Thursday, October 23, 2014

This is the week that is

A week between posts.  That's not very good, but it could, I suppose, be worse.  In fact, by my recent poor standards, it's not so bad at all.  I last wrote a chapter last Thursday.  The following day was Dubai Future Champions' Day at Newmarket.  It was great to have a runner there.  I was about to write "... even if that runner was in the 'Varsity Race", but that wouldn't have been fair on the 'Varsity Race: obviously, it would be lovely to have a horse good enough to be running in a Group One or Group Two race, particularly if that horse were the Dewhurst winner Belardo (pictured after the race with his lad Dean Bell, formerly of this street) but the 'Varsity Race itself was a very big occasion, and it was great to be part of it.

It was great to run Roy in it.  Great for us to be part of it, and great for Roy too, who seemed to have a lovely time.  He'd got into the habit of thinking that a day at the races was going to be oh such hard work, and ever so daunting - but, really, this was just a piece of cake for him, and he seemed to have a lovely day too.  No travelling, no racecourse stables, no starting stalls - and in the race one could just run along up the Heath and have fun, just the same as one does in one's daily exercise.  As inhabitants of the 21st century regularly ask, 'What's not to like?'.

Roy was very nicely ridden by the Cambridge captain Oli Lawrence, geology student of Gonville and Caius College, and pictured above.  We didn't win the race, but at least we were on the winning team.  Roll on next year's race!  And Roy's participation enabled his dam Minnie's Mystery to land a notable double: she had a runner both on Dubai Future Champions' Day and on Qipco British Champions' Day, when her five-year-old Dream Walker (pictured at Ripon in August) contested the handicap.  He too was unplaced, but that's by the by.

I was thinking that Minnie's would be the only mare to have a runner on each day, but I then noticed that there was another mare doubly represented.  But that's fine: we were in very good company as the other mare was Frankel's dam Kind, who had Joyeuse running in the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket and then had Noble Mission land that wonderful victory in the Champion Stakes the following afternoon.  Which takes us nicely on to Saturday's Qipco British Champions' Day, on which I went to Wolverhampton with Fen Flyer (pictured here and in the next paragraph, both photographs taken at the races) - which was good both because that proved to be a very pleasing outing, and also because it gave me an interesting perspective on the main event.

Heading off to Wolverhampton mid-afternoon, I listened to both the QEII and the Champion Stakes on Radio Five.  Now, we've been told that this day is what will help the sport break into the main stream of sport.  (Well, my view is that it's already there, but we just have to be seen to have done so, both by the media and the ad-men).  Anyway, have we done so?  Well, not at all, if Radio Five's coverage was anything to go by.  (And this, by the way, is not in any way a criticism of the BBC's correspondent Cornelius Lysaght or commentator John Hunt, who are both absolute stalwarts and who, I am sure, both go well beyond the call of duty in fighting's racing corner in Broadcasting House.  It is just that, if this was anything to go by, they're just 'kicking against the pricks', to use a once-common phrase which is rarely heard nowadays).

Both races were covered in the afternoon sports' show (ie Premier League soccer show).  We had no preamble for the QEII, but just went straight to John Hunt's commentary as the stalls opened.  We then went back to some over-promoted soccer match a couple of seconds after the principals had passed the post.  Coverage of the big race, one might have thought, would be less scanty.  Wrong: it was worse.  We went over to Ascot after the field had gone a couple of furlongs in the Champion Stakes, the soccer commentator telling us that we were going over to Ascot to join John Holmes.  We then left Ascot within 10 seconds of Noble Mission crossing the line.

This was enough to make you weep - but really it just rubbed in how completely the project has failed.  That, unfortunately, is clearly how the real world (if the BBC can be seen as the real world, which is questionable) regards us/it.  Even the getting-wrong of John Hunt's name says it all: this does not only tell us of the ignorance, laziness and rudeness of the soccer man, but it also tells us that the regulars on the show just aren't interested.  Which is very unfortunate, particularly when the whole point of the project is that it should have taken us into the main stream.  (Should that be one word?  Or is 'mainstream' just an adjective?  I'll check).

