Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Time goes by

Newmarket's over and Chester's begun.  And thus the racing calendar goes, which is good because its timelessness is re-assuring.  When we'd had that foggy day on the Wednesday before the Guineas when you could hardly see your hand in front of your face on the Limekilns, Liam Casey was reminiscing about the last gallops morning before the 2,000 Guineas in 1986, when he recalled Green Desert (who went on to run second to Dancing Brave at the weekend) getting loose on Waterhall at the far end of the Limekilns, disappearing off into thick fog and, by the grace of God, finding his way home unscathed to Freemason Lodge, to massive sighs of relief all round.

Wayne Goldsborough (who was riding this year's Guineas contender Moohajim in his build-up this time around) used to ride the horse, but Walter Swinburne was to ride him in a gallop that day as he was going to ride him on the Saturday, so Wayne dismounted and legged Walter aboard, Walter rode off - and then about three seconds later was on the ground, being trampled on by the horse as he took off into the fog.  And that's the great thing about this place.  That happened in 1986, but could just as easily have happened this year, 2013 - or could have happened in 1886, or 1816, or could be going to happen in 2086 or 2113.

The Heath doesn't change, the horses don't change, the people don't change, the weather doesn't change, and the racing calendar doesn't change.  And that's just lovely, and why this place is so very special.  We haven't had any more fog in the seven days since that very foggy morning, but we've had plenty of sunshine.  The rain which hit Newmarket on Saturday afternoon just before the Guineas was an aberration, because otherwise it's been pleasantly warm/hot and largely sunny (as this chapter's photographs show).  Conditions are supposed to be deteriorating, but they're only doing so slightly and today, while lacking the solid sunshine of most of the recent days, were still very pleasant.

Over the other side of the country, Chester was meant to have some moderate weather, but it looked fine there too - even if the ground couldn't have been called fine, because for their first day's racing of the year and when the ground was described as good to firm, it was rather disconcerting to see how loose it was.  Chester stages what I would regard as far too much racing for such a narrow strip of ground, and today's conditions hardly bode well for the second half of the year.

On a more positive note, it was terrific to see John Egan ride his winner there today.  I think that I will always regard John as the best jockey with whom I have worked, and the fact that he only race-rides rarely nowadays does not diminish his skills.  It was eye-catching that he had come over to ride two horses for David Evans (his first two rides in Britain this year, I think) and far from surprising that he won on one of them (at 12/1).  John is a great jockey anywhere, but he is particularly made for Chester (and particularly for the sprints there) and Chester is particularly made for him.


glenn.pennington said...

Totally agree about John Egan, who seems to be semi-retired these days. Didn't he ride a lot for David Evans a few years ago?

John Berry said...

Yes, he was Dave's main jockey for quite a while. He's primarily a trainer nowadays. He trains a small string at Friarstown Stud on the Curragh. He really only rides the horses he trains (and he doesn't even ride all of his own runners, as I saw that Billy Lee rode one of them the other day) but he did ride a winner at Dundalk for his neighbour Reginald Roberts a month or so ago. These two rides yesterday were his first rides in Britain this year. Remarkably, he's no less effective for only riding occasionally: usually jockeys find it hard to be at their peak unless they are having at least a few rides each week. He's a hard worker so he'd keep himself fit with the riding out and work in the yard etc.