Monday, May 05, 2014

Another week, another challenge

Right, another couple of tries at getting off the dreaded Cold List.  Our three runners last week yielded one third and two fourths, which was OK if not spectacular, and we'll have to see what results we can land from Ethics Girl at Catterick tomorrow evening (Tuesday) and Roy (pictured in the field on Saturday evening) at Kempton the following evening.  You'd hope that both would have some sort of chance, although we're still waiting for Roy to get his act together well enough to win a race, while Ethics Girl, although in theory facing a drop in class by contesting a claimer for the first time, might not necessarily find it any easier to win.

It feels rather odd running Ethics Girl in a claimer as she's been such a trouper for so long, and really is very far from what comes to mind when one mentions claiming company.  However, she's now eight and is embarking on her seventh season of racing - and the lesson which was rammed home to us during her frustrating 2013 campaign was that it really does become harder to win handicaps as one gets older.  We got fed up with running up against younger, less exposed and better handicapped rivals - and, while her rating has dropped 10lb over the past year, she's not as good as she was and is suffering from some of the signs of ageing, so her ability has been declining in tandem with her rating.

We could continue to bang her head against a brick wall in handicaps; but, after we had discussed putting her in a sale last autumn only to conclude that (sad though this was to reflect, bearing in mind that she is a mare who has been a terrific racehorse, albeit below stakes class, and is exactly the sort of mare who should be bred from) she would fetch very little, it made sense to run her in claiming company, putting her in at a value higher than she would fetch in a sale.  So that's what we're doing - and, of course, we find ourselves far from the best horse in the race, and at a claiming price only £1,000 below that attached to a horse like War Poet, who is a better horse than she is and who is a year younger anyway.  So she won't necessarily know that she's theoretically dropping in class - but she'll give it her best shot anyway.  The flesh is starting to age and weaken, but the spirit is still as strong as ever.  It is just a pity that we have a racing programme which so favours unexposed, young and lightly-raced horses that these old troupers have to descend into claiming class.

As for our last week's runners, the one who hasn't had a debriefing in this blog is the last of them, Zarosa who ran at Chepstow on Friday.  I'd gone into the race regarding Satin Slipper as her principal rival, but when the day came and I went through the form properly, it became clear that the John Flint-trained Lac Sacre was close to a certainty.  His Flat form was very ordinary, but what I hadn't originally taken on board was the fact that he had shown massive improvement over hurdles since being claimed out of a seller by his top-class trainer - and that meant that, off a rating of 45 on the Flat, he was likely to be extremely well handicapped.  And he was in the same boat as Zarosa, ie very well suited by the very soft ground; so our having our preferred conditions wasn't really as much of a bonus as one would have thought.

Lac Sacre duly justified well-backed favouritism, and it was no disgrace for Zarosa (pictured after the race) not to finish close to him when he had bottom weight and we had top weight - but, even so, it was disappointing only to finish fourth, especially as Satin Slipper ran badly.  However, it was one of those races when one knew one's fate early on as we were in the wrong position (ie running too free and facing the breeze on the wide outside of the leader) from the outset, so it was inevitable that she got tired in the home straight.  Overall, she showed a good competitive spirit on her first run of the year and is clearly in good heart, so she'll have other days.

The highlight of the evening at Chepstow, not that I saw the race as I was down in the racecourse stables at the time, was the fact that Nathan Allison rode a winner for his boss William Haggas.  Nathan (pictured in William's string earlier this year) is a cracking lad who is borderline good enough to have made a living as a footballer, but he went into racing rather than soccer, and started doing very well apprenticed to Jim Boyle in Epsom.  He moved up here about a year ago, but it's been heavy going for him since then, and he has not had many rides for William at all - and, as we know, it's an axiom with apprentices that if they're not getting rides for their own stable, they're going to struggle for outside rides too.  Anyway, from very few opportunities, he's finally ridden a winner for William, so let's hope that the floodgates have now opened.  He certainly deserves that to be the case - and it was very encouraging just that he was riding this filly, bearing in mind that one of William's jockeys, Liam Jones, was at the meeting and didn't have a ride in the race.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

The situation regarding ethics girl shows the problem with the current race planning programme and the problem with having far too many handicaps in the prog amme what is required is a type of race which does not involve the potential loss of the animal
My view is that the way round this would be via the entry cost so if you want to run of top weight you pay least and off bottom weight you pay the most all entrance money is then the race prize money no refunds are given t o hors es not declared or withdrawn post declaration
Horse runs trainer exercises skill in judging ability owner gets horse. back and you have a sporting chance of a decent opportunity because it is blatantly obvious that the handicapper is unwilling to drop horses down the scale anywhere remotely as quickly as he will raise them