Tuesday, April 02, 2013


We're still looking for our first winner of the year (but that's no disaster as we've only had a handful of runners - and we did have a winner in the penultimate week of 2012).  But we came close to getting off the mark for 2013 on Sunday as Frankie (Douchkirk) ran a bold race at Plumpton to finish second.  He still looked a bit green as he seemed to be making very heavy weather of things through the race; but he was very tough and very dour, bless him, coming from an unpromising position to get upsides the winner at the second last, only to lose out narrowly in the closing stages.

Joe Akehurst rode him very nicely.  In an ideal world, of course, we'd have William Kennedy on all our jumpers, but in practice he can't ride them all.  Sometimes he is unavailable.  And sometimes he isn't eligible. And this was one of those latter times, as it was a conditional jockeys' race. So Joe was a very good substitute.  He's a very experienced rider, but still has a claim even in these races, so he's perfect.  As has always been the case, he followed his instructions to the letter, and gave the horse both a very good ride and every chance.  It's a mystery why he doesn't get more rides - but then again one could say the same about many very good hoops, most obviously William.  And it was nice to see Joe having two rides at Huntingdon the following day (Easter Monday).

So it was good to give Joe a ride on a nice horse.  What was also good about the trip was that it was nice to have a runner at the last meeting at which Terence Brennan, one of the senior and most eminent stipendiary stewards, was officiating.  He is now retired, and the ranks of stewards' secretaries are thus the poorer. We've lost many of the best stipes in recent years, including the best of them all (Anthony Gillam) for the worst reason (death) and another very good one (Geoffrey Foster) for reasons which still aren't clear.  Now another good one has gone - so it's lucky that the next generation contains some excellent people too.

It was very cold at Plumpton on Sunday, but at least it wasn't as cold as it was elsewhere: I read that it was the coldest Easter Sunday ever recorded in Great Britain, with a night-time low of  -12.5 Celsius (ie +9 Fahrenheit) somewhere in the Highlands in Scotland.  Compared to that, Plumpton down near the south coast was positively balmy - as it was compared to Newmarket too.  We had a few snow flurries over the weekend here, and we definitely haven't yet got the plentiful daffodils, crocuses (croci?) and primroses which adorned the verges of the lovely country roads as one crosses eastwards over from the A23 to Plumpton.

But things are picking up.  Today was lovely, as you can see here (in all but the first two photographs, which were taken at Plumpton).  It was, admittedly, still very cold, with a brisk easterly wind ensuring that it only got a few degrees above zero even during a sunny day; and with a pre-dawn temperature of, I'm told, minus 7.  But, as you can see, the day started absolutely magnificently; and, even if the wind strengthened and the sky didn't remain totally cloud-free as the day went on, the day was very nice all the way through.

A further highlight of the day, over and above the splendid sunshine, was the fact that Anthony really enjoyed his riding.  We picked him up on the way to Plumpton on Sunday, so he's now had two full days here, and he's ridden Panto both days.  We've done quite a lot of trotting around the rings on the Severals, and it's great to be riding alongside him.  Today we had young Jack Irish coming along behind us, and it was very good that Panto and Anthony could show him the way through the practice stalls in the middle of the field, as you can see in the final two paragraphs.

Anthony will have another day at the races tomorrow when we go to Lingfield.  Gift Of Silence runs in the 3.00, a seven-furlong maiden on the Polytrack (on a left-handed track, of course - but she now seems so straightforward that I'm no longer worried about only running her right-handed).  She must have some sort of chance of getting us off the mark for the year, but the race looks at least as strong as the one in which she finished a good third 13 days ago, so realistically we should be happy if she can run a place.  But we always live in hope, of course!

Anyway, it'll be good to have another trip tomorrow, and she might as well run in what looks a reasonably hot maiden race tomorrow as wait a bit longer, because the maiden races are only going to get stronger with the passing weeks at this time of year.  The big stables each have a massive team of talented maiden three-year-olds limbering up for the new season, so these will be wheeled into action very shortly.

So she can run tomorrow - and if she proved not quite up to the standard required to win a maiden, we'll be eligible for the slightly easier option of handicaps after tomorrow.  Anyway, she's in good heart, as you will be able to deduce from her pricked ears in three of the photographs (two taken from on her back) taken this morning which adorn this chapter.  You might find her ears hard to discern in the first photograph in which they appear (the third photograph of the chapter, taken on the Severals around dawn) - but they are there!

No comments: