Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy times

That was a lovely week.  We've been having a very quiet season.  At the start of the week we'd had only one win this year (Zarosa at Newcastle in April) although things haven't been as dire as that implies because we'd still been having a good proportion of the horses running well, with six seconds and six thirds on the board.  (And, happily, the trainer's table makes things look less barren too: while common sense would dictate that the season runs from 1st January to 31st December, the BHA dictates that it runs this time from 11th November 2012 to 9th November '13, which had the effect of doubling our tally by the official rankings, Honky Tonk Queen having won in December).

Anyway, we started the week with one win on the board - and now, one week and three runners later, we've had two more wins and another third.  Cold list to hot list in one mighty leap!  The first two runners you might know about, Gift Of Silence having saluted the judge at Yarmouth on Tuesday and Roy Rocket having finished third at Lingfield the following afternoon.  The other runner would have been harder to find, the race being one which, although opening proceedings at Newmarket yesterday, wasn't listed in the morning papers.  It was, of course, the race whose rules pre-date the Jockey Club's rules: the Newmarket Town Plate, in which our runner was Start Me Up (pictured in the first paragraph earlier in the week in the stable here with his owner Jason Carver).

One Town Plate victory is shown (in a lovely photograph reproduced thanks to Steve Cargill's kindness) on the home page of our website as Kadouchski's victory in the race in 2011, with my being his owner, trainer and rider, remains a lifetime highlight for me.  I found yesterday's win equally special, despite the fact that I was in action merely as trainer.  Jason has only appeared on our horizon in recent months, but in that time he has become part of the scenery here.  He had initially contacted me merely to ask some advice regarding a challenge for the Town Plate, but the way things panned out led to his horse Start Me Up completing his preparation here.

Jason was preparing a horse for the race, but she went amiss.  He decided to buy a replacement at Doncaster Sale three weeks ago and duly compiled a short list of horses who appeared to be close to being fit enough for the task, and who seemed to have realistic prospects of galloping for three and three-quarter miles.  They were largely jumpers, and he ended up buying a 9-year-old steeplechaser out of Charlie Swan's stable called Start Me Up.  He bought him remarkably inexpensively too (£7,000) for a horse still in the prime of life and with very solid form: he'd initially won three of his four bumpers including a Listed one at Cheltenham, and had run at the Cheltenham Festival in both 2011 and '12, and in the Irish Grand National both this year and last.

Anyway, Jason had initially intended to prepare him for the race from his home in Lincolnshire, but it turned out that it was going to be easier having his finishing touches applied here, notwithstanding the fact that this meant a lot of travelling for Jason, as he came down to ride him out nearly every day (with my grabbing that task on the one day that he couldn't make it, which was rather selfish of me as he is a lovely horse to ride).  Jason is relatively inexperienced as a rider and, although he had previously ridden a warmblood in the Kiplingcotes Derby, this was the first time that he'd ridden a thoroughbred in a race, and the first time he'd ridden on a racecourse.

However, the thoroughness with which Jason has prepared himself for the Town Plate was on a par with the thoroughness with which he had undertaken all the other parts of the preparation for the challenge, even to the extent of familiarizing himself with racing gear and tack at exercise the day before the race, which sensible precaution is shown in the second paragraph.  He'd selected a horse who was indeed a perfect horse for the race and who was indeed close enough to fitness to be readied in time, and similarly he turned up himself physically and mentally very well prepared.

I didn't have to do a great deal to point either horse or rider in the right direction, and watching the race was like watching a dream come true as Jason did the right thing at every stage of the contest and brought his brave and lovely mount home the winner by just over two lengths.  It was a very, very, very well deserved triumph for a true and very high-calibre corinthian, and it was just a huge pleasure and honour to have played a small part in a lovely occasion - and one which had an extra note of specialness, thanks to Jason proposing to his girl-friend Lauren in the parade ring before the race!  (And I hardly need add that the response which he received was the one for which he was hoping).

Another very nice extra dimension to our happy week was the fact that we've had a very welcome visitor here for the past fortnight.  Suzy Quirke has been over here on holiday from Ireland and it was a great treat for us to have her in here every morning.  She comes from one of Ireland's greatest racing families (her late grand-father Martin held the record for many years for winners ridden in a season in Ireland, his tally of 86, set in 1923, not being surpassed until Johnny Roe rode 87 in 1972; while her late father Stephen was a very successful trainer at the Curragh - his many big wins including successive Irish 2,000 Guineas triumphs in 1967 and '68 with Atherstone and Mistigo - before being the Turf Club's senior starter) and understandably she is an excellent rider.

Suzy (pictured in the previous paragraph on Gift Of Silence, and in this one at the top of Long Hill on Jack Irish alongside Terri on Zarosa) lives in Dublin but rides out in her hometown for John Oxx at the weekend.  The last few years she's had a two-week holiday with friends over here in the summer.  In recent seasons she's ridden out for Henry Cecil in this time, but this year, with the Cecil stable having lost a few horses in recent weeks, she came here - which was a wonderful bonus for us.  If she has enjoyed coming in here half as much as we have enjoyed having her here, then she'll have had a lovely time.  And that the fact that we went from being an out-of-form stable to being an in-form one during her stay was a nice bonus too!

It'll be another nice bonus if Zarosa can run well at Newcastle tomorrow.  We've been struggling to find the right ground for some of these horses, despite there having been a wide variety of ground around the country, and tomorrow's a little frustrating as Newcastle has had only half the rain this weekend as there has been in this area, which endured a very wet night.  However, Newcastle has still had 18mm this weekend, so that should be alright - but it did look very firm there on Friday evening and the rain now appears to have been and gone, so we definitely won't have our ideal ground (ie proper soft ground) even though I hope that there will be a little bit of cut in it.  And that will have to do.

Before then, we have one of our former inmates to observe, as Batgirl runs at Yarmouth this afternoon.  She's maintaining her form in her new home (Martin Smith's stable) which is nice to see, as she's a grand old girl and it's good to see her in good heart.  I saw her yesterday (seen in the previous paragraph) looking in very good heart - and looking very perky as the rain fell, thus providing her preferred underfoot conditions.  However, predictably, Yarmouth has had less than we've had, but I hope that she'll enjoy the ground even so.

Batgirl be ridden by George Buckell, one of several apprentices in the town who is doing very well and who recently rode a winner for his boss David Simcock for the first time.  Noel Garbutt is going well, having just had his claim reduced to 5lb, and so are Shelley Birkett (who seems nearly unbeatable at Yarmouth when riding for her mum Julia Feilden) and Tim Clark, who rode a winner at York yesterday; while Louis Stewart is doing well for Michael Bell.

But the happiest recent apprentice's result was arguably Bradley Bosley riding his first winner at Yarmouth, on Duke Of Destiny for his boss Ed Walker.  Bradley (pictured in the third last paragraph in Ed Walker's string on Friday) started off with John Ryan, where he stayed for several years before transferring this season.  He's a cracking lad who invariably has a smile on his face and who has turned himself into a very good, very bold rider.  Like Jason's win on Start Me Up (who is pictured in the penultimate paragraph on Friday following Indira and Suzy out of the yard - and, yes, the Bradley photo and that one were taken on the same morning and in consecutive lots, a 'strange but true' illustration of our 'four-seasons-in-one-day climate - and in this paragraph relaxing in the field today after yesterday's heroic effort), this was a maiden victory which was very well deserved.

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