Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Half-cocked in the Indian summer? I hope not

Well, we've got into October and the Indian summer is holding on, which is lovely.  We had a cold wet week in the middle of September, but things came good for the end of the month.  The weekend was magnificent and yesterday, the last day of the month, was really special (as you can see of this photograph of Russian Link and Iva walking down the side of Long Hill late in the morning, and in the one in the next paragraph of Zarosa, Ethics Girl, Russian Link and Gus in the field an hour or so later) while today was only slightly less good (as you can see in the chapter's final photograph)

So that was nice - and what would be even nicer would be if we could get a winner.  We'll have two runners in the next two days, and we'll naturally be doing our best, as always.  The only trouble is that, while I think that both runners have good chances, there's an element of the 'half-cock' in the race selection.  Tomorrow we have Gift Of Silence running at Newcastle.  I made a speculative entry as I thought that the conditions (straight and flat seven furlongs, fillies and mares only) looked suitable, thinking that I'd have a look at the entry once it was out.  Only what happened was that Danny Tudhope's agent Laura Way rang for the ride only an hour or so after the entries came out, so I snapped him up, and haven't given the matter any thought since then.  If she's first choice for the most successful jockey in the north, she has to have a chance, doesn't she?

The slightly odd aspect is that I snapped him up straightaway, working on the assumption that Jamie Spencer, the only jockey to have won on her, would be riding in the south that day, as both Salisbury and Kempton are racing.  Predictably, two days later Jamie's agent rang me to say that Jamie would be at Newcastle and available to ride her.  Oh dear!  Needless to say, disengaging Danny Tudhope is not an option, so I'll just make sure that I see Jamie to apologise and to reassure him that I didn't intentionally cast him aside.  And he's ended up with a ride in the race anyway, so I'm sure that life will go on unaffected for all concerned.

The odd thing about our subsequent runner, Russian Link at Warwick on Thursday, is that I've put her in what might prove to be a really unsuitable race.  The thing was that, as she came here with a reputation of hating starting stalls, it struck me that running her in a race without stalls might be a good thing - which meant either two and a half miles at Goodwood or a mile and six at Salisbury.  October 2nd saw a mile and six handicap scheduled for Salisbury, so that was fine - even if a mile and six is a very long way for such an unseasoned horse (not to mention one who hasn't run for four months), even if she's by a staying stallion, works like a stayer, and has contested a mile and a half maiden race (in which she ran badly).

Anyway, what happened was that when the entries came out, it was immediately obvious that she wouldn't get in at Salisbury (which she didn't, being one of the 18 of the 32 declared horses who were eliminated).  So what did I do?  I naturally looked for similar races, and duly entered her for a mile and six race at Warwick the next day.  But this, of course, was crazy: I'd only entered her in a mile and six race because of it not being started from stalls (and in spite of its distance) so putting her in a race over the same distance WITH stalls didn't really add up.

However, there was only a small entry, so she was going to get in it, so she was declared - and so runs at Warwick on Thursday in a 10-runner race.  I'm pleased that she's in a race which doesn't have a full field as she seems much happier about the stalls when she's wearing a blindfold - and wearing a blindfold means (crazy rule - arguably the worst rule in the book, and the fact that it exists doesn't speak highly of the horsemanship or common sense of the legislators) that a horse has to go into the stalls first.  So with only nine to follow her in, I hope that she won't have to wait in there too long, as she doesn't like standing still (which is why she'll be wearing a blindfold).

So she might well be running over the wrong distance.  And she's probably running in the wrong grade too, as she'll be 2lb out of the handicap.  But she's reasonably fit, very well, very happy, and a nice horse who'll probably end up a stayer anyway, so she can run and we'll see how we go.  I hope that she'll run well.  I'm sure that she'll get every assistance: I wanted a very good horseman who can ride at the minimum weight, who is very experienced and also a very bold, confident rider who won't be fazed by a horse who might misbehave, so I booked Paddy Mathers (hitherto best known for winning on Dream Walker at Yarmouth in the spring of last year).  Let's hope that she gives him a good ride, and that our two forthcoming runners don't after all prove to have been put in unsuitable races.  As always, I'll be travelling in hope.

Incidentally, another brahma of Russian Link's race is that she always used to wear a hood when Roger Charlton trained her.  I've never felt moved to resort to such a garment for her (or for any horse) so she'll run bare-headed (other than wearing a bridle, of course) - which will put her in a minority as, remarkably, six of the 10 three-year-olds in the race will be wearing some sort of headgear, including Roger Charlton's runner, who is owned by the Queen and who will be wearing cheekpieces.  As you can see in umpteen recent photographs in this chapter (although in the photograph in the fourth paragraph, taken on the Al Bahathri on Sunday, the ears you can see are Frankie's/Douchkirk's, while all you can see of Russian Link is her back end), she seems happy enough without any such equipment, so let's hope that I'll not be ruing the hood's absence.

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