Saturday, February 09, 2013

Worthy winners

Frankie ran OK at Kempton yesterday.  7th of 18 in a competitive race on his handicap bow was fairly creditable, and he would have finished a bit closer but for losing his pitch when a horse fell in front of him (well, blundered and unseated his rider in front of him, to be correct) about two thirds of the way through the race.  So that's good: while there's promise, I'm happy.  It was a very pleasant day all round.  It started off very cold with a decent frost here but bright and, while it clouded over and rained for an hour in Newmarket during the afternoon, by venturing down to Kempton we managed to stay dry all day.  And that's always a bonus.

Leaving aside Frankie's run, there were a couple of nice things about the day.  One of them was that our race produced a very pleasing winner: Fabreaga, owned by Victoria Markowiak and trained by Jamie Poulton, two very decent people.  Another was a chance meeting with a couple of riders as I was walking the course, which is being looked after really well, but which is still suffering(as you can see in a photograph taken after only two races had been run) inevitably from the rigours of racing a lot in what seems to have become a desperate climate.  Christian Williams was formerly a very successful jockey, but he's been terribly unlucky with injuries, to the extent that it's amazing he's still riding.  He's hardly riding, though, as he gets even fewer rides than William nowadays, and apparently he does some 'jockey-coaching', whatever that means.  Anyway, he was coaching a young lad called Jonathan Moore yesterday, walking the course with him before Jonathan, who has had about 40 rides in Ireland, had his first ride in Britain in the bumper.  I don't know how this works as presumably Christian gets paid for this (by the Racing School, perhaps, as that's probably the only body awash enough with cash to pay someone to do something which the apprentice's boss should be doing unpaid) but it seems a good thing.  I was on the way home by the time that Jonathan had his ride, but I watched the replay subsequently - and, while the ride was not a success, he's an impressive young lad and I'm sure that he'll do well.  So that was nice - and the really nice post-script was that Christian rode a winner today at Warwick, which could well be his first of the season.

That was nice - and what was even nicer was that Slade O'Hara (pictured here riding the redoubtable Lowther for Alan Bailey on a snowy day at Lingfield a couple of winters ago) rode a winner two days ago.  I'd say that Slade's absence from the winner's enclosure had been even/considerably longer than Christian Williams', but he's good enough to win if the horse is - and he's certainly dedicated enough, as he's quite big and it requires true will power to do the weights if you're big and riding infrequently.  Slade was formerly in Newmarket, but he's been elsewhere for most of the past few years, most notably with Alan Berry for a couple of years, when he enjoyed a brief moment of fame as the Group Two-winning rider of lovely Look Busy.  He seemed to have given the race-riding away, but he's taken out license again since joining Peter Grayson's stable.  I bumped into him at Kempton a couple of weeks ago and he's looking very fit, so it was great to see him gain a deserved victory.  It was great too to note a win yesterday for John Egan, who has ridden very few winners in the British Isles in recent years but who won on Salam Alaykum at Dundalk last night - which was a real red-letter occasion as that is the first winner that he's trained.  He's training in Friarstown Stud on the Curragh and, as he ranks as the best jockey I've ever worked with and one of the best horsemen I know, if he puts his mind to it he's sure to train plenty more.

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