Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sedgefield reflections: Asterisk, Jonjo, and Brian Toomey

The last time I went to Sedgefield was in April 2012 when Jamie Insole won best turned out, and also had his first race-ride, dear Asterisk - bless her - bringing the curtain down on her otherwise unremarkable racing career by carrying him round safely, as this post-race photo confirms.  The time before that would have been about 30 years previously, and I remember Jonjo O'Neill riding at least one winner on that occasion.  And I'll be going there again tomorrow (assuming that racing isn't abandoned, which I suppose is a possibility as the weather is so frightful everywhere) as Frankie/Douchkirk will be running.  On form he looks a likely winner, and he seems fit and well enough to run to form, so we'll have to hope that he can handle what are sure to be extreme conditions.  We'll see - and this chapter's second and third photographs remind us that he and William Kennedy are capable of combining for victory, so let's travel in hope.

Apart from the Jamie debut episode, I remember my 2012 Sedgefield visit for Brian Toomey appearing on my radar.  There is a start by the horsebox park outside the stable-yard, and before leaving I watched the start of one of the later races from there.  You'll be aware that in recent years it has become the norm for jumps races to be preceded by the field getting itself into something of a crocodile, circling around off the track before snaking onto the course, often at a 180-degree angle, and then jumping off.  Anyway, this race's crocodile had been formed and the field, led by Brian Toomey at a brisk trot, was snaking into a U-turn onto the course and then towards the start-line.  Brian (riding a no-hoper who inevitably finished tailed off) had clearly been instructed to 'get a flyer', hence the trotting, and the sound-track to the pantomime was the starter calling, "Brian don't trot; Brian don't trot; Brian don't trot; Brian, don't trot; BRIAN, DON'T TROT!!!" - at which point Brian broke from his thitherto uninterrupted trot into a gallop, and the race was off, with Brian out in front.

This amusing little play firstly reminded me how badly discipline has broken down at the starts of races (for which I don't blame the starters at all, incidentally, but that's another matter) and secondly told me that, underneath the irritation which the starter must have felt at being so blatantly disobeyed, he probably rather liked Brian; and that Brian was clearly a very good and very, very competitive race-rider.  And that, bearing in mind the terrible ordeals which Brian has suffered so bravely since then, is a thought which brings a smile to my face.

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