Saturday, March 29, 2014

Busy, busy, busy

I've been very busy.  (I thought that I'd get that in, offering my excuse for not having put anything up here for four days.)  And there's been plenty happening all round.  When I wrote the last chapter, Indira was set to run at Kempton the next day.  I thought that she was set to run well, and happily that proved to be the case.  Ours always seem to go well when Jim Crowley rides for us; and he came close to making his strike-rate from this stable even better, as she and he finished third in a three-way photo-finish, beaten a neck and a head.

Our horses seem to be ridiculously long prices at present.  When Indira had run the previous week, she'd been put at at 4/1 in the Racing Post SP forecast, but apparently when off-course betting opened she was 14/1 (before stating at 5/1).  It was similar with Frankie at Stratford last weekend: he was a similar price in the paper - slightly shorter, maybe - but opened up at 8/1 on the off-course markets.  And then Indira on Wednesday: I thought that she had a first-rate chance, and her SP was 25/1.

Maybe this is a general thing when a trainer has worked his way onto the Cold Trainers' list, or maybe one layer has got it into his/her head that I've forgotten how to train (or never knew how to do so in the first place) and is just leading the market into putting our runners up at unrealistically long prices.  But that's fine (unless that layer is right, of course - but don't worry about that: he/she isn't) as there's no harm in finding yourself able to take a longer price than you'd been expecting, if you ever want to have a bet.

The other notable racing event that day was not good.  Poor David Crosse had ridden Wasabi for us at Towcester on Monday, and had ridden his first winner for over a year on the Tuesday - and then the Wednesday saw him have a fall in which he broke three ribs as well as fracturing a cheek bone and a bone in his neck.  Gee, that's the ups and downs for you.  And the post script to that?  Well, I read in the Racing Post that he's hoping to be back riding in roughly a fortnight!  Tough as teak.

Aside from the racecourse, the notable event for me this week was a trip to London on Thursday evening for the launch of Jane Torday's book, 'Dearest Jane'.  This is a biography of her father, the late Roger Mortimer, long-time racing correspondent of the Sunday Times and writer of many outstanding books, mainly on racing history.  The book is a personal reflection on this lovely man, the skeleton of which is made of excerpts from letters which he wrote to his relatives over the years.  It was a treat to go to the launch, and a further treat to start reading the book on the train on the way home.  So far I'm only up to page 38 (if I wasn't so busy, as mentioned above, I'd have finished it already because it is very, very readable) and I'm loving it.

Many of us grew up with Roger Mortimer's writing inspiring us to love the sport as he loved it.  There will be plenty of racing stuff later in the book; but, of course, there's plenty more besides.  It's perfect for me because I love military history as well as racing history, and there's some of that here too, which is really interesting.  The book provides a fascinating background to the last war, Roger Mortimer having been a 29-year-old captain in the Coldstream Guards at the outbreak of the war, having already been in the army for a decade by that time.  His war turned out to be a particularly miserable one as he spent nearly all of it in a German POW camp, having been wounded and captured shortly before the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Anyway, the book runs from Roger Mortimer's early adulthood right through until the end of his life, and, from what I have seen so far, is a lovely, beautiful portrait of a man whom I have admired since my childhood.  As the author observes, "Before Roger became a  parent at the age of thirty-nine, he had already lived nearly half his life and had the experiences which shaped the man he became: Roger the racing writer; Roger the husband; Roger the father; Roger the friend.  And throughout, Roger the wit."  For anyone who has been lucky enough to have enjoyed Roger Mortimer's writing, this book will be a treat, taking one through his interesting life  - and for anyone who hasn't, it will be both a treat and a reminder that second-hand book shops around the country contain some wonderful racing history books which should be tracked down and enjoyed.

Just before closing, I should add that the launch of 'Dear Jane' was also the launch of 'The Dark Wild', the second novel written by Jane Torday's son Piers (whose first novel is shown in the previous paragraph).  Further points to note are that today has been an exciting day for me as it was the first occasion when I bred a runner in a big(gish) race, Dream Walker running in the Spring Mile at Doncaster.  He was tipped by Spotlight in the Racing  Post, but turned out not to be good enough - but that was no disgrace.  Although unplaced, he ran quite well in a competitive race, so let's hope that his year-younger half-brother Roy (whose ears are seen this morning in this paragraph) can be inspired into following in his productive footsteps.

Doncaster, of course, although the main meeting in England today, is not the main meeting full stop, with Rosehill's programme earlier on having seen Tom Hogan land a mighty victory with Gordon Lord Byron in the George Ryder Stakes (which prompted Gus into a dance of celebration).  And now we are midway through Dubai World Cup Night, which is really exciting.  Long John was a dismal disappointment which was a shame, although those wise enough to consider the woeful second-up record of his stable in Dubai won't have been surprised.  What hasn't been disappointing, though, is the race-calling of Terry Spargo.  I have previously observed that he's a very good, accurate caller, but that I have often felt that he lends too great an air of jolly informality to proceedings.  However, tonight, on Dubai's biggest raceday of the year, he has risen to the occasion magnificently: his calls have been terrific, with just the right amount of gravitas for a big, serious occasion.  Good on 'im.


Cat Wood said...

To be sure to be sure, GLB was senasational and many dollars will be making their way back to Ireland following his sensational run on a very wet Rosehill yesterday. His trainer is a very humble and amiable man, congrats to all. Might see an influx of sprinter milers coming down under next year, hope so and if our 'powers that be' see sense and lift a little the draconian quarantine restrictions placed on you 'Northerners' many more dollars will leave our shores.
Rain will continue here in Sydney, but there is no crying in our beer.

Mully said...

Great blog John. Follow it avidly!

John Berry said...

Thank you.

And I gather the rain continues to pour down in Sydney and we'll have a bog for the Slipper on Saturday. (And from this angle it's a very underwhelming Slipper, which the heavy track certainly isn't going to help). I'd been so impressed by Earthquake in Melbourne, but I can't see her winning the Slipper on her last run. I can't see that she could race that fiercely on Saturday and still win. I was more impressed by the Darley colt who won the same day. I haven't checked the riding arrangements, but if I were McEvoy I'd want to to ride the colt (whose name I've forgotten).