Wednesday, February 12, 2014


My very easy month is continuing along its merry way.  Having had an operation on Monday 3rd February, I assume that I'll end up having only ridden three lots all month.  I only rode one horse (Ethics Girl) on Saturday February 1st, only one (Douchkirk) on Sunday February 2nd, and only one (Indira) on Monday February 3rd.  I then had my hernia operation that afternoon and, while I would imagine that once two weeks have elapsed since the operation I'll be emboldened to do most things, I doubt that I will ride out for at least four weeks after the operation, as one just can't risk undoing the work that's been done.

To be honest, although I'm not in any significant discomfort, the way I feel at present I'd say that I'd be happy never to sit on a horse again; but I'm sure that in another couple of weeks once most of the soreness has gone the thought will be less daunting.  One of several benefits of enforced idleness is being able to play at being a proper trainer (ie standing on the sidelines watching others do the work) and it was a pleasure to stand beside the Al Bahathri this morning and watch Lucinda, Hugh and Hannah passing by at speed.  Conditions were, as these first two pictures show, very clement this morning, relatively speaking, but needless to say another storm has arrived this afternoon, right on cue in what so far has proved to be this stormiest of years.

One thing that is worth saying, prompted by my account of my brief time spent in the saddle this month, is that when I rode Frankie/Douchkirk on the Sunday, I was very pleased to find that he was one of two horses on the Heath, and that the other was the admirable Diplomatic (pictured here walking alongside my friend Michael Squance, his trainer).  Michael - who has done wonders to win a stack of races with Diplomatic, who could barely have been described as a racing prospect when he got hold of him unraced out of the Maktoum herd, as he was clearly a horse of extremely questionable soundness - deserves some salutation for his recent winners; and also it's fair to highlight how unlucky he was as regards the timing of one of the wins.

Last autumn, Michael had a six-year-old mare called Callisto Light arrive in his stable.  She'd only ever run three times and had never finished near the principals, and did not look obviously well handicapped rated 54.  She'd started out with Walter Swinburn, had been with George Prodoumou until George lost his licence, and then, as far as I know, spent some time with Christine Dunnett.  Michael started working her with Diplomatic, and found that she went rather well.  He duly entered her for a handicap at Kempton last month (by which time she was obviously a seven-year-old maiden) and advised her owner to have a bet.  She was double-figure odds in the paper; but - and how unlucky can you be - this, by pure coincidence, was the day of the Barney Curley-related four-horse coup.

That really could not have been predicted; and what it meant, of course, was (a) that the bookmakers were on red alert before the working day was too many hours old, and getting any bets on any horse at good odds was consequently hard, and (b) too many quidnuncs added 2 and 2 together and made 22, deciding that this mare (who was in the last race at Kempton's night meeting) was the fifth leg of the four-timer.  Anyway, the mare's connections probably got less money on and at shorter prices than would have been the case had it been any other day (the SP at which she won was 7/4) and the coincidence of the Barney factor probably put Michael more in the spotlight than he'd have chosen.  I'm sure that he'd have preferred it all to have been more low-key - but, even so, I hope that he won't mind my putting him in the minor spotlight of this blog, saluting him on a job well done and pointing out what a shrewd operator he is.

I took the final photograph in the High Street on Friday when the day was ending splendidly, just to remind us that days can do that; while the penultimate one was taken on a relatively pleasant morning on Saturday - or it was pleasant until it started raining shortly afterwards, anyway.


neil kearns said...

Hope you are recuperating well but I must be honest and say it will be a pleasure to see a few photos without a pair of ears on them for a couple of weeks
Bit surprised you missed out on the Normandy stallion parade (which is not ike someone who pays so much attention to detail as you do) really good article by your other half tempts me to log it in the diary

John Berry said...

Thanks Neil. Just couldn't risk going away immediately before going into hospital and having the anaesthetic: other times I've been to Normandy that weekend, I've always come back ill. Two days of travelling, not sleeping so well, drinking coffee and eating pastry tends not to agree with my body, even if I enjoy it. I just didn't want to be unwell before going into hospital.