Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Comme il faut

Here's a nice story.  Well, I think it's nice.  Yesterday Hugh and I headed towards Bury Hill, as our horses often do.  There were some horses jumping off on the canter while we were 300m or so away from it, but I didn't pay much attention and we were too far away to see whose they were.  By the time we set off, no other horse was in sight.  (You can see the first couple of furlongs, but after that the canter is out of sight, over the brow of the first hill).  I set off in front on Russian Link, doing a routine canter.  We went past the exit on the first bend just before halfway of this 10-furlong canter, noticing that some of James Fanshawe's horses were walking away from the canter, having got off at that exit.

I wasn't looking where I was going, but that's fine: if you're looking down at the horse's neck, which is the most comfortable way of riding, you can still see a short way in front of you, and on an AW canter there's no scope for getting lost.  Coming round the last bend, I looked up - and was stunned to see two of Jane Cecil's horses hack-cantering at trotting speed about 100m ahead of me.  What the f***?  Where the h:*** had they sprung from?  Obviously I was closing fast, but Russian Link's an easy ride, as is Hugh's mount Saleal, and it was no problem to pull up to a walk before we ran into the back of them.  And they, in turn, walked off the canter, which was kind.  We eventually set off at a trot again past them, and then cantered slowly the last 300m up to the top.

The Heath rules are fairly straightforward: if your horses are going faster than a routine canter, it's your responsibility to ensure that you allow any horses in front of you enough space so that you don't run up behind or past them; if your horses are going slower than a routine canter, it's your responsibility to ensure that any horses coming up behind you are forewarned of your slowness before they jump off, so that they know to give you plenty of space and don't get their exercise messed up.  (Or if your horses get on halfway, as I think that these horses had, it's your responsibility to make sure that you don't thus impede any horses who have got on at the start).  It was no big deal, though.  Shane Featherstonehaugh, on the feisty-looking filly at the back, apologised to us, I apologised to them, and as you'd hope between civilized people, it was all very jovial and life went on happily.

Anyway, what was nice was that later in the morning Hugh and I were riding down the Moulton Road when a car pulled over and a man got out.  It was George Scott, who started out round the corner from here with Mark Tompkins, then worked for Michael Bell, then went to America, and who has now succeeded Michael Marshall as the Warren Place assistant.  Anyway, George came over and apologised for their two horses having got in our way, saying that it had been Joyeuse's first canter for a while, that she was very fresh and feisty, and that they'd just been giving her a really quiet exercise; and that he was sorry if we had been inconvenienced.

Wasn't that impressive?  It had been no skin off our noses at all, and I wouldn't have expected George to apologise even if we'd bumped into him, because there was nothing to apologise for; so for him to go out of his way to do so was remarkable.  Furthermore, their filly is Frankel's half-sister, one of the best two-year-old fillies in the country, trained in the best stable in the country and owned by one of the most respected owners; and ours are two unremarkable horses from an insignificant stable.  George's courtesy was remarkably impressive.  Courtesy was always Henry's hallmark, and the upshot of all this was that it was lovely to be reminded that, with decent people like Shane and George in key positions, the stable ought to be in safe hands as Jane heads towards her first new season in charge.

So that was nice, as was yesterday's weather, as you can see.  (You can see Shane and Joyeuse in the first paragraph - at Lingfield in May, when the filly made a winning debut - and then yesterday's nice weather in the next four).  And what was also nice yesterday was the discovery that Fen Flyer's rating has increased by 67% because of last week's run at Kempton.  You might wonder why this is good news; but when a horse is rated 30, you're naturally keen for his rating to rise.  This 20lb increase is the highest any horse whom I have trained has risen for one run, but not the greatest percentage increase: Quakeress' rating doubled (from 15 to 30) for her win in a seller at Wolverhampton in January 2001 under an apprentice called Jamie Spencer.  So that was good for Fen Flyer - and yesterday was good too for his jockey Paddy Aspell (pictured here on him on the Al Bahathri last month) as he rode a winner at Southwell for Phil McEntee, his first winner since moving south to Newmarket a couple of months ago.

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