Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bons mots

I've rather surprised myself by finding that the Racing Post's 'Tweets of the day' slot can be entertaining. Most tweets are inevitably dull - I find it hard enough to write twenty entertaining words out of a thousand, so if I were restricted to twenty words, the chances of even one of them being either enlightening or entertaining would be long odds against. The first few days that the paper carried this feature, the offerings were predictably banal, but last weekend we struck gold when both observations evoked a chuckle. Just in case you hadn't seen them, the first recounted an excerpt from an interview on Channel Four, Emma Spencer quizzing John Gosden. In answer to Emma's question, "This horse (I presume Duncan) was gelded over the winter - has that made a man of him?", John's reply was as good as you'd get: "That depends on how you like your men." Then we had Jamie Spencer (pictured) observing that "Kerrin McEvoy has contacted me to ask me to pass on a message to someone who is no longer alive. Does he not know, or is he trying to tell me something?". Pure gold!

The sentence best put recently, though, came from Team Valor principal Barry Irwin shortly after the syndicate's horse Animal Kingdom had passed the post in front in the Kentucky Derby. Under normal circumstances, the highlight of the Kentucky Derby telecast would have been The Village People's choral tip for Mucho Macho Man, but Barry Irwin, showing remarkably admirable correctness even in the immediate euphoria of victory, coped very well with the introduction given by the interviewer, who observed that Barry Irwin "used to be a former sports journalist". The response couldn't have been bettered: "I still am a former sports journalist". Great stuff.

Great stuff, too, at Market Rasen on Sunday, where dear Kadouchski ran another game race to finish second in the two miles, five furlongs handicap hurdle. Of all our opponents, the one by whom I really didn't expect to be beaten was the one who beat us, but that's racing. And I suppose that one could say that, as the winner Galley Slave (pictured looking very proud of his victory in this paragraph's third illustration) had gone into the race with a career record of one win from 76 starts, he was due a win. I particularly remember this horse's previous win (at Cartmel last August) because I was very taken by the fact that a horse whose career statistics were zero wins from 63 starts (as they were at the time) could go off at an SP as short as 11/2. A further pointer to Galley Slave's ostensibly surprising (but in retrospect easily explicable, as I'm now demonstrating) victory was the fact that, apparently, his trainer Michael Chapman was on a losing run at Market Rasen of 162 - and as I always think of Michael training all his winners at either Market Rasen (where he trains) or Cartmel (or Southwell on the Flat), then it was almost inevitable that Galley Slave would win, to bring this impossibly long sequence to an already-overdue conclusion. So that was that. And Kadou's performance was all the more creditable considering that the ground really was very firm, by jumping standards - and he, of course, has done all his turf winning on heavy ground. When I walked the track, I found it impossible to find the good places in what was supposed to be "good to firm, good in places". (I found the supposedly non-existent firm places easier to locate). I mustn't grumble, though, because the ground, although firm, was in great condition, with plenty of grass on top of the firm ground, and the firm ground itself being level rather than rough. And Market Rasen in general is a really well-run track whose management generally goes well beyond the course of duty to make things run smoothly for its patrons - as I discovered when I left some tack there on Sunday and subsequently found the track's staff very happy to locate it and assist in its reunion with me.

On the subject of walking the track, by the way, I might just use this as an opportunity to hail another unsung hero. Any time I'm walking the track at a jumps meeting, I can guarantee that I'll bump into the conditional jockey Charlie Wallis running round it if he is at the meeting, as he always does irrespective of what weight he has to do. We duly had our statutory pre-race meeting in the home straight on Sunday, and once again I was impressed by Charlie's professionalism, dedication and industry. He isn't exactly local to Newmarket, coming from Essex, but he started his time in racing here (with Chris Dwyer) and rode out for us on odd occasions when he was working for Chris. Having had, I think, a spell in the Pipes' stable, he's now, as you'll be aware, working for John O'Shea (pictured debriefing Charlie after their runner had finished third in the handicap chase on Sunday) and he rides most of that stable's jumpers. He rides them well, too, and, being one win away from a reduction in his claim, it shouldn't be too long before he's taken another step up the ladder.

No comments: