Wednesday, June 05, 2013

More runners

Well, the inevitable happened yesterday: Estiqaama
didn't blot her copy-book and duly won our race easily. It had been the same as when Silken Thoughts ran against the subsequent St. Leger-winning handicap-debutant Encke at Sandown last season: one went into the race looking at one's most obvious opponent thinking, "How the hell has this got in so lightly?  What was the handicapper thinking of?".  One might ask, of course, why we ran.  But, really, it was the correct thing to do.  One's always told never to be afraid of just one horse; and with a handicap-debutant(e), there is, of course, always the chance that the handicapper might be right, even in times such as these when it seems almost certain that he has got things badly wrong.

Or it could be that the handicapper, particularly in yesterday's case, was working on the same middle-way theory as the stewards.  Take Estiqaama's Salisbury second at face value and she's an 85-rated filly.  Look at her another way and she's a very highly-strung filly whose temperament dictates that she might never amount to much, in which case she's value for maybe 45.  So take a happy medium and put her on 70.  Just like with the bad rides.  If it's a deliberately bad ride the jockey should, apparently, be disqualified for 10 years; but if it's an unintentional blunder no penalty is warranted.  Which is it?  Well, we can't say, so we'll split things down the (sort of) middle and dish out a suspension of a week, two weeks, 12 days or whatever.  That way, whatever the true answer, we can't be totally wrong.

Anyway, it turned out that Estiqaama was on her best behaviour and duly won with her head in her chest.  But we had to run, didn't we?  She'd already been scratched at the barrier once this season - and if the same thing had happened again, we'd have won 'Fool of the Year' if we'd been sitting at home, leaving Ssafa (in the same boat as Gift Of Silence, a nice, fairly-handicapped, in-form mare) to have a virtual walk-over against three no-hopers in a four-horse race.  So there you have it: Estiqaama (who should have been around 10/1 on immediately after they'd jumped and she was away, on level terms and racing tractably) won easily, Ssafa, the second favourite, beat Gift Of Silence, the third favourite, for second place - and the other three were tailed off.  A great advertisement for the competitiveness of British racing, as the photograph in the top paragraph shows!

Wasn't a wasted trip, though.  Third money will have covered most, but not all, of the day's expenses; and we received a salutary warning not to run her on ground too firm.  She still ran her race more or less, but Neil Callan reported that she was finding the ground too firm for her comfort.  Thankfully we were at Yarmouth, where they look after the turf well, and thankfully she's a light-framed mare whose legs are hitting the ground without too much force because of her lack of bulk, and no harm was done; but in warm, dry weather it's inevitable that the tracks will get quite firm, and it was a good reminder that we shouldn't take any chances with her: once they're jarred up, it's hard to turn the clock back.

And Neil's words made me glad that we hadn't run Wasabi in the last, because I know that she'd have hated it.  And that last race itself provided a nice result: the firm-ground specialist Dr Finley got home by a nose for Lydia and Simon Pearce.  Simon had a shocking fall at Goodwood less than a couple of weeks ago and it had been good to see him back in the saddle a few days later (as seen in the third paragraph) so it was good that he found his way to the winner's enclosure for his mum yesterday, particularly as he'd done good work earlier in the evening just to get the very disenchanted mare (an outside ride) whom he rode in Gift Of Silence's race down to the start after having come off her a couple of times.

So that was yesterday.  Today started off duller but was a lovely, warm, sunny day by midmorning (as four photographs taken during last lot confirm - and bonus points for anyone who can identify the former very successful Ian Balding apprentice on the grey horse) and remained thus through the afternoon.  I'm hoping for more of the same tomorrow when we head up to Thirsk with Annia Galeria, who should find conditions much more to her liking than at rain-sodden Lingfield last week.  Then the following day (Friday) we'll be playing at home, Grand Liaison being set to run on the July Course.

Firm(ish) ground will be perfect for Annia (who is knee-high to an ant, probably doesn't even weigh 400 kg, is as sound as a bell and who could happily gallop down the M1) but probably not for Grand Liaison; but in the latter's case the warm, dry weather probably isn't an issue: it's the first day of racing of the year at the July Course, and the track is sure to be in lovely condition, so we don't need to worry unduly about causing any damage.  And she has, after all, won on good to firm ground in the past, even if that good to firm ground was rain-affected good to firm, if that makes any sense.

Today's other highlight (did I say 'other'? I hadn't realised that I'd yet nominated a first highlight) was a surprise visit from a lovely man who used to train in this stable briefly in the early '70s.  Frank Byrne, an Englishman trained here for the film producer Irving Allen and also for a while in Scandanavia, and then most notably at Warrnambool in Victoria, where he enjoyed plenty of success.  The best horse whom I remember him training was Beaver Called, who won a Wangoom Handicap at her home track, but he's also in the annals for putting up with Richard Sims as an owner, whose stock with him included the nice grey mare Sahaaran.  Anyway, Frank's long retired now, and comes back to England regularly to visit relatives - and it was a wonderful surprise this morning when he and his daughter Joanna walked into the yard.

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