Saturday, March 05, 2011

So's he

After yesterday, we can now put Alcalde (pictured in the second's berth after the race, tired but proud) up there with Ethics Girl and Kadouchski as being "all heart". Not that we'd expected to find out that he wasn't, of course - but yesterday was the first time that we'd put him in a real battle, so it was very pleasing that he acquitted himself so well when we did. In his three previous runs for this stable, he'd been well adrift on two of them and a wide-margin winner on the third occasion. But yesterday he was involved in a really tough three-horse fight up the straight at Newbury and, although he didn't win, he finished a very honourable second. Timeform, apparently, had put a query over the horse's resolution on the Flat, but he'd given me no reason to question his genuineness - but now his willingness to battle is a proven fact, rather than an assumption. William (pictured riding back in off the track, already trying to work out whether he could have found another length somehow), of course, being as competitive as all top-class jockeys are, came back full of 'if's and 'but's, as it's only natural when one loses out narrowly to think of what might have been if one had done something differently - but basically on the day the winner was a length too good for him, he was a neck too good for the third, and the three of them were significantly too good for the rest. All three horses ran bravely and well, and we can say that Alcalde ran a great race, jumping well throughout and trying his hardest, and the fact that he can do that in a competitive hurdle race at a Grade One track on only his fourth start over jumps confirms that we have a lovely horse on our hands. William's 'what if's revolved around if he'd done anything different during the race; whereas mine centred on Chepstow's abandonment last Saturday, because the race in which he had been set to run there had looked much weaker ... but basically one can only come home happy when the horse has run so well and so boldly and has come home safely.

To the wider world, what we referred to as 'our race' yesterday was 'Ruby's comeback'. It was, of course, the race in which the great jockey Ruby Walsh, swinging back into action 11 days in advance of the Cheltenham Festival, returned to race-riding four months or whatever it was after breaking his leg last autumn. It really did seem like a special event, all the more so because of the spontaneous round of applause which broke out from the crowd around the paddock when Ruby walked into the parade ring prior to mounting Don't Turn Bach (pictured a couple of minute later). The horse wasn't able to provide him with a come-back winner, but at least he took him around safely, which would have been the main thing. It was hard to know what to expect from Don't Turn Bach, because on his bumper form with Willie Mullins (he won two from two, including the winner's bumper at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting in 2009) he only had to get round without falling to hack up in a novices' handicap hurdle off a rating off 106. However, he had completely lost his form since arriving (as, presumably, a very expensive private purchase) in Paul Nicholls' yard, having finished tailed off when favourite for a Grade Two race at Aintree on his British debut and then having put in three uninspiring runs over hurdles this winter. Yesterday was his worst run to date - but, even if his best days now remain far behind him, he still had his day in the sun yesterday, figuratively as well as literally, by providing this hugely popular jockey with a safe conveyance on his return from a serious injury. On which subject, it was good to see James Banks (pictured in the post-race de-briefing) riding Lisadell King for Godrey Maundrell in the concluding hunter 'chase yesterday. James, who spent many of his formative years in Newmarket where his father Martin was head lad for Paul Howling for a long time, has finally started to plough a successful furrow in the racing world, and his riding career had been starting to build up some well-deserved momentum this season - until he broke his ankle in a point-to-point in January. He has thus done very well to get back into action merely seven weeks later. The horse was out of his depth yesterday but James rode him well, so fingers crossed it won't take James too long to ride back into the winner's enclosure.

Hard to make the same remark about Andrew Hickman, but. Formerly a successful point-to-point rider, Andrew restricts his riding nowadays to the safer conveyances in Neil King's string at morning exercise; so he was at Newbury yesterday not to jump open ditches, but to try to put a few flies into the ointment of Doncaster Bloodstock Sales' post-racing sale. Imitation is reportedly the most sincere form of flattery, so DBS has paid a fine compliment to the series of select sales of young National Hunt horses which Brightwells (which firm has the dubious good fortune to employ Andrew) holds after racing at selected Cheltenham meetings. The format is a small catalogue of young horses who have shown good form in the early stages of their careers in either bumpers, novice hurdles or point-to-points. These sales have proved very successful, so DBS are trying something similar at Newbury this weekend: hence the presence of the redoutable 'Knickers' at Newbury yesterday, ever keen as always to remind all and sundry what a good collection of horses will come under the hammer at Brightwells' next sale!


problemwalrus said...

Having watched yesterdays racing I'm convinced Character Building might be the one for the National this year, he seems to have had a much better preparation and carries les weight and presuming he doesn't get left behind early on he must be right up there.Saw Quinz at Kempton last week - a magnificent horse who I'd like to see again -can a novice win the National?.
But I couldn't bring myself to watch the replay of Eric's Charm's race.

racingfan said...

Well done to all (again for alcaldes run)your horses are all doing well at the moment and I hope it continues,

Cheltenham is just around the corner and I was hoping you might be able to select a few horses that you think might run well.

I think cheltenham is a fantastic event, with working every saturday I dont get to see much racing so any help would be appreciated,

Have you any runners expected in the near future,

keep up the good work with your excellent blog,



John Berry said...

Thanks, Ian.

Gosh, I'm the worst person to ask re Cheltenham. I see horses through the season and think that I must remember them for Cheltenham, but then I forget them again - and the few whom I do manage to remember never seem to run very well anyway.

Problemwalrus always seems much more on the ball than I am, but a few names which have stuck in my head have been Menorah, Imperial Commander, Time For Rupert, Captain Chris and Ghizao (although I suspect that the last two might find themselves in the same race, which isn't much use to us). I'd have thought that Professeur Emery might have a chance of following in Crackaway Jack's footsteps (they bear the same colours) if he has learned to settle over the past month, which is a big if - I can't see his previous front-running tactics succeding next week (not that they have succeded in the past, either).

problemwalrus said...

I like Peddlers Cross, Somersby (if he goes for the Ryanair), Time For Rupert. Some Target and Cannington Brook are candidates for the 4 miler. And Bensalem to make up for last years fall - the course has been especially redesigned for him!

racingfan said...

thanks john,

I will keep an eye out for the horses that you and problemwalrus, have mentioned,

I used to try and remember horses to follow but then i couldnt remember whether I was remembering them for the right or wrong reason! is great now as it e mails your horse to follow the day before they are due to run.

I do like peddlers cross, time for rupert, and I think imperial commander should go close again.

thanks for the help