Wolverhampton was good.  Fen Flyer - very well ridden, as one would expect, by Paddy Aspell, an excellent jockey - ran very well: although finishing only seventh, he was only four lengths off the winner on his first run of the year, and definitely suggested that, physically and mentally, he is 'getting there'.  The journey home was less straightforward.  The M6 was shut so I enjoyed a detour through Birmingham and the A14 was shut so I was treated to a meander through Huntingdon; and, having raced at 8.45 and left at 9.50, I got home shortly after 1.00 am. But it did come with a consolation: Sarah Cox's Radio Two show between 10.00 and midnight on a Saturday night is very good, so I enjoyed that.

But this show came with an extra dimension.  It transpired that Sarah Cox - along with two other female disc jockeys, Jo Wiley and someone else - had been disc-jockeying after racing at Ascot that afternoon.  (How does this work?  A concert I can understand, but basically this means that the radio was played.  Is this an attraction?  Do people stay on to watch/listen?  And would they do so if they just played the radio over the public address, which would be more or less the same thing?)  Anyway, Sarah Cox mentioned it, telling us that she's played something or other (possibly 'Come on Eileen') and observing something along the lines of "you know the racing crowd - they're a really discerning bunch after they've been drinking for 12 hours".  Is this true, the sum total of the impression given by the BBC radio that day that we're a boorish, philistinic, drunken irrelvance?  I suppose it is, unfortunately.

Anyway, that was interesting.  Less pleasing was Magic Ice's running (or, more correctly, non-running) at Kempton on Tuesday, an outing which I aborted less than an hour after declaration time on Sunday morning.  I'd have exercised her earlier, but she was not sure to get in, and needed the race to be divided to get a run.  So I waited until I'd found out that race was going be divided and that she was getting in (as I wouldn't have ridden her that day if she hadn't been going to run on Tuesday) before riding her out, and then rode her out shortly after declaration time, ie 10.00.  I took her for a light canter - and, **** me, she tied up, ie suffered from cramp after exercise.  I trained this filly for the best part of a year previously, and have had her for nearly a year now, and in these two years I had never known her tie up.  And yet she did on Sunday, after a light canter, two days before what would have been only her second race of the year.

That really was frustrating.  It was only a mild case, but that was enough to make it a no-brainer not to run her, disappointing though that was.  So that's another of my quota of self-certificates used up - and if anyone says, "Ah yes, another non-runner, another self-certificate", I'd quite happily ram the self-certificate (not that such a document actually exists) up their backside.  That was really frustrating.  But it just seems to be the case that each autumn we do find ourselves with the occasional unexpected case of tying up, for reasons at which one can only speculate.  And, in the great scheme of things, it is not the end of the world, particularly as the filly is fine and will fight another day in only a small number of weeks.

Let's hope that no such unexpected problems occur tomorrow, when we have Wasabi heading to Fakenham for the first race (which is the first race run at Fakenham, a course whose racing surface is looked after particularly well, for nearly six months, so she really should be racing on beautiful ground) and Zarosa will be heading to Newbury for the last race.  Let's hope that both run well.  I got things wrong with Zarosa last time, and it's a two-miler again tomorrow, but let's hope that I won't have made the same mistake twice. The freshness should be out of her this time, so let's hope that she can perform with credit (which she generally does, other than when the trainer gets things wrong).

After the first five already-explained pictures, we have some photographs from this week which show that, although we're heading well into autumn now and we've had some unpleasant, cold and wet weather this week, particularly on Monday, conditions have still been very acceptable for part of the time.  These photographs mostly contain horses who feature in this chapter.  Those in pictures six, seven and eight don't (Senator Matt, Platinum Proof aka Tommy, and the Rock Of Gibraltar yearling) nor do the Roger Varian-trained subjects of picture number nine; but we then have Magic Ice and Tommy, followed by Zarosa and Fen Flyer.  And lastly we have two photographs from this morning of Wasabi and Joe Akehurst limbering up at the Links for their assignment at Fakenham tomorrow afternoon.

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