Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weather with you

I enjoyed the outing back to my homeland over the past couple of days.  And I'd like to think that Ollie (Orla's Rainbow) enjoyed it too.  We drove through some really solid rain all the way up through Yorkshire and Northumberland, so I was quite relieved to find, once we got near Edinburgh, that we were merely battling our way through light rain.  But it was light rain that had been coming down for several hours.  We'd gone up there to find ground which wasn't too soft, and thanks to Musselburgh's well-drained peculiarites we just about got it.

When I walked (part of) the track a couple of hours before racing, the ground was perfect, and it probably just ended up as something approximating good to soft: good ground with the top rather too loose and yielding for it to qualify as 'good'.  So we just about got away with it and Ollie (pictured cantering back in off the track after the race, and then a few hours later tucking into his tea in the racecourse stables) ran well enough, finishing fifth, beaten about four lengths.  That was good.  And what was even better was that at every stage of his trip, from leaving home at 4.20 on Friday morning to getting back at 2.40 on Saturday afternoon, he was angelic.

He's a smashing little horse and is shaping up as a really sensible, professional, enthusiastic and willing little racehorse.  And his rider Lee Newman, whom I'd never even spoken to prior to yesterday, was equally good: he couldn't have been more helpful, sensible or positive.  In particular, he really endeared himself to me with a display of helpfulness well beyond the call of duty.  I was there on my own and so was leading Ollie up, so asked Jim Goldie, as kind and helpful a man as you'd ever find, if he could saddle Ollie as well as his own horse in the race.

Jim agreed - only he wasn't required to do anything as Lee, knowing that I was leading up the horse, just weighed out and came out to the pre-parade ring himself with the tack, offering to hold the horse while I saddled him.  It's not as if he was having a quiet afternoon as he had a ride in nearly every race including the previous one.  Jockeys who would do something like that unbidden are worth their weight in gold.  So, all in all, and especially as Musselburgh really is an extremely welcoming place, it was a good afternoon, despite the weather - which in retrospect wasn't that bad, relatively speaking, because it was much worse today.

It was such a shame for Musselburgh that the weather was so miserable because it was Ladies' Day.  They still got a good crowd and the bulk of the crowd put a brave face on things, but it really would have been much more satisfactory had the weather not been so reminiscent of November.  Still, it actually deteriorated after racing, making one realise that it could have been worse.  And then this morning I awoke to find that it had been raining all night.  And then the rain got harder.  I treated myself to a drive through my homeland in the borders on the way home (which is actually slightly shorter than sticking to the A1, but obviously takes longer, particularly if one is as easily distracted as I am.  Driving through the Borders this morning, it was 7 degrees and raining hard - and the local radio station informed us that the rain would persist all day and that we were in for a top temperature of 10.  What took most time was the list of golf courses closed because of waterlogging.  Midsummer!  Still, it's a lovely part of the world, even when the rain is constant and the clouds are obscuring much of what one should be seeing.  The pictures of the Minto Hills above Hassendean Station (a halt at a farm, which impressively is still painted smartly even though no train has run along the absent line for more than 40 years) and the "view" looking south into Northumberland say it all.  But even in the rough conditions it's great, and at this time of year the almost ubiquitous rhododendrons look lovely whatever the weather.

And now back home we have drying conditions. Let's see if I complain about it having dried up too much at Salisbury tomorrow, where we run three horses (Zarosa, Wasabi and Batgirl) all of whom I regard as horses who might appreciate some cut.

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