Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy memories

Well, that's another Cheltenham Festival over.  The usual cavalcade of contrasting emotions - and let's hope that we get some good news re J. T. McNamara in the morning.  Compared to accidents such as that, the matter of winning or losing is a mere triviality.

On the subject of mere trivialities, I've had a rare pleasure this week in that it has been the first time that the subject of my weekly 'Grey Panel' on the Thoroughbredinternet site has been a horse whom I have ridden.    I haven't ridden many colts who have gone on to stand at stud as stallions.  Off the top of my head, the short list would be headed by Largesse whom I rode several hundred times, but would also include the Brian Swift-trained Prince Sabo, who stood at Cheveley Park, and Luca's Second Set, who went to Coolmore, who barely count as I only rode them once each, and that was just trotting.

Of horses whom I used at one time to ride less infrequently, Pirate Army went to Australia (to Muranna Stud in Victoria) and Legal Case went, I think, to South America.  I recall a massive Nijinsky colt called Contest, whom Luca trained but who, as far as I can recall, never raced, and I believe that he had a very obscure career as a supposed jumps stallion.  Another (less unsuccessful) subsequent National Hunt stallion who was there at the time was Rashar; I suspect that I probably would have ridden him at some point, but can't recall.

Other than that, I'd struggle to name any others - but happily Michael Tidmarsh reminded me on Monday, after the victory of Norsqui in the Adelaide Cup, that I'd ridden his sire Matsqui when I visited Michael in Matamata in October 1993, when Michael was working for his friend Stephen Autridge at Te Akau Stables, in which Matsqui was at the time an unraced two-year-old.  You might say that this merely proves that I'm easily pleased, but Norsqui's Adelaide Cup victory (the first Group race won by a son or daughter of Matsqui, which is remarkable as the horse is now 21) consequently has given me a huge amount of pleasure.

I remember Matsqui (the highlight of whose career was finishing second, beaten in a photo, in the Easter Handicap at Ellerslie when he was a three-year-old, and then winning a Listed race in Brisbane on his next start after that) being there, but couldn't have said with certainty that he was one of horses whom I'd ridden, so Michael's reminder of this fact was music to my ears.  I might even have been on him (in fact, it probably was him) when my favourite memory of trackwork at Matamata that week took place.  Michael and I were sitting in the barriers in the middle of the track on a couple of young horses when Michael pointed out to me that the horse schooling over the hurdles in front of us was Surfers Paradise - and the last time I'd seen him had been at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate Day two years previously, when his 20/1 Cox Plate win had been a great result for me.

And then we saw Surfers Paradise at the weekend too, at an excellent meeting at Rotorua, pictures from which adorn this chapter.  Surfers Paradise was merely one of two Cox Plate winners there, the other one being the retired Bonecrusher, who paraded as we can see in the fourth photograph.  The racing was really good that day, at a time when the weight-for-age ranks in New Zealand were much, much stronger than they are now - as was confirmed at Moonee Valley that day when an NZer, The Phantom Chance, won the Cox Plate.

Anyway, the first two photographs are of the very good Stephen Autridge-trained two-year-old Lady Bay, who won that day and then won her next three races; in the second picture, Stephen is standing behind David Peake as he unsaddles her, with Mark Walker, who later succeeded Stephen as the trainer, holding her head.  The third photograph is of Surfers Paradise, while the fifth picture is of another celebrity there that day: Romanee Conti (who coincidentally was mentioned in last week's Grey Panel) who was already celebrated as a winner of the HK Cup, but who in time became even more famous as the dam of Melbourne Cup winner Ethereal.  The final picture is of Kingston Bay, (who had won a Group One race in Sydney earlier that year) and Lisa Cropp returning to scale after winning one of the two weight-for-age races on the card.

Ah, happy memories.  And if you'd like to learn more about Matsqui, have a look at .  That Grey Panel will be up probably until Tuesday afternoon, but it'll be in the archives subsequently if you miss it.

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