Saturday, August 09, 2014

Sunshine after the rain

Another weather update coming on, I feel.  Well, I have to, don't I?  We had 10% of our average annual rainfall overnight, so that places weather even more prominently in my consciousness than usual.  Yesterday started pleasantly, but a storm rolled in around noon and drenched us during last lot.  It more or less dried up for the afternoon, but then a heavy thunderstorm hit us around 5pm, giving me my second drenching of the day while I was feeding the horses.  And then we had intermittent deluges through the evening and the first half of the night.  The total in 18 hours ended up a scarcely credible 64 mm.

There were a couple of really heavy storms during the evening's racing at the July Course (which I watched on TV rather than on-course, I hardly need add).  The first one was around the time of the first race, changing the ground from 'good to firm' to 'soft' and the really stunning thing was that, lasting 20 minutes, it included more rain than fell on the track during the whole day on the Thursday of the July Meeting, which was a truly miserable - and, at the time, seemingly very wet - day.  There were then further deluges, with probably another inch falling during the remainder of the programme, so I suppose it was surprising that there were no further alterations to the official going, as you'd have to feel that it might have been worthy of being called 'heavy' by the time of the last race.

Anyway, the pleasant post-script is that today (as this and the next two photographs show) is a lovely very warm and sunny day (if breezy - but even that's good as it's drying the place up rapidly, and drying the various sets of clothes which I went through yesterday, all of which are out on the line as I write).  So all is forgiven - until the next storm, which is supposed to arrive early tomorrow morning.  That forecast, of course, guarantees nothing - as we were reminded during the week with some unexpected changes of going.  (And regarding this photograph of Hamilton Road through Magic Ice's ears at around 7.30 this morning, your eyes aren't deceiving you: the tarmac in front of me was indeed completely submerged).

As I said after our trip north, we did indeed find some lovely ground for Zarosa to race on at Carlisle, even if it certainly was nowhere near as soft as the eventual 6.6 Going Stick reading implied.  I know that we pay little attention to these pieces of misinformation, but I did pay enough attention to note that precedence suggested that 6.6 should mean ground somewhere between 'good to soft' and 'heavy', and probably nearer to the latter - and it certainly wasn't that. We had the choice of Carlisle on Monday or Newcastle on Thursday.  When we seemed likely to get acceptable ground at Carlisle, it was clearly sensible to go there, on the 'bird-in-the-hand' line of thinking.

Anyway, Newcastle was clearly going to dry up to something close to good by the start of Wednesday, when something between 3mm and 5mm of rain was forecast.  Thursday (raceday) was due to be nice again - so it was fair to assume that the ground, assuming the forecast rain arrived, would be similar to what was on offer at Carlisle.  And if the rain didn't arrive, then Newcastle would end up being on the fast side of good.  So what happened?  Wednesday saw 16mm of rain hit Newcastle, so the ground did end up significantly on the soft side.  Ah well.  All one can do is do what seems sensible based on the evidence availabe at the time.  I know that one could have given oneself the option of backing up again after Carlisle, but really I wouldn't have been very comfortable doing that: she had a tough run over two miles on the Monday and she isn't the most robust horse physically or mentally, so it wouldn't really have been fair on her.

What sweetened the pill of watching the Newcastle race and seeing it being run on ground which Zarosa would have relished was that it ended up being won by a very nice horse from one of my favourite stables.  There are some horses who can back up easily and some for whom it would be less ideal - and one of the former category won the Newcastle race, because the Dianne Sayer-trained Sergeant Pink had taken the last race at Carlisle on Monday night (and is pictured here coming in off the course afterwards).  This was yet another advertisement for this excellent stable, which first came to my attention when Hot Rod Mamma won a stack of races a few years ago, including winning at Thirsk on the same afternoon that Ethics Girl won the Hambleton Cup.  Dianne's daughter Emma used to ride the horses over jumps, but she's now riding on the Flat as an apprentice and rode the horse to both wins.  It's always good to see a job well done, so that made very pleasant viewing.

I watched that Newcastle race (the last, at 8.45, which meant that both Sergeant Pink's wins this week took place in twilight) on ATR just after we got home from Brighton.  We hadn't been able to keep up our run of placed horses there, but we only failed narrowly to do so.  Ethics Girl was only beaten a length, but that saw her finishing fifth, faring worst in a four-way photo-finish for second place (and it was so tight that she's barely visible in this picture).  The margins were 0.75, head, head, head - with six lengths back to the sixth horse home.  So that was both very pleasing and very frustrating, and was another illustration of what a wonderful trouper she is.  As, of course, is the winner, the former Mark Tompkins-trained Barwick, who had done really well since joining Lady Herries' team, having been picked out at the Horses-in-Training Sale by the late, much-missed Julian Wilson.

When he was trained by Mark, I remember Barwick fighting out a finish at Yarmouth with Batgirl and also being placed behind Silken Thoughts in the Flat jockeys v. National Hunt jockeys mile handicap in a quagmire at Sandown on Whitbread Day a couple of years ago.  And now he's Ethics Girl's rival.  He had been a head behind her when he was second to her at Epsom last month.  She was 1lb worse off (or 6lb, depending on how you view an apprentice's claim, as Barwick was partnered by the 5lb-claiming Cam Hardie this week, having been ridden by Ted Durcan at Epsom) this time and was a length behind him.  I think that we can call them two very, very honest and reliable horses - and, again, that's a lovely note on which to end.

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