Saturday, October 26, 2013

Old habits die hard

In the chapter which I wrote yesterday, I touched upon the very pleasing day at Tattersalls on Friday last week which saw two lovely yearling fillies coming back here.  Their recruitment was far and away the highlight of the day (and they are continuing to please as you can see in the first two paragraphs, the Motivator in the first paragraph and the Champs Elysees in the second) but another pleasing aspect of the day was bumping into some friendly faces whom I hadn't seen for a while.

I'll throw three names at you because I think that two of them will be names that you'll enjoy hearing.  Firstly I was delighted to bump into George Duffield, the first time I'd seen him this year.  Normally it wouldn't take until October to see him, but this year he was laid up for the bulk of the spring and summer, having broken his leg badly in a fall in the spring, coming off (apparently) a particularly badly behaved two-year-old - and the fact that George is now 66 has not, of course, done anything to make him change his policy of making sure that he rides all the most difficult horses himself.  Given the chance he'd probably still be race-riding.  Heroes don't come any more fearless, nor any more likeable, than George - as we were reminded recently in an excellent article in the Racing Post in which Julian Muscat painted a lovely portrait of his long-lasting partnership with Sir Mark.

The second ex-jockey whom I saw for the first time this year was Alan Bond, whom you'll remember as a champion apprentice from the '70s, and as Henry Cecil's stable jockey one year if my memory serves me correctly.  I used to see Alan's friendly face frequently as he carried on riding out for years after he'd finished race-riding, his last job being with Saeed bin Suroor, but I don't think that he rides out at all now, and nowadays the time to see him is during sales-weeks, when he helps out at Tattersalls.  Like George, he's someone whom it's always a pleasure to bump into.

The third encounter which I was delighted to enjoy was with Daniel Meaney, with whose name you are probably not familiar.  I think that Daniel grew up on the Aga Khan's stud, where I think that his father worked, but the family business is now antiques.  If you drive from Dublin to Cork and go through Abbeyleix, on the left on the main intersection in the main street there's an antique shop.  That's the one.  (Although I haven't been that way for several years, and wouldn't be surprised if Abbeyleix has a bypass now).

Anyway, I've never been in the shop, but I've passed it a few times, although not for many years.  I've never seen Daniel in his home town, but I've seen him in Newmarket many times over the past 20 years or so.  Until last week, though, I hadn't seen him for a few years, but was delighted to bump into him at the intersection of Warrington Street with Cardigan Street and Stamford Street as I was leading the Champs Elysees filly along Warrington Street between the Avenue and Park Lane on the journey home from the sale.

Daniel is a great student of bloodlines and bloodstock history, and used regularly to come to Newmarket for the sales.  Whether he still does I do not know: I hadn't seen him for years, but having said that I tend not to spend that much time at Park Paddocks, other than when I need to be there to buy or sell a horse.  In fact, I think that the last time I had seen him had been at the Curragh on the only Irish Oaks Day I have attended, 2005, when Shawwanda won.

But there he was, which was great.  And I took it as a great omen for this filly's future that her path should cross with his as she headed to begin her new life.  Daniel offers advice on both bloodstock and astrology, and I was particularly pleased with his parting question/statement.  He seemed pleased and surprised (although he shouldn't have been) that I'd remembered his name, but I was even more taken aback (although, again, I really shouldn't have been) with his parting shot: "You're Gemini, aren't you?".

To these meanderings, I'll just add today's Brahma of the Day.  When I was on ATR on Tuesday, a good senior jockey - on a horse who finished third, beaten about half a length - had to lean down in the last furlong to adjust his foot in the stirrup.  When reviewing the race, Robert Cooper and I discussed this incident, and I aired my views on the modern fad for riding with one's toes in the irons.  Since this has become the fashion, we get the occasional incidence such as this, plus the occasional rider falling off during a race.  I observed that it's not a habit which I endorse, but that my disapproval isn't going to make it go away.  And I also observed that Michael Hills, who retired at the end of last season, was the last jockey still to ride with his full foot in the irons.

I then remarked that Richard (who had retired 12 months previously) and Michael Hills and I were probably now the only three people still to ride out on Newmarket Heath with our full feet in the stirrups.  And the post-script to this came this morning when I passed Peter Chapple-Hyam's string on the Severals.  John Lowe, one of the few men to have won two races at the same Royal Ascot on the same horse (Mountain Cross, Ascot Stakes and Queen Alexandra Stakes, 1978) as well as one of the very few northern-based jockeys (alongside Paul Hanagan and Tom Eaves) to have won a Group One race at Longchamp on Arc Day on a northern-trained horse (Goodbye Shelley, Prix Marcel Boussac, 1982), pointed down at his foot and asked, "John, what do you see?  I'm disappointed you forgot me!".  So I'll put my mistake right: there's the four of us.  Old habits die hard.

Other than the first two long-reining pictures (taken yesterday) the photographs in this chapter were taken nine days ago, one of the last lovely days of the year.

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