Saturday, July 20, 2013

We also serve

Disappointingly, we have an overcast (but still very warm) day today.  Not so last night, when it was blissful.  Madness can rarely have played in more idyllic settings than that provided by the July Course last night.  We were given our dinner there by Shadwell Stud, which was very pleasant - and that came with the added bonus of making sure that we were up there to watch the debut of the Queen's two-year-old filly who will surely become Gus' favourite horse (present company excepted, of course): Dalmatia.

And, having seen Dalmatia (pictured here), I find that she's among my favourites too: not only do both her name and owner automatically make me predisposed to like her, but her appearance does too.  She's lovely, and looks like she's related to Roy (which she isn't).  She didn't show a lot of immediate promise on her debut last night, but she's a lovely-looking horse with a good pedigree and in a good stable (Michael Stoute's); and she blew hard after her race, so we can expect her to improve and become a nice horse.  I hope so - and I'll enjoy keeping an eye out for her easily-recognisable little face on the Heath.

It was rather odd being up at the July Course yesterday evening (at which we see in this paragraph Folk Melody strolling home in the race in which Dalmatia ran moderately) as I caught myself thinking that I hoped that the perfect weather would hold for the July Meeting - and then was shocked to realise that I was holding that thought six days after the meeting had ended.  The thing was that the July Meeting rather passed me by, as I was busy at the sale for the first two days, and then busy with ATR on the third.

Anyway, it was wrong of me to let the July Meeting pass without (my, seemingly, noticing that it had taken place, and) my commenting on the great win in the Cherry Hinton Stakes (now, for no obvious reason, known as the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes) of the George Margarson-trained Lucky Kristale.  This was lovely: it's always great to see one of the town's smaller and less expensive strings producing the winner of a big-race - something which George (pictured here leading his string across the Severals earlier this week) has done regularly thoughout his training career, thanks to the likes of Atavus and Barathea Guest, to name but two of his other Group winners.

That win brought back memories of the most splendid victory in the race in 1999 of the Giles Bravery-trained Torgau, a victory which led to one of the all-time great post-race interviews on Channel Four.  And what was nice was that this victory featured in the 'From the vaults' slot in Sunday's Racing Post, which re-printed Brough Scott's review of the day which had appeared in the paper on 7th July 1999.  Anyway, that magical interview won't have been forgotten by anyone who saw it, but just in case you missed it (and Sunday's paper) I'll repeat some of Brough's article, starting with Giles' words and then continuing with Brough's observations:

" "You work bloody hard and lose all your money," he said, still deadpan, "but then, about once every six years, something like this happens and you are utterly hooked all over again".
There comes a stage in these TV interviews when the producer starts to move you on to the next item, but Giles was seeing the ball like a balloon now and was in no mood to quit the crease.  "Over 20 per cent of my string were in Group action today, " he said, alluding to Shaya's third in the appropriately-named Prix du Carrousel at Maisons-Laffitte.
"It goes to show not just that I can do it, but that lots of people with me down the Hamilton Road can do it.  Of course, it is easier to have horses with Henry Cecil.  Of course, he is a brilliant trainer, but I tell you, we are bloody good at it too." "

There's never any harm in reminding ourselves that there are plenty of good trainers among the ranks of those who train small strings of generally inexpensive and generally modest horses, just as there are plenty of good jockeys among the ranks of those who more or less ride only ordinary horses in races which they are unlikely to win.  We had a good reminder of this latter aspect in the Racing Post this week, when Julian Muscat wrote an excellent feature on one of this stable's most successful jockeys, Franny Norton, whose career has stepped up a couple of gears since he started to pick up plenty of rides for Mark Johnston.  Franny's observation, as quoted by Julian, was particularly pertinent: " "This is a funny game," he continues.  "The other day someone told me I was riding out of my skin, but I'm not, I'm just riding better horses, getting better chances and taking those opportunities.  That's all it is." "

It was particularly good to see Giles' finest hour recalled, as he'd had me chuckling earlier in the week.  He'd caught me wandering out of Tattersalls' Park Paddocks at the end of the morning of either the first or second day of the sale and, correctly presuming that I'd achieved nothing there, he didn't ask whether my time there had been time well spent, but instead correctly pointed out that I'd have had a more worthwhile morning if I'd done what he'd been doing, ie watching the cricket.  That was Giles to a tee - but of course I was able (I hope) to spend time at Park Paddocks more productively on the final morning of the sale, as that was when I bought Russian Link, who has settled in very happily, who can be seen in the photograph in the final chapter and who (I say with typically blind faith) will be instrumental in putting this stable back on the map over the coming months and years.

Ah well, you've got to have a vein of groundless optimism running through your body, haven't you?!  There are always enough people out there willing to spread the word that the only good trainers are those with large strings of good horses, and the only good jockeys are those who get plenty of good rides.  So if you weren't able to retain an unrealistic sense of optimism, you'd end up believing their lies - and if things came to that, that would be the beginning of the end.  I had a good illustration of what one's up against earlier this season when watching a horse who used to be trained here, Magic Ice, running at Redcar on RUK.

Tom O'Ryan was presenting with Mark Howard as his guest, and the latter airily made the observation that we could expect Magic Ice to improve for having moved from John Berry's stable to Brian Ellison's.  There was no basis for making this prediction whatsoever, which seemed to be based solely on the premise that Brian trains many more horses than I do - for if our wise guy had analysed the evidence, he'd have concluded that, while there is a strong tradition of horses improving for moving to Brian's excellent stable, there is no tradition whatsoever of horses improving for leaving this one.  Anyway, Tom, to his eternal shame, allowed this groundless assertion to go through unchallenged - giving a classic example of what myself, Giles and umpteen other unfashionable stables are up against.  So it was great to see a reprint of Giles' classic reminder of the way things are.

For a more immediate reminder of the way things are (or were yesterday) all the photographs in this chapter were taken during yesterday's blissful weather, bar the one of George Margarson (which was taken on Monday)

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