Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mornings further brightened

As this photograph taken this morning shows, this lovely weather is continuing, notwithstanding the facts that it has been intermittently very windy over the past three days and that we did have some cloud cover (and even some squally rain for a brief period yesterday evening) at times over the past couple of days. The wind hadn't arrived on Saturday morning, though, when I was able to set myself up perfectly for a weekend of watching terrific racing on television by overtaking Frankel. Sorry to disappoint you: we haven't unearthed a superstar who can outgallop the wonder horse - it was merely that we were cantering down Railway Land sand, behind two of Stuart Williams' horses and en route to the Al Bahathri, while Henry Cecil's string were walking down the adjacent walking ground to get to the gallop. Not wanting to get stuck behind a large string at the bottom of the gallop, I made sure that we cantered down smartly enough to slot in in front of them at the bottom so that we could head up the Al Bahathri undelayed. Which meant, of course, pushing in under the noses of Frankel and his Lingfield Derby Trial-winning brother Bullet Train (they are more than half-brothers but less than full-brothers, each being from the Danehill mare Kind, with Bullet Train being by Sadler's Wells and Frankel being by Sadler's Wells' son Galileo). Amazingly, my mount Frankie (who surely appreciated that fact that we weren't galloping into a strong headwind) was still in front of Frankel at the finish, presumably only as a result of the latter having given us a three-furlong start. Anyway, the sight of Frankel and Bullet Train (nearer the camera) walking nonchalantly off the gallop behind us was more than pleasing.

I can, therefore, say that Frankel was the best horse whom I saw last weekend, but I don't know that I would have been able to make that claim had I headed off to either the Curragh or Longchamp. Had I done so, I would have seen either So You Think or Goldikova, instead of merely watching those two greats on TV. How lucky we are that we can stay at home and have such champions brought before us. Great racing from the Curragh, Longchamp, Kranji and some excellent stuff from various tracks in the UK - it couldn't get any better, could it? (Other than by having the Preakness on our screens too). So You Think was pretty special, but Goldikova's never-say-die performance to win her 13th Group/Grade One on her first start as a six-year-old was the highlight for me. What a terrific mare - and to think that we thought that Zarkava, not Goldikova, was the greatest filly in training in France during 2008! Oh, the folly of premature judgements. On which subject, I'd more or less written off Roderic O'Connor after his moderate appearance in the parade ring before the 2,000 Guineas (pictured above) and his even less inspiring performance in the race - but I was delighted to be proved wrong when he and Joseph O'Brien (pictured, right, on board his mother's Encosta De Lago filly Empowering in the parade ring before the 1,000 Guineas) won on Saturday. While, of course, Joseph would not be put on fancied runners in Classics if he wasn't Aidan's son, there is all the world of difference between being given terrific opportunities and being able to take advantage of them once given. Joseph's future as a Flat jockey seems sure to be very limited as I don't suppose that it will be long before he is bigger than I am, but he will be able to look back on his riding career with great pride - not just for having won all these big races, but for having become a genuinely high-class rider. I did see him beaten in a race nine days ago which I thought that he ought to have won (at Navan on the 4/7 shot Boris Grigoriev, whom he allowed/encouraged to do too much too soon) but that happens to them all - and set against that is that some of his winning rides (eg on Roderic O'Connor on Saturday or on Empowering in the Leopardstown 1,000 Guineas Trial) have been true gems. His parents will between them have enjoyed umpteen reasons for satisfaction and pride over the past couple of decades, but Joseph's accomplishment and his accomplishments must surely top the lot.

At a less obvious level, I was delighted to see Nicky Mackay win a big handicap at Haydock on Saturday on the Hughie Morrison-trained Sagramor. He falls very nicely into our roving spotlight which we direct towards the quieter achievers. Nicky was a top-class apprentice with Luca and seemed set for stardom, but it never really happened for him. And the strange thing is that I really don't know why. Granted, his father Alan and his brother Jamie have both shown slightly maverick tendencies at times (notwithstanding their successes in the saddle) but Nicky (pictured this morning in third place in John Gosden's string, in the pale cap, behind Rab Havlin and Laura Probert and alongside Saleem Golam) has always been a much less wild. Even so, despite I'd imagine always keeping his nose clean and despite being a very good jockey, he seemed at one stage in danger of falling off the face of the race-riding earth altogether. Taking a job with John Gosden last year seems to have been the best thing he ever did. He is now one of several jockeys in the stable getting race-rides to supplement their morning duties, and consequently, being seen to be riding good horses for a top-class stable, he is picking up more outside rides too. I don't think that I can add anything to the tribute which Hughie Morrison paid him after the race on Saturday: "Nicky is excellent - John Gosden uses him for a reason". The above photograph, of course, isn't much help if you want to know what he looks like, so the second one (of the Mark Tompkins-trained Astroleo at Yarmouth last Friday) is probably more useful in that respect.

The final unsung hero of the chapter, though, provides the best news of all. Over the past few decades, Dave Goodwin has been entering the winner's enclosure on foot rather than on horse-back. However, he has entered some very distinguished ones on foot, including the winner's circle at Epsom after the Derby in both 1985 and 1993, having looked after both Slip Anchor and Commander In Chief during his years working for Henry Cecil. Over and above being an outstanding and conscientious horseman, though, Dave is even more notable for being a really nice man - so the general concern when he appeared to be on death's door last May after being knocked off his bike in Snailwell was genuine and universal. Happily, the recovery which he has made has exceeded even the most optimistic predictions, so the highlight of last Saturday had to be the fact that Dave rode out again in Jeremy Noseda's string for the first time for more than a year. As it was his sixtieth birthday too, it was clearly a very special day for him - and, as such, was a day to warm the hearts of many. Dave had actually been back in the saddle already as I'd spied him on the stable's hack a few weeks ago, but returning to the back of a racehorse was a really special land-mark. And, happily, it wasn't just a one-off either, as he's now fully back doing what he loves and what he does so well, as the photograph above taken on the Severals this morning shows. And if that sight doesn't further brighten the already bright mornings enough, we have the never-failing brahma of Gus lairizing with the two older greyhounds, who tolerate his annoyances splendidly, on a daily basis to bring additional smiles to our faces.


problemwalrus said...

I know the hanging baskets are predicting Carlton House but I'm a big Ocean War fan. Its about time a grey won the Derby and he looked as though he has plenty of scope to improve. What do you think?

John Berry said...

I'm afraid that the honest answer to the question of what I think about Ocean War is that I've never heard of him. I clearly ought to pay more attention to what's going on around me!

I'll look him up to "refresh my memory".

John Berry said...

Memory refreshed. (And I'd have to say that his name did actually ring a slight bell as being one of the Godolphin cavalcade). Yes, I do know the horse. I can't really comment as I've never seen any of his races. I note that two of his most recent victims - Cai Shen (2nd) and Namibian (5th) - are running today so it will be interesting to see how they fare. If Cai Shen wins well, Ocean War should clearly come into the reckoning. If Cai Shen doesn't, it would obviously be harder to enthuse about Ocean War.

Shea Kang said...

Wake up with determination. Have a good day :)