Friday, August 15, 2014

Wet wet wet

Our mighty torrent of runners has (inevitably, one might say, of one is of a cynical nature) got off to a very mediocre start.  And that's putting it kindly.  However, one should always maintain perspective, and Wasabi's race at Chepstow reminded us yesterday that things can always be worse.  Pictured here pre-race, she ran deplorably, only sneaking into the unsaddling enclosure by default, courtesy of finishing a very well-beaten fourth in what turned out to be a five-runner race, beaten miles and beating only the one horse who ran even worse than she did.  However, if that was depressing, how was the evening for the connections of the grey horse who finished (a good) third, miles ahead of us?

That lovely grey horse, a winning steeplechaser, had a heart attack in the unsaddling enclosure a few yards from where we were standing, a few seconds after Noel Garbutt had unsaddled him.  So we can't feel too sorry for ourselves.  At least in our case no lives were lost. The fact of this horse dropping down dead gives a clue the conditions: very, very gruelling.  I didn't think that the ground ("soft, heavy in places") was too bad before racing (when the weather was temporarily OK too, as you can see in the third paragraph) but we had a lot more rain during the evening (Ladies' Night) and our race, two and a quarter miles on one of the stiffest tracks in Britain, turned out to be a real marathon.  Conditions were such that maybe a third of the horses who ran there last night ran really badly, so let's hope that that was the sole reason for Wasabi's lamentable performance.

Compared to last night, today went quite well: Zarosa was a non-runner at Nottingham.  Seemingly the whole country was drenched yesterday, including Newmarket, as you can see on a soggy Warren Hill this morning in the background of the final photograph, with Taghrooda and Barry Tervitt in the foreground.  The downpours also hit Southwell (maybe 10 miles from Nottingham) which received 15mm of rain.  As for Nottingham, though, the track was upgraded this morning to 'good to firm'.  This was the track's bulletin this morning: "No measureable rain Thursday.  Dry overnight.  Friday set to remain dry and bright with temperatures around 19C."  It was a no-brainer to decide to scratch Zarosa (who had been declared on good ground, with rain forecast), a decision which seemed even wiser when the going was changed during the afternoon to 'good to firm, firm in places'.

Just on the subject of non-runners, we're always being told what an evil they are.  Ditto small fields.  It is worth pointing out that, were one not allowed to scratch horses, the fields would be even smaller than they are.  It wouldn't mean that one would have to run one's horse; it would mean that one definitely wouldn't run one's horse, because in situations such as this, where there was doubt at declaration time as to whether the ground would be right, one simply wouldn't declare.  While we're all keen to have runners and winners, the welfare of our charges is even more important.

Pundits and punters might not devote too much thought to the safety and soundness of the competitors, but the people who own and train the horses take the matter very seriously - and I don't think that we need to be ashamed of this.   It is hard enough not to damage one's horses as one trains and races them, without running them on ground which one knows that they can't cope with.  At declaration time one often is unsure about what the ground will be like two days later.  So one declares and the horse has a chance of running, but one withdraws if the ground goes the wrong way.  If one weren't allowed to withdraw, all it would mean would be that, in the many cases of uncertainty, one simply wouldn't declare, thus turning a horse who might run into one who definitely won't run.


neil kearns said...

Great run fabulous ride congratulations
Super horse

M Anderson said...

Nice to see the good form continuing John. Good stuff!

John Berry said...

Thank you very much. Very pleased.