Monday, April 11, 2011

Praying for Peter

The Grand National, certainly as it came across on the BBC, was a cause for concern and I imagine that I might discuss it at greater length anon. However, I'll restrict myself to a few sentences now. Basically, I don't think that I've ever seen a sporting event which has made me more wistful of the days when victory was greeted with dignity, when people did at least try to treat those two imposters, Triumph and Disaster, just the same. I know that within my lifetime the way we are expected to conduct ourselves has been subject to a 180-degree change - what was formerly 'showing off' (a bad thing) is now 'expressing oneself' (a good thing) - and that the composure for which we adored Lester Piggott has become the alleged aloofness for which we are supposed to reprimand Ryan Moore; but, even so, I found it very hard to stomach the post-race outbreak of mass back-slapping and whooping-it-up which the BBC took such pleasure in showing us while Ballabriggs either was or wasn't dying in the background. Still, all was well which ended well: Ballabriggs, despite the circus going on around him which can only have hindered the few who were actually showing the professionalism required to focus on the job of caring for him, has lived to tell the tale. And, more importantly, let's hope that Peter Toole (pictured here last summer on Ethics Girl) too lives not only to tell the tale, but also to ride into winners' enclosures regularly again. He's an admirable young jockey, as professional as he is talented, so let's hope that we get a third opportunity to put him on a winner: he was due to ride Ex Con when he won the conditional jockeys' race at Bangor last summer (under Rhys Flint) only to have to stand down after a fall on the Lambourn schooling-grounds that morning, and was the first jockey offered the ride on Kadouchski in the conditionals' race which that horse won (under Peter Hatton) at Sandown earlier this winter, but was unable to take the ride as he was obliged to go to Warwick that day to ride for his boss. I so pray that we'll have the chance to put him on a winner eventually - and by the sound of the more positive bulletins on the Racing Post site today, fingers crossed we will.

To concentrate on the positives, though, it was a pleasure to see my old friend and former colleague Donald McCain train the Grand National winner and thus continue the splendid McCain family tradition. Donald has made such a good job since taking over his father's stable; in fact, he has been making a good job for a lot longer than that, having been a decent jockey for and then an invaluable assistant to his father for many years. Ballabriggs' preparation, going back well before his win at the Cheltenham Festival last year, has been faultless, and it was a pleasure to witness what was merely the latest splendid illustration of Donald's skills. The pleasure of seeing Donald train the Grand National winner contributed to a very enjoyable weekend with Anthony staying here. He seems more interested in racing than used to be the case, and seemed to enjoy coming up to the Heath to watch the horses working (including First Pressing going up Long Hill in this paragraph's first photograph). His mum had sent him off with his bicycle which was great as the weather was lovely, which made it a pleasure for the two of us to cover a lot of ground cycling around the town and the Heath. I only rode one horse each morning that Anthony was here so I, too, enjoyed being a spectator, especially in such lovely weather, both of this string (including Alcalde, Kadouchski, Asterisk and Hotfoot going up Long Hill together) and of others, including savouring the sight of Anthony's new friend Tom Fanshawe doing his Frankie Dettori impression up Warren Hill at the back of his father's string.

Leaving all that aside, though, the highlight of the weekend had to be welcoming the latest addition to the household: Gus, a 9-week-old Dalmatian puppy. I was pleased that Anthony was still here when Gus arrived, because everyone loves a puppy - and anyone would surely love Gus, who is curled up asleep on my lap as I type (which, sadly, is a pleasure which I'll surely only be able to savour for a very limited period, as I'd imagine that it won't be too many weeks before he's too big for that). One of the joys of the arrival of a new animal is chosing the name; and I'd settled on calling the Dalmatian 'Tetrarch' after that 'Spotted Wonder', born 100 years ago, who will be forever regarded as the most dominant two-year-old of all time. However, on Sunday Gus had the trauma of leaving his home (Clarehaven, having been bred by John Gosden's younger daughter Thea) and his mum so, when it came to it, I decided that it would be too hard on him to have to lose his name too; so the nickname with which he'd previously been known, Gus, has stuck. And he's fitted in ever so quickly. He integrated with Bean and Stan almost straightaway and he's bringing plenty of smiles to all the human faces - with the only people not yet convinced that he's a welcome addition being Natagora, Alamshar and Giant, whose noses seem slightly (or, in Natagora's case, hugely, as this final photograph of her looking her most feral shows) out of joint at present. However, the ice is gradually being broken, Alamshar is sitting up on the window sill behind me as Gus snores on my lap, and I'm sure that it won't be too long before they're curling up with him for some communal sleep.


racingfan said...

lets hope that peter can continue to recover and return to normal life and race riding in the near future,

I am a big fan of the grand national and really look forward to it, this year I didnt enjoy it. John Francome was accurate saying there had been a lot of fallers in the topham chase and was concerned that in the national lots of runners may struggle to get round (reading between the lines)

Obviously nobody wants any horse and jockey to get hurt and the anti racing brigade are trying to sensationalise everything.

Moving on lets hope for a good weeks racing and have you any runners in the near future John?

Any way I never rant but I feel that I have in the post above!



John Berry said...

No runners this week, Ian. Next week the aim/plan/hope is to run Kadouchski at Towceseter on the Monday and Ex Con at Sandown on the Saturday.

Nathan said...

Peter Toole is in my thoughts also, as are his loved ones and friends.

problemwalrus said...

Best wishes to Peter Toole and his family - a shocking fall.

I was genuinely worried also about Ballabriggs and great to see he seems to heve recovered from his exertions.I am also concerned about the national - a race I love and I am buoyed by the way in which the management at Aintree leave no stone unturned in analysing events such as those which occurred and work responsibly with genuine animal welfare organisations.