Monday, November 17, 2014

Motorway madness

The two trips at the end of last week both confirmed that, while the roads probably do get a bit quieter in the winter, one can't take anything for granted.  In fact, I found the trip to Kempton on Thursday as stressful as I've found any journey for many years.  Mind you, I think that we can blame the fates for that one. I pay a lot of attention to omens, and probably the worst omen is to drive past a hearse (if it contains a coffin) on the way to the races. Unbelievably, last Thursday I passed two - and it wasn't two hearses in convoy, but two completely separate funeral processions, one on the A1 near Stevenage and the other on the roundabout leading on to the M25 just south of St. Albans.

Particularly once I'd passed the second one, it was plain that there was going to be a debacle, and I think that if I'd owned Roy outright, I'd have just turned around and headed for home, and filed a self-certificate (reason - transport difficulties) to explain his absence.  But as it was I pressed on, mulling over the fact that it seemed that, even if things were going to go wrong at some point, the traffic was not being a problem, because the roads (hearses aside) were about as quiet as one would find on Christmas Day.  That was, of course, until I got within half a mile of Kempton.

To cut a long story short, I arrived at the roundabout off the M3 a few minutes after there had been a serious accident just up the road between an ambulance and a BMW.  Had I arrived a few minutes earlier I'd have been OK; and had I arrived a few minutes later I would also have been OK, because the problem would have been apparent and I would have eschewed the roundabout and would have taken the equally feasible alternative route.  But as things were, I found myself caught up in a melee; and, having got to within half a mile of the racecourse with ease, I then found that it took three quarters of an hour to complete the journey.

With any other horse this would have been merely very annoying.  With Roy, though, it was terrifying.  He was formerly a very bad traveller, and this hold-up was all the trigger he needed to go just about beserk.  Fortunately, common sense kicked in just in time to prevent him from killing himself and/or writing off the horsebox; but even so I was still very nervous as to what damage to horse and truck I would find when we finally arrived and I unloaded him.  Happily, and remarkably, all the damage to the box was fixable, and the damage to Roy was nothing worse than a few superficial cuts.  He was sound, albeit stressed (although not even 5% as stressed as I was) and he seemed OK to run.  Even so, I sought the vet, explained to him what had happened, and asked him to decide whether he would be happy for Roy to run.

Happy he duly was - and all was well that ended well.  The form-book, official handicap ratings and SPs all suggested that Roy would be left miles behind his three rivals; but, although he did indeed finish fourth, he wasn't disgraced and ran better than any of those three indicators had suggested would be the case.  This both vindicated the belief of myself and the racecourse vet that the pre-race debacle should be no bar to his competing, and also provided a glimmer of hope that we might be about to get Roy's career back on track.  I'd already bucked up by the time that the race came along, courtesy of meeting up with and spending some time with my co-owners who always raise one's spirits, and all in all it really was a case of all being well that ended well.

I'm not sure if the trip to Wolverhampton the following day ended well, but I know that it ended late.  Bloody hell - Friday and Saturday evening meetings at Wolverhampton at the moment are a test of stamina.  Even though it was all safe enough, I found the travelling last Friday nearly as stressful as I'd found it the previous day.  The A14 on the way to Wolverhampton in the afternoon was as busy as you'd find in the height of summer - and the return journey was worse, not for heavy traffic but for the fact that both the M6 and the A14 were closed, which seems to be the norm at nights at the weekend at the moment.  Running at 7.00 pm doesn't sound too bad - but when it means finally getting back into the house half an hour after midnight it's not so funny.

Anyway, Energia Eros ran OK, even if yet again he confirmed that his current handicap mark bears very little relation to his capabilities.  Ted Durcan summed things up by saying that he showed enough to say that he would win a race if he were ever allowed to run off a realistic handicap mark.  It might happen one day, although we might all die of old age waiting, and claiming races might be a more realistic avenue to take to speed things up.  Energia Eros, by the way, is pictured in the second paragraph with Ted, with Roy and Jim Crowley (who, as one would expect, rode him perfectly) in the first paragraph. After those pictures we have some shots of the brief periods of good weather over the last few generally rain-lashed days.  The fourth photograph I took when stationary on the A14 on Friday afternoon, when I'd moved out of the torrents of rain falling on to Newmarket and found myself in some better weather farther west.  The last four photographs were taken today, when the sunshine came as a very welcome relief after 15 hours of rain.

Next stop Southwell tomorrow with Fen Flyer (whose ears are visible in the third photograph, which was taken on the Severals at dawn on Thursday).  If luck in running and ability to handle Southwell were not question marks, one would be very confident of him running extremely well.  But, as things are, it remains to be seen how he will handle Southwell, and the full field of 14 will mean that several horses in the race do not have a satisfactory passage.  So we'll head out hoping for plenty but expecting nothing.  Always the best way.

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