Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Ffos Las (eventually)

I can go back more than a week now to our trip to Ffos Las.  And if you'll bear with me, you'll find that there's a reason for that.  I've enjoyed the occasional trip I've taken to Ffos Las, notwithstanding that it's a long way away, and I've never managed to find my way to the unsaddling enclosure there.  It's about 275 miles away, but it's a long 275 miles because the last 20 miles or so take a long time, whichever way one does it.  You go past Port Talbot (which is an experience in itself, because it's good to find out that industry does still exist in Great Britain after all) and, going on the map, you'd think that you'd be nearly there, whereas in fact you find that you're still an hour away.

Anyway, there's no harm in sitting behind a steering wheel and watching the countryside pass one by; and on the way home that was particularly nice because at the races Richard Price had been kind enough to recommend a different route for me (A449, A40, M50) which, although it didn't alter the distance or the time, meant that in the morning light I had more than an hour of magnificent scenery.  Things had been very nice at the races too, as Ffos Las is a great place.  We never seem to enjoy any luck there, and again this was the case.  However, the positive was that Wasabi ran a nice race, probably her best race ever.  She was very, very professional in the race, travelling through it like a dream and working all the way to the line; but she was just too far back through the race, and couldn't quite get to where she needed to be.

Half a mile from home I thought she'd win because she was going so easily, and her jockey Oisin Murphy thought the same.  But the leaders had just had too soft a time up front and weren't stopping; plus she was short of room when she most needed space, and he just couldn't quite get to the leaders.  What was most impressive was that Oisin came straight in and 'told it like it was', ie apologising for having been too far back.  So many jockeys either don't realise why things have gone wrong, or do realise, but aren't realistic/honest enough to give you an impartial assessment, preferring the a*@e-covering option.  Oisin was just unlucky, as he got her racing so sweetly, and nine times out of ten some of the other riders would have softened up the leaders for him; but once one has settled in rear, one often can't do anything about it midrace, and that was the case here.

Anyway, that was the case here, and the race further convinced me that Oisin is a top rider.  I've seen Wasabi race too keenly and I've seen her race to sluggishly - but until last week I'd never seen her race so professionally and smoothly as she did for him.  And, after all, if he found himself in the wrong place midrace, he's in good company, as anyone who watched the Eclipse (and wasn't focussing just on Paul Hanagan, Kevin Manning and Franny Norton, ie the jockeys who rode the horses who occupied the first three places at every stage of the race) can testify.  And his candid summing up of the race was very, very impressive.  Which is why (and here's the topicality of this belated Ffos Las review) I'm very pleased to have him on board Ethics Girl at Epsom tomorrow evening, notwithstanding that it'll be one of his first days of riding without a claim, with him having ridden his 95th winner at the weekend.

So that's Epsom to look forward to tomorrow.  Ethics Girl has run there twice previously and been placed on each occasion, so let's hope that it's third time lucky for her.  She's certainly in very good heart at present.  Oh yes, and I can't move off from Ffos Las without complimenting two of the several good people who help to make it such a good racecourse.  Penny, who is in charge of the racecourse stables and staff hostel, runs the most efficient, happiest and friendliest ship one could ever find; and Mark Kershaw, who has done a great job at every course he has managed, is as on the ball with the help which he gives to Ffos Las as you'd expect - as I discovered when I was having my dinner in the canteen after our race with Sean Keightley, formerly off this parish, and Mark came in just to check that all was running smoothly and that everyone was happy.  It's a long way down to Ffos Las, but it's a pleasure to arrive when one eventually gets there - and that's coming from one of its also-rans!


Alan March said...

Bravo John. Delighted for you

neil kearns said...

Almost as good as winning the other mile and a half race here

Top stuff

John Berry said...

Thank you very much.