Thursday, October 16, 2014

Road hit

Well, I duly hit the road again on Tuesday, along with Zarosa and Gus; but I'm afraid that I didn't even hit the crossbar during the outing.  Zarosa and I headed up to Newcastle, but she only beat one horse in her race.  That's no reflection on her, mind you: it was very much a case of trainer-error on this occasion (as is usually the case).  All trainers make mistakes - even Michael Stoute made one, as he readily admits every time Ajdal's three-year-old career (in 1987) is discussed.  His mistake, of course, had a happy ending: shortly after realising that he probably oughtn't to have run Ajdal in the Derby, the light dawned that the July Cup might be the race for the colt.  And the rest, of course, is history.

Let's hope that my (latest) mistake will also have a happy ending.  In this case I sent Zarosa to the races too fresh, and compounded the error by running her in the wrong race. She hadn't run for nearly two months, and it's difficult keeping a horse more or less on the boil when one doesn't know when he/she is next going to run (which is the case in an unpredictable climate with a horse who shouldn't run on firm(ish) ground).  Just keeping galloping them twice a week, week in week out, guarantees that they'll 'go over the top' before too long, whether or not they race often or rarely.  So it's tricky.  And what I particularly didn't want is to find that she's had enough come the end of the season, as we want to put her over hurdles this winter.

Anyway, the upshot was that, when eventually the weather and the racing calendar did align to allow us to run her, although she was very fit (as you'd hope for a horse who has been in work all year) she was too fresh as well.  And to compound my error, having entered her in both the 12-furlong race and the two-miler on the same card, I elected to run her in the two-miler (which was a very competitive race anyway, as one can deduce from the 16/1 SP of Zarosa, a horse who was both a course-winner and a distance-winner and who had finished second in both her last two races).  Anyway, she was too fresh, did too much in the first half of the race (through absolutely no fault of her jockey Shelley Birkett, who is excellent) and duly knocked up in the final 400m.

Ah well.  No real harm done.  That should have put her right for her next run!  Before she runs next, though, we'll have run Roy Rocket and Fen Flyer (who run tomorrow, ie Friday, and Saturday respectively).  And I hope that we'll have run Magic Ice, Russian Link and Wasabi, all of whom either have or will have an entry next week.  You might not realise that Roy is running at Newmarket tomorrow when you study the Newmarket card; and, particularly, you might assume that he is not running at Newmarket tomorrow, because Newmarket's programme tomorrow is 'Future Champions Day', ie a day of top-class two-year-old races - and as Roy is aged four (and not top-class) you'd justifiably assume that he wasn't running.

However, he'll be running in the 'Varsity Race'.  This is a terrific idea, the brainchild, I believe, of Lord Grimthorpe's son Harry Beckett, and put on with the assistance of Max Pimlott and Sammy Martin of the IRB, and of Michael Tebbutt of the British Racing School.  You'll know about the Boat Race, and about the Varsity Matches in cricket and rugby etc.  You might not know that there used to be Varsity Point-to-Point, but this was discontinued during the Second World War, and, perhaps surprisingly, not reinstituted after the hostilities.  Anyway, we're more cautious that we used to be, so the point-to-point isn't being brought back to life, but instead we're having a Flat race up the Rowley Mile after racing tomorrow.

You might be assuming that the Varsity Race is being run as a three-way heat between teams from Britain's three great universities: Oxford, Cambridge and Hull.  However, as Captain Blackadder so astutely pointed out in the episode of  'Blackadder Goes Forth' in which he has to root out a spy in the military hospital, Hull is not, in fact, one of our great universities.  So it's just Oxford v. Cambridge.  And Roy will be carrying Cambridge's captain Oli Lawrence, who has been in a couple of times to ride him out, in the process making me delighted that we've got Oli on board, because he's an excellent rider.  So that should be really good fun: it's a really big race-day tomorrow, and it'll be great to have a runner on the day, in a race which is clearly a very good thing.

Saturday then will see the road to Wolverhampton being hit - and then the road home being hit about the time I'm usually tucking myself into bed.  We're in the 8.45, which could be worse as the race was set to be run at 9.15.  However, had it just been the one race at 9.15, we wouldn't be running as we would not have got in; happily, though, the race was divided, meaning that Fen Flyer has got a run (his first of the year). And the icing on the cake is that we're in the first division rather than the second, which means that we have a chance (a slim chance, admittedly) of being home before midnight.  Fen might be a five-year-old maiden, but he's a very lightly-raced five-year-old maiden.  He's a nice horse, so let's hope that he runs well.  He should do, notwithstanding that he's still not very seasoned, and is bound to be a bit rusty.

This chapter's photographs, all taken in the past few days are as follows: Gus and Zarosa at Newcastle; Zarosa and Shelley Birkett at Newcastle; Fen Flyer in his pen one day last week; Fen Flyer (covered in shavings as he'd just had a post-work roll in his stable) being minded by Gus in his pen yesterday; Oli riding Roy, alongside Wasabi and Lucinda, in the early-morning murk on Long Hill on Tuesday; the dogs out in the yard on an unseasonably warm afternoon yesterday; Fen Flyer having a mighty time in the field on Sunday; and finally, in this paragraph, Roy tucking into his lunch last Friday.  He won't have such a big lunch tomorrow, as he's racing at 5.30.

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