Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blue sky thinking

I'm a bit worried that the photographs which I used in the previous chapter might have given a false impression of our weather (and, being obsessed by the weather, this inconsequential possibility naturally worries me). It just so happened that the photograph of the three yearlings cantering up Warren Hill was taken on the only overcast morning of the week. So, to rectify things, I'll now include a photograph which I'd taken of the Tiger Hill and the Sir Percy going up the same strip a few days previously. And I'll then include a photograph which I took this morning, showing (left to right) Sir Percy, Beat Hollow, Barathea and Tiger Hill doing the same exercise. In this latter photograph you might notice a new rider: Jamie Insole is on the Sir Percy filly at the back. If you think that Jamie's name rings a bell, it probably does: he received a small amount of publicity when he rode in the charity race at Cheltenham of St Patrick's Day, finishing fourth behind the Henry Cecil-trained and Lorna Fowler-ridden Plato. Jamie, I believe, picked up the ride on the horse which Gordon Elliott was meant to have ridden, when Gordon finally faced up to the fact that his days of riding at or close to twelve stone are behind him for good. Jamie (also pictured following Aisling down the side of Bury Hill earlier in the morning) is here for the week, which is rather nice. He is William Kennedy's nephew (his mother being William's elder sister) and has ridden out quite a lot for Paul Webber, but is now enjoying his first taste of Newmarket Heath. And he could hardly have chosen a better week as conditions are just about perfect. My guess of today's top temperature would be 24 degrees, which is an idyllic temperature at any time of year, never mind at a time when summer is still ahead of us and at which we often feel a bit chilly.

We saw Jamie's uncle yesterday too as William rode Kadouchski at Towcester. They finished third, another creditable run by Kadou and another good ride by William. I did, though, take an interesting photograph which I think reveals a fault in William's riding, which really is remarkable as finding fault with his riding is generally easier said than done. Anyway, if you study this picture closely, you might notice that William's style is considerably less aerodynamic than one might consider ideal. He's clearly causing a significantly higher degree of wind resistance than need be the case: were he to get down behind the horse and keep his body a bit lower and closer to the horse's neck, he'd surely be able to find another few lengths. Or millimetres. Being serious, though, this photograph does show how technically correct William's riding generally is, which made it all the more surprising - shocking, even - to find that William is about to start a three-day suspension. On, of all days, Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday, which are three of the busiest days of the jumping season (and on one of which Ex Con is due to run). This discovery was extremely surprising, not merely for the fact that I don't think that I'd ever previously known William pick up a suspension, but also for the fact that I watched the ride for which he was suspended (when he was second on the outsider Sarando in the big novices' chase at Aintree) and hadn't realised he'd done anything wrong at all! Nor, I would guess, had Richard Dunwoody, who was employed by the BBC as a pundit at Aintree and who spoke glowingly in William's praise after the race, saying that he had given the horse "a lovely, lovely ride". But I suppose that I will merely have to file this away as the latest instance in which I have had cause to muse that it would be a dull world if we all thought the same. We can't even put his suspension (for incorrect use of the whip) down to a post-Grand National kneejerk reaction because he was given it the day before the Grand National. We seem to be getting a lot of whip-related debate at the moment, triggered I presume by the two fatalities in the Grand National. I presume that we have worked out that these two fatalities were unconnected to any use of the whip so there's no point in my mentioning that - so instead I'll end this chapter by posting three gratuitous views of the Heath taken this morning, one of Bury Hill at roughly 7am and two from the bottom of Long Hill (featuring a few Godolphin horses) at around 9.00. From these you will understand why I have observed that Jamie could hardly have chosen a better week to enjoy his first taste of the Heath.

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