Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Class Two times two

You might have seen some atrocious weather around the country, both last weekend and during the current week.  It seems to have been desperately wet in some places, but we've got off relatively lightly.  Saturday was not a nice day, but even so we didn't actually get that much rain; ditto Monday, which like Saturday actually started well.  And today, which was horrible in some places, was actually really nice here until it began to rain shortly before dusk.  But that's what we've got to expect at this time of year; and so far, so good.  I'm heading off on my travels over the next couple of days, so I'll see what it's been like elsewhere.

We had three horses entered this week, so they all exercised together on Sunday morning, which was a glorious day.  The photograph in the first paragraph is the sight that greeted me and Fen Flyer over on Racecourse Side around dawn, and once the sun had got a bit higher in the sky we went on to enjoy a lovely day.  The next, and only other, lot of horses to go out saw the three intended runners go out together: Indira - not in the (fourth) photograph, as I was on her - cantered with Magic Ice (white face) and Energia Eros.  It was lovely.  Sadly Magic Ice wasn't able to put this exercise to good use on a racecourse during the week as she was eliminated from her engagement at Kempton tonight, but Energia Eros is declared to run at Wolverhampton tomorrow evening and Indira is set to be declared for Musselburgh on Saturday.

Magic Ice's elimination wasn't a surprise.  As soon as I saw the huge entry, it was apparent that she was 99% sure not to get a run.  She wasn't that far down the list, but the list was so large that one needed to be near to the top to get in.  As it was, there were 34 horses declared for the race and she was 20th of them - but, unfortunately, only the top 14 got a run.  Still, it's that time of year.  We get into autumn and (the non-floodlit) evening racing ends, on top of which jumping occupies a larger share of the afternoons' quota; and there are still plenty of horses looking for a run.  So getting a run with the lower-rated horses is hard.  But then the situation eases in the winter - and then there's next summer.  So no harm done - there's always another race.

Energia Eros is an interesting one.  He won a graded race in Brazil (where he was also Grade One-placed) last year - hence him having top weight tomorrow in a good race which will make things even harder for him - but he has totally lost his form since then.  It has been observed that sending horses jumping when they have lost their form can sometimes turn things around, so he came here to begin a new career as a hurdler, his trainer Marco Botti not training jumpers.  However, while he is very willing and really entered into the spirit of jumping, my feeling was that he's not supple enough (and probably not a stoute enough stayer) to cope with a hurdle race, so my suggestion was that, as the schooling seemed to have re-ignited his enthusiasm for the game, it might be worth having another run on the Flat.

Anyway, the upshot of it is that he's still here and will run at Wolverhampton tomorrow.  It's a nine-horse race in which a third of the runners will run in the royal blue jacket: two of them in Godolphin's royal blue and one (ie Energia Eros) in mine.  Energia has a mountain to climb at the weights and it isn't really a suitable race for him, but as he's rated 96 he isn't eligible for weaker races: even 81-95 handicaps, which are very hard to win even off bottom weight, are too lowly for him to be allowed to compete.  So off we go tomorrow, and let's hope that he can show that he does indeed still have a future as a racehorse (which his recent form suggests is not the case).  He'll be running against one of his former stablemates (Solar Deity, whom many people insist on referring to as 'Solar Diety', just as so many people insisted on calling Ouija Board 'Ouiji Board' and Kauto Star as 'Kato Star') so he'll have a friend there.  Well, he'll have two friends there because I'll be there, and since his arrival we've all become his friends as he's a lovely horse.  To know him is to love him.

So that's exciting: a runner in a Class Two race; and then our other runner this week, Indira, also runs in Class Two. (I should point out that Britain is like Hong Kong, and unlike Australia and New Zealand, in that the lower the number of the class, the better the race.)  Indira's race is interesting.  It's the Willie Park Stakes, named after the best golfer to have had Musselburgh Links as his home course.  Among golfing circles (which doesn't include me) there is debate about whether St. Andrews or Musselburgh is the oldest golf club in the world.  Obviously St. Andrews nowadays is far and away the more significant club; but in the 19th century Musselburgh was a big player in the golfing world, with several Opens being won by Musselburgh players, the most successful of whom was Willie Park.

So we'll be running in the Willie Park Stakes, an 81-100 handicap.  Indira is currently rated 78, but the top-rated of the entrants is rated 97, so she's currrently on the minimum but not out of the handicap. If the top weight is not declared, her weight will go up, but she's going to run off her proper rating, come what may. So that's good: it's great to be running in a such a high-class race and to be going there with a chance, which is what she will be doing.  Her form figures clearly suggest that she should have a chance in any handicap in which she can run off her correct rating as long as it is a suitable race, and my feeling is that the extra distance (it will be her first try beyond a mile and a half) and the likely softish ground will be fine for her.  Fingers crossed!

I ought to mention the Arc weekend, which was terrific.  Treve's triumph was wonderful, and obviously the Gleneagles debacle merits its quota of column-inches too.  However, I'll restrict myself to repeating the refrain which I was chanting beforehand: why on earth was Australia absent?  Kingston Hill's magnificent fourth place from barrier 20 suggests that (which we knew anyway) Australia would have had a first-rate chance.  His run in the Irish Champion Stakes was as good an Arc trial as one would ever see (and was a considerably better Arc trial than Treve's run in the Prix Vermeille) and, the Arc having been run, it is hard to see how Australia could have run worse than second.  We know that a prophet is not recognised in his own country - but, really, how ironic is it that, presumably, Aidan, who has been singing the horse's praises for so long, does not realise how good Australia is?  He should have been there, and his absence was the only downside of a wonderful race-meeting.

The first six photographs were taken on Sunday; the seventh on Monday morning; and the eighth on Tuesday evening.

1 comment:

M Anderson said...

What now for Energia Eros? Has he just lost love for racing John?
Is a try over hurdles still a long shot?