Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gee, the freeze-up was nice (as we now know)

If you asked Emma, I'm sure that she'd tell you that the most important thing which I've done today is to enter Oscar Bernadotte in a race (a bumper at Southwell on Monday).  If he gets as far as running, that'll be an historic occasion, as he's the first horse whom Emma has bred - and as he's a five-year-old, she's had to wait long enough to have a runner.  Anyway, though, we won't count our chickens: six days is a long time in politics, but it's an even longer time in a racing stable where anything can happen, particularly at this time of year when the racing might well not even take place.

So we'll just see what happens - and in the interim I hope that we'll have two runners at Wolverhampton AW on Friday (which, at least, really ought to take place) namely Magic Ice and Simayill.  Anyway, we might as well illustrate this chapter with five photographs of the rear view of Oscar braving last month's snows (with Magic Ice in the final three shots) in his quest to get ready for his debut.  Hugh's riding him in these pictures, which he generally does - and it is good that the horse's debut is pencilled in for next week rather than this, as Hugh's doing jury service at present, and it would be a shame if he was courtroom-bound while Oscar was making his debut.

Looking at these photographs is rather nostalgic: now that the freeze-up has gone, it seems like paradise compared to the hell we've got now.  Rain at around one or two degrees on Sunday turned to snow at around zero overnight, which then turned back to rain at around one degree yesterday - and all in a strong and very chilling wind.  It was surprising that the snow was able to settle yesterday as the ground wasn't frozen, and even more surprising that there was still a hint of snow on top of Long Hill this morning, because really we've had the worst of all worlds: very, very wet and freezing too, which two undesirable things usually preclude each other.

Anyway, enough of that.  We were struggling through the mire on the walking grounds on the Heath yesterday, trotting up the side of Long Hill, when the sobering thought came to me that, while the conditions were about as unpleasant as one could get, they were far, far more pleasant than those which the soldiers had to tolerate in the trenches - and we didn't have anyone shooting, shelling or gassing us.  And we could head back into a warm and dry house to enjoy a hot bath when we were finished after only a few hours.  So, while this foul weather is becoming ever harder to bear as this foul winter drags on, I know that really we have nothing to complain about.

To change the subject completely, one rider whom I forgot to salute in the last chapter's dispatches was Graham Carson, who rode his first winner in an amateurs' race last week on a horse who always brings a smile to my face: Peace In Our Time, owned by the Neville Chamberlain Partnership.  Graham worked for Stuart Williams and Clive Brittain for quite a long time, but works for his father Tony now.  He really deserved that winner, and by riding it has continued a good family tradition - started by his grandfather Willie and continued by his brother William - of success in the saddle.  Also on the subject of those past dispatches, after writing the chapter I found out that Christian Williams' win was his first for two and a half years, so he deserves really special plaudits - as will J D Smith if and when he next rides a winner.  I was very pleased to see JD have his first ride yesterday (at Wolverhampton) since 2008.  It's a good effort for any jockey, never mind an unfashionable one, to make a come-back after such a long spell; but JD's always been an excellent rider, so let's hope that he can gain some deserved success.

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