Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ground and weather, again

It seems as if this is a week of lovely weather, although our idyllic conditions don't seem to be nationwide.  We only had a brief (but heavy) shower on Saturday morning (Derby Day, and my birthday, on which I felt not a day over 48) but Epsom clearly had more persistent rain through the morning; while farther north it seems to have been very grim.  I note that Pontefract was abandoned on Monday through waterlogging, and Beverley had lost a meeting last week for similar reasons. There has been plenty more rain about the country going into this week - but, of course, our runners seem set to find firm(ish) tracks.

This won't be too bad a thing for Ethics Girl (although I'd prefer it not to be too firm at Yarmouth tomorrow for her ageing legs) after she was a non-runner at Catterick on Saturday from what looked a very suitable race, the track having been hit by an inch of rain 36 hours before the meeting.  I think that she'd still have been placed in the race, but she wouldn't have won it on that ground; and I'm happy instead to be taking her to Yarmouth tomorrow for a 4-runner race in which she seems quite well weighted.

Gift Of Silence too goes to Yarmouth tomorrow.  I'm sure that she prefers soft ground, but she never seems to run on it (not least because she mostly runs at our local track Yarmouth, where the ground is generally quite fast, being a quick-draining sand-based seaside course in a town which very often misses the worst of the rain anyway) and it's hard ever to justify changing her plans because of dry ground, bearing in mind that it was fairly firm on the only occasion that she's won.  Zarosa, though, will be a non-runner tomorrow at Nottingham and on Friday at Chepstow if the forecasts are correct.  It was a no-brainer to declare her for each meeting as the ground was good to soft at declaration time, but even so I declared her assuming that she would probably be a non-runner, as in each case the forecast was fairly adamant that the track would dry significantly over the next two days - but, as we know, forecasts aren't always right, and she'll run if the predicted hot, dry weather does not come to pass.

We learned the lesson when Zarosa ran at Newcastle last time that not making her a non-runner when, having declared on a wet track, the weather is such that the track dries out significantly in advance of her race, because she ran badly, didn't enjoy it, and needed a bit of time to get over it.  Which, of course, meant that she was not ready to run a week later when her conditions did appear at Chepstow in a race on very soft ground which seemed tailor-made for her.  As these musings suggest, I'm finding it very hard to get the right horse on the right ground at present - and it certainly isn't for the want of studying weather forecasts.

Indira is a case in point.  She had two entries for tomorrow.  After her good run on a wet track last time (and bearing in mind that she's a stocky, round-actioned filly whose similarly conformed half-brother Rhythm Stick loved soft ground) I'd prefer to keep her off firm tracks at present.  The entries for her possible race at Nottingham looked more competitive than I'd like, while Haydock presented a poser.  It seemed that the ground would be either good or firmer; if it were good the race would probably be quite tough, while if it were firmer then we wouldn't want to run anyway.  So I declared her for neither.

So what has happened?  Haydock received 17mm of rain last night (which certainly hadn't been suggested on any of the forecasts which I'd seen) and this morning the ground for the two-day meeting (ie today and tomorrow) was given as "soft".  Should we have declared?  Well, I don't mind that we haven't (a) because she can go to Windsor on Monday and that'll be OK, and (b) I'd still have no idea what ground she'd run on were she to go to Haydock.  Is that 'soft' what it was this morning?  Or is it what the clerk is guessing the jockeys will call it after the first race today?  Or, bearing in mind that it's also given as 'soft' for tomorrow, is that what the clerk of the course is guessing the jockeys might call it after riding in the first race tomorrow?

Your guess is as good as mine.  Overall, though, bearing in mind that the clerk claims that his job is to make a guess about what the jockeys will call it after the first race, is it strange that this morning he gave the same going description for today as for tomorrow?  If today has (as is forecast) good, dry, sunny weather, then the ground tomorrow surely will be considerably quicker than the ground today.  So how do we work this one out?  God knows.  It's hard enough to work out what the ground is going to be for one's horse's race when it is clear that the clerk has merely given you an accurate verdict on what the going was at the time when he inspected it - so when, as seems to be the case at Haydock, the going report might as well have been issued by the Delphic Oracle, it's just farcical guesswork trying to work out the conditions on which one might end up racing.  You'll thus be able to understand why I'm happy enough not to be heading up there tomorrow.

Oh yes, and we'll be, fingers crossed, taking Roy on Saturday to Bath, where it is safe to assume that the ground will be quite firm.  That's fine: he handled fast ground well last summer when he ran on it, and I'd be happy enough to run him whatever the weather does between now and then.  This chapter's illustrations, by the way, give you an idea of the nice weather we have enjoyed this week - and they also give you an idea of how pleased Iva and Tommy  (Platinum Proof) were to see each other last weekend. Iva is over in France working for Francis Graffard in Lamorlaye, but I wasn't surprised that she made a brief trip 'home', armed with a big bag of apples, shortly after hearing of the return of her prodigal son.


neil kearns said...

Belated birthday congrats
Two posts hit today may be tomorrow - good luck

John Berry said...

Thanks, Neil. One would like to think that we're honing in on the target! As ever, we live in hope.