Friday, May 27, 2011

Rain drops start falling

Water has been intermittently falling from the sky over the past couple of days (so the dust being kicked up two days ago in this photograph wasn't in evidence yesterday and today, while we've definitely lost for the time being the summery atmosphere of the next photograph, taken on Tuesday, of Kirsty Milczarek and Josh Crane walking off the first sand on two of John Ryan's horses). This precipitation is very disconcerting and has to be filed away under the heading 'freak weather conditions'. I enjoyed the Journal's weather retrospective for April. The wettest day for the month was 6th April, on which 2.2mm of rain fell; while the month's total rainfall was 2.2mm. In a country where usually it seemingly rains all the time, we can't complain about that at all, can we? March had been not massively wetter than April was, and most of May was in similar vein - so we had to get some rain at some point. Probably not enough to avert the future shortage of hay, though, because this area and the country in general will have got so far behind in the growth of grass that hay yields are bound to be well below-average - and especially if, now that it has started raining, it keeps raining so frequently that the making of hay becomes unfeasible. That would be ironic: too dry to grow it, too wet to bale what little there is! And that could happen. Our forage merchant has already raised his prices in anticipation of future shortages, but there's no point in worrying about it: hay is like diesel in that you have to have it, so you just have to pay whatever it costs. I always think that it's worthwhile to remember that, as we have more than enough to worry about anyway, time spent in worrying about things over which one has no control is time wasted.

The weather is still warm, though, despite the changed conditions, and far from unpleasant. Our most immediate precipitation dividend will be that Frankie (pictured on Tuesday being washed off after exercise by Sara, who has been his most regular partner over the past few months, and then having a go at finding something to eat on the parched 'lawn') should find some lovely ground at Stratford tomorrow for his debut. I'm never too worried about the ground for bumpers, reasoning that if it's acceptable for a jumps race (which you'd hope that it is, bearing in mind that there have been six jumps races run on the course by the time that the bumper is held) then it should be fine for a flat race, which effectively what a bumper is. Having said that, the jockeys were all saying that it was very firm at Yarmouth last week, and yet to my foot is was less firm than it had been for the jumps card at Market Rasen five days previously, so it doesn't necessarily follow that jumps tracks will have more give in them. But that's by the by: I wasn't worrying about the ground anyway, but I'll definitely have no misgivings now as I am sure that we'll be asking Frankie to race on ground that is either good or softer than that. It's a job to know what to expect of Frankie. He doesn't show a great deal of speed in his home-work and he still looks, as you can see, rather fat, but he's been in work for what seems like forever so should be reasonably well prepared. And, while he hasn't been impressing as a fast horse, that's not really relevant as (a) he's running over two miles and (b) he seems quite lazy (ie however hard you think that you've worked him, he's never tired afterwards) so I think that we might find that he's been hiding his light under a bushel somewhat. In short, he gives the impression that he might be a very nice stayer - but as one of the hallmarks of many a good stayer is that he doesn't really impress in his homework, all one can do is to run such a horse, hope for the best and find out what happens. I'm sure that I'll be wiser come 9.10 tomorrow evening; whether I'll be richer remains to be seen. Frankie will be wiser too, after ten minutes or so of William's instructive handling.

One of the nice things about the change in the weather is that the horses like it. I often find that, in a dry spell, they become more enthusiastic at exercise after a night of rain. That seemed the case today. It could be that the air is fresher (because some horses don't really like it when the air is very heavy, dusty, or insect- or pollen-full, and get quite grouchy or sluggish) or it could be that they find the underfoot conditions, even on the walking grounds, kinder. And if they maybe find the Heath more fun, they definitely find the field even more fun. There was some great playing this afternoon after the latest shower, as the very perky and rather dirty Frankie trotting towards the camera in the previous paragraph's third photograph suggests. They all had a mighty time in there, getting both dirty and playful, and I had some fun watching them, even if from a photographic point of view it was rather frustrating. There was some terrific frolicking going on, but it was very, very hard to capture it on film, not only because the best displays tend to appear out of nowhere very quickly and are over before the photographer has woken up, but also because there was usually a horse between the frolicker and me. The first photograph in this paragraph is a classic example: a close-up shot of Batgirl letting rip would have been tremendous, but basically the bulk of the photograph is dominated by Kadouchski, First Pressing and Hotfoot standing still with their attention elsewhere, while the bucking Batgirl is semi-obscured by Kadou. At least the rolling is easier: the horses love to roll and roll once the rain has fallen (as Asterisk and Kadou are showing in the next two shots), but then taking photographs of horses rolling is 11+ stuff. Decent rearing or bucking photographs are proper A-level material. I'll get there eventually, but.


racingfan said...

great blog as ever john, and a lovely performance last night, keep up the good work,



Nathan said...

Well done team Berry. Great job by everyone connected with Douchkirk.

racingfan said...

I thought Will Kennedy was superb today at Uttoxeter and is in top form, and he was rightly praised by the also excellent Matt Chapman on at the races,

Have you any entrinkes for the up and coming week john?

And also did douchkirk come out of the race ok?



John Berry said...

Thank you. Yes, any praise given to William is deserved.

Likely runners for this week: Silken Thoughts at Chepstow on Monday, Batgirl at Doncaster on Friday, First Pressing at Doncaster on Saturday.