Thursday, November 20, 2014

Quicksand, slow sand

No traffic worries either going to Southwell on Tuesday or coming home, so that was a plus.  And we learned something (ie never to take Fen Flyer there again) so that was another plus, even if that second plus is probably the result of a rather forced attempt to 'accentuate the positives', ie we are only in a position to conclude that because he ran so badly.  But that was no great surprise.  The deep sand and its resultant kickback at Southwell are not to every horse's tastes.  One only finds out by taking the horse there, and one does that knowing that there is a fairly strong chance that the horse won't like it.

I don't know if the reason why so many horses struggle so badly at Southwell is because of the difficulty of galloping on (through) deep sand or because the kick-back is so off-putting.  Both, probably.  Anyway, the sand seems particularly heavy going at present, so soon after the course's re-opening after it was relaid, and the kickback is atrocious at present.  Fen didn't really have a race because he was going nowhere quite a long way from home, and the jockeys who are out of contention are never as hard on their mounts as those up the front.  So he only blew for barely 10 minutes after the race - but he coughed for half an hour, which horses tend to do if their throats are full of sand.

I had rather a nice bonus at Southwell because I found that Fen was stabled in the stable-yard next to good old Aureate, who has been a grand horse for his trainer Brian Forsey.  This was particularly nice because Brian Forsey has been a name with which I've been familiar ever since I started following the sport in the '70s, but up until Tuesday I'd never met him.  Which, as I know now, was my loss, because I was delighted to make his acquaintance and really enjoyed his company.  And not only for the reassurance which I took from his telling that the deep sand and atrocious kickback this week had been too much even for Aureate, a real course specialist who had run often at Southwell previously and had always run well there, but who just couldn't or wouldn't go this week; and who never usually coughs after running there, but who did so a lot this time.

I remember Brian first as a jumps jockey down the west country; and then, if my memory serves me correctly, he was a rare example of a trainer who was his own stable jockey, as I'm sure that his riding and training careers overlapped; and then, of course, he ended up just as trainer.  We had a good stroll down memory lane, particularly enjoying some Les Kennard reminiscences - and what made things even better was that there was another west country jumps jockey of the '70s there too: Peter Warner (who had brought Ed de Giles' horse to the races) whom I best remember as the rider of the good Colin Davies-trained two-mile steeplechaser Dulwich.

So the day, despite Fen's dismal run, was good in parts.  I felt bad for having subjected Fen to such a horrible ordeal, which I did suspecting that it was not a wise thing to do, and doing so only because of a dearth of suitable alternatives.  But he'll get over it, and I think that I took it worse than he did (although the disgruntled expression on his face as he walks off the track in the first photograph might suggest otherwise).  So it wasn't the end of the world.  And the weather was nice - as it was again yestereday and then again today, when the final four photographs were taken.

1 comment:

David Winter said...

I have to ask John,why do they persevere with sand rather lay polytrack or Tapeta ?? so many horses run poorly there and the standard of racing is pretty grim. Surely it would be worth the investment of a better surface and improved prize money to entice people to what isn't the most attractive of venues in the first place. Santa Anita is not !!!