us - while the glorious mornings we have had so far have, because of the clear skies, started very cold. Leaving that aside, though, we've had two wonderful mornings this week, more particularly yesterday, when an overnight low of minus four produced a good covering of frost which gave way to mist on the ground and golden sunshine above; and, ultimately, to a cloudless blue sky which lasted all day. If you think that I'm going on about the weather even more boringly than usual, you're right. But there's a reason for this: conditions during first lot yesterday were so splendid that I couldn't keep my shutter finger still, so I ended up with some spectacular photographs, a few of which I want to put up on this blog. And, of course, the more I waffle, the longer the text; and the longer the text, the more scope for illustration.

As we are situated in the town, rather than on one or other side of it as is the case with most stables nowadays, it is not really correct to refer to one side of town as 'our side' and another as 'the other side'. However, Exeter Road is closer to the Heath on the Bury Side of town (the east) than to Racecourse Side (the west), so Bury Side is 'our side'. So when we go to Racecourse Side, we can say that we 'break on through' (a joke which exists in my head and in probably very few other heads). Conditions, I am sure, would have been equally spectacular on 'our' side yesterday, I am sure - but, as luck would have it, I had decided to break on through for a change yesterday morning, which meant that Sara Fleck (a vet who works at the Animal Health Trust who rides out here on mornings when she doesn't need to be at the Trust too early) and I, plus our mounts Douchkirk (aka Frankie) and Ethics Girl, were treated to the mighty site of the whole expanse of Heath on Racecourse Side covered in frost but drenched in sun. As the frost began to melt and then evaporate, a thin layer of mist rose which meant that at one stage one string which we could see walking towards us from about quarter of a mile away consisted of visible horses and invisible riders, as the bottom of the film of mist (which itself was probably only a few feet deep) began about five feet above the ground. And above this film of mist, of course, the Rowley Mile grandstand popped its head a mile or so away across the gallops. Warren Hill would have been very busy at the time, as is the case every morning at this time of year, but Racecourse Side was almost deserted, with only a couple of strings of Darley pre-trainers, plus a smattering of other horses, preventing the many hundreds of acres spread out before us from being completely empty. The walk back through town behind the string of new trainer Hugo Palmer was almost equally splendid: well, conditions were just as splendid with the sun, now risen above the horizon, beating down into our faces, but looking at buildings, however spectacularly lit, isn't quite the same as seeing the Heath stretched out in front of us.

I already know that we aren't, sadly, going to get a long succession of similar mornings because today wasn't nearly as special. Still a nice spring day, but, so we can't complain - but just not the truly glorious conditions of yesterday and the day before that. In its own way, though, today was similarly inspiringly springlike. The big thing about spring in Newmarket, of course, isn't just that summer is looming: the new season is looming too. If you'd forgotten that that was the case, you'd soon remember as you went out onto the Heath shortly after dawn, as there would be horses everywhere: plenty of horses working hard, rather than just handfuls of them playing around as is the case in the winter in a training centre where the vast majority of the inmates are trained to race during the traditional Flat turf season which runs from the spring to the autumn. The sight of Henry Cecil's string this morning really gave the game away: out and about earlier than usual, heading along the bottom of the Heath bound for Racecourse Side rather than on its usual Warren Hill beat, with Tom Queally, Ian Mongan, Kelly Harrison and (surprisingly) Paul Mulrennan all called into action - with Frankel obviously being the stand-out in its midst. I know that Cheltenham is looming and I am sure that there will be a handful of Newmarket-trained runners there, but I can't think of a horse from here who will have anything like an obvious chance at the Festival; so if there is one horse above all others in Newmarket at present (even in the week before Cheltenham) whose name instantly springs to mind as having big races on his horizon, Frankel is he. He carries a mountain of hope and expectation on his back - but, as the photograph above, taken this morning, it certainly doesn't look to be fazing him, which is great. His near-namesake, our Frankie, carries no expectation whatsoever, and that doesn't faze him either - just as long as he can finish off the morning's work with a roll in the dirt (as yesterday, pictured), then he's happy.


Nathan said...

Personally i enjoy the'waffle' as much as the photographs John. These being very artistic indeed. I'm still insisting you should put together a book; Newmarket in pictures. If you need a proof 'reader' i'm your man.

bigalp said...

Thanks John for reminding us how spectacular the Heath is your comments do not replace being there but is the next best thing. I agree with Nathan you should put a book together. Good Luck On The Track.
Alec & Jayne

John Berry said...

Thank you.