Sunday, June 03, 2012

Derby weekend

It's hard to believe that all that lovely weather was only a week ago.  It's cold and wet now, as anyone living in the UK will know and anyone overseas who watched the Jubilee flotilla on the Thames will know.  (Odd idea that, wasn't it?  They must have had a committee to think up a way of marking the day and someone came up with that, which seemed to work OK.  But I wonder what the other ideas, the ones which didn't make the cut, were.  Morris dancing down the Mall?)  It's not really cold, of course, but it's cold by summer standards.  And it started raining during the night and has pretty much rained all day. 

Under the circumstances, I was happy enough not to ride too much today.  We only rode the three horses who hold entries during the week, plus Panto, Emma's hack, whom she took out when I took out Kadouchski.  After that Iva and I rode Ollie (Orla's Rainbow - pictured above out in the pen last weekend, when the weather was still good) and Grand Liaison.  Now that's the trick: if you'd looked up our entries, you'd only see the names of Ollie (who has two entries on Thursday) and Grand Liaison (who runs at Leicester on Tuesday) with no sign of Kadouchski.  Well, he'll be running at Newmarket on Friday, but you won't see him listed in the paper.

He'll be running in the first race run on the July Course this year, before racing on Friday.  It's an inter-hunt charity race and he'll be representing the Essex Hunt.  Carol Whitwood, who looks after these horses' backs, comes from down there and she asked me if I could help out by providing a mount for their huntsman Rob Ogden (shown in a couple of pictures taking Kadou up Long Hill on Friday).  I wouldn't put Kadou forward to run in any race on a left-handed track as he doesn't like racing on those, and on a right-handed or straight track I'd only do so for very, very few people.  But Carol's special, and Kadouchski's special too.  After I'd spoken to the hunt's master Simon Marriage, Carol said, "Is that right you're letting them have Kadouchski?  I've told them that if they've got the chance to ride that lovely horse, then they should snap your hand off!".  Anyway, Rob's been here a couple of times to ride him, seems a really nice chap, and I'm looking forward to Kadou playing his part in yet another special day.

Great Derby, wasn't it?  Or rather great winner.  I found it a lovely afternoon of racing as it was all on one channel, so the arduous task of flipping, as Larry Sanders would call it, didn't need to be undertaken. And there was really good racing at Musselburgh and Haydock, and some interesting stuff at Beverley and Catterick, as well as the special stuff at Epsom.  So that was good.  Racing UK were very good in showing us plenty of the mighty Camelot (pictured before the 2,000 Guineas) before the Derby - I understand that the BBC focussed more on Bonfire, which wouldn't have been quite so good, as Camelot was clearly the major attraction even before we knew (as opposed to presumed) the result.  St Nicholas Abbey was pretty special too, so that was great, and a lovely posthumous tribute to lovely Montjeu, who of course sadly died a couple of months ago.  When we were having all the talk last year that Galileo is the best sire we've ever seen, my retort was that he arguably wasn't even the best sire currently at his own stud (which was not meant to denigrate Galileo in any way, merely to express my massive admiration for Montjeu).  Now that Montjeu has had a record-equalling four Derby winners (in only eight crops) I'd like to think that my remark might not be deemed to be quite as stupid as some might have maintained last year.

Anyway, one of the lovely things about Derby Days is the reminiscing about Derbys past.  Slip Anchor, winner of the first Derby which I attended and pictured here in his dotage at his home at Plantation Stud a couple of years ago, will always ranks very highly in my pantheon.  Twitter was very good on Derby Day with so many people venting their memories and opinions.  And another interesting thought from yesterday was voiced by my friend Liam Casey,who used to work for Michael Stoute for many years: Liam (pictured below in last week's good weather) ventured the opinion that, while Camelot had looked really good in making up all that ground to record a 5-length victory, he would not have found it nearly so easy to get to the lead from there had a top-class horse such as Shahrastani been the one out in front. 

We always like to pick up on the horse who makes up a ton of ground, and focus on how supposedly unlucky are those making up all the ground and still not winning (Dancing Brave being the obvious example) but it's easy to overlook the performances of those horses who are asked for a big effort a long way from home, who go clear a long way out and yet are still good enough to last home in front.  We always remember what a champion Dancing Brave was, but it's easy to forget that Shahrastani was a terrific horse himself - and focussing on Greville's supposed blunder, it's easy to overlook the fact that in both the Oaks and the Derby this weekend several top-class jockeys set their mounts tasks as stiff as the one Greville posed for Dancing Brave.  One of them got away with it, but several didn't.  But that's the eternal fascination of racing: the dividing line between victorious genius and cock-up is wafer-thin.

I can't end this chapter without paying tribute to Karma Chameleon, to whom we waved goodbye on Friday evening.  He has headed out to Dubai, where his owners live, and is to join the stable of Doug Watson.  My friend Ian McBride (aka The Judge) used to work for Doug Watson and he has told me that Doug is a really good trainer, so it's nice to know that Karma (pictured passing on his wisdom to young Roy Rocket in the field one sunny evening last week) will be in really safe hands.  Doug trains a few veterans for the same connections who have still been racing well at the age of nine or ten, which speaks very well of the sympathetic policies of both owners and trainer.  Let's hope that Karma can do well for them for the next few years - and I'm sure that he will, because he's a terrific little horse, blessed with a tough constitution and a lovely temperament.

It's been a real pleasure to have Karma here over the past seven months or so: leaving aside the thrill of his four victories, he's just been a lovely horse to have around the place, the type you'd fall in love with even if he had no ability.  Anyway, to help hope to spring eternal, the vagaries of fate saw another lovely horse arrive the day before Karma departed.  This dark brown horse pictured here is by Smart Strike from the 1998 Kentucky Oaks victrix Keeper Hill, which breeding is just about as exciting as you could get.  Keeper Hill won two other Grade One races and is a daughter of Deputy Minister, so this horse is bred on the same cross as Curlin.  To my eye, his looks match his lineage, so let's hope that his achievements match both of those.  The dream lives on.

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