Sunday, March 13, 2011


I can't believe how stupid I was when saying that I couldn't think of an obvious Newmarket-trained contender for one of the races at Cheltenham this week. There is one, of course: Alarazi, who emphasised just what a good chance he will have in the County Hurdle by bolting up in yesterday's Imperial Cup, thus ensuring that he would contract in the County Hurdle market from 33/1 to 6/1 favourite. I particularly should have found him coming to mind, not only because has he run against Alcalde, but also because he is trained by Lucy Wadham (pictured overseeing a couple of her horses up at the Links last summer), a trainer whom I like very much.

We see Lucy's string most days, and I did indeed see her yesterday morning shortly after reading on the front page of the Racing Post that Alarazi was Pricewise's tip. However, I hadn't seen her horses earlier in the morning while I'd been enjoying the luxury of going out on foot during our first two lots. We were having a fairly easy morning in the stable, with plenty of hands on deck and not too many horses to be ridden, which was ideal as the Guardian TV reviewer Sam Wollaston was in town doing some research for a book and I was thus able to head out to the Heath with him to point him in what I hope were a few right directions. This was really enjoyable (for me, anyway). The morning was both mild and dry (if not sunny - but still, as we know, two out of three ain't bad) and a Saturday morning in the spring is a great time to be up on the Heath, with plenty of horses doing plenty of work to get fit in advance of the forthcoming new season. A real sign of the time of year was that the main grass gallop Across the Flat on Racecourse Side was open, as you can see at the start of this paragraph with two of Marco Botti's horses pulling up after galloping on it, with the Rowley Mile grandstand in the background. The majority of strings over there, though, were still using the Cambridge Road all-weather for their work, as these latter two photographs (of one horse trained by Paul D'Arcy and three horses from the Darley pre-training conurbation on Hamilton Hill) demonstrate.

After spending some time watching the world go by on Racecourse Side during first lot, Sam and I then headed to Bury Side the following lot, along with Tony Fordham and Steve McCormick. We hadn't seen any of our horses earlier (the only two we had had out at the time were cantering around Bury Hill while Sam and I were twiddling our thumbs on the other side of town) but at least this lot the horses which we saw did include four whom I was meant to be looking at: Ethics Girl, Silken Thoughts, Batgirl and Hotfoot, pictured here cantering up Long Hill all-weather. Their exercise seemed to go very smoothly, even if, thanks to my doziness, we did manage to miss Ethics and Batgirl walking back down the hill: I was too busy discussing training politics with William Haggas (part of whose string is pictured here, walking down the side of Long Hill, with Maureen in the red jacket, Liam Jones alongside her, and William and his assistant Robert Stevens both obscured from view on their grey hacks on the far side of the string) rather than paying attention to what I should have been doing. I hope that Sam (pictured observing a couple of Hugo Palmer's horses cantering along the first sand) found the morning useful. The point of his project is that his father wrote a British travelogue in which he visited various interesting parts of the country; Sam is recreating the journey and will detail his experiences in a sequel to his father's book, so I hope that he was able to garner some material which will help him. I certainly enjoyed the morning, and I'm sure that I will enjoy Sam's book when it sees the light of day. I only hope that I didn't fill him with too much misinformation!

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