Thursday, April 30, 2015

All duck (at present, anyway)

One extreme to the other.  All duck or no dinner.  At the start of last week, Roy was a five-year-old maiden; now he is a dual winner.  When he ran at Brighton eight days ago, we were on the Racing Post's dreaded Cold List; in this morning's paper (and this is written on Wednesday evening, if not probably to be  published until the next day) we were top of the paper's Hot List - and, however, high we were in those rankings this morning, we should be even higher now, thanks to the fact that we had one runner today, and that one runner was Grand Liaison, who won at Wolverhampton.  It's all nonsense, of course, because you don't do things any differently when you're flavour of the month or when you're off the radar, but c'est la vie.  And we'll enjoy being in form during the brief period that we are.

One spends enough time in the wilderness, so it's good to be in vogue for once.  And it was particularly good seeing Grand Liaison scoring today.  She did well here as a three-year-old in 2012, landing a hat-trick of victories in the autumn, but prior to today she had been in the wilderness even longer than we had been.  We'd merely been winless from August 2014 until last week: she'd been winless from October 2012 until today.  So the true stalwarts in this story are her owners Barrie Catchpole and Mike Meaney, because the fact that she is still in training this year speaks volumes for their sportsmanship.  She was in James Given's stable last year, but the fact that she has won first up today after doing nothing last year means nothing: she was at least placed for James last year, while for this stable in 2013 she did nothing at all - and she did arrive back here on a more favourable handicap mark than the one she was on when James took her on, which has obviously been a huge help.

So that was grand.  We has a lovely trip to Wolverhampton.  The most intriguing horse in our race was the topweight, the Qatar Racing-owned , Sir Mark Prescott-trained Sarprech, who had cost 430,000 gns as a yearling and who is a Sea The Stars half-brother to the Group One winners Youmzain and Creachdoir.  And he is as handsome as that imples.  I saw him in Heath House (or, correctly, Sir Mark's smaller stable on the other side of the Moulton Road - Osborne House?) last year and he was seemingly not a model pupil then.  But he is a gelding now, and should be starting to make up for lost time.

I'd joked before racing today that my worst nightmare would be to finish second to Sir Mark's horse , well clear of the remainder.  The pair did indeed finish well clear of the remainder, but thankfully  , ridden as impeccably as we have come to expect by Franny Norton, Grand Liaison was in front, rather than in second.  And that was just really, really thrilling and pleasing.  It was lovely to see her come back to form.  How come?  Well, that's horses for you.  Why I couldn't get her to do anything in 2013 is a mystery, and why she has come back to form now is also a mystery.  But we'll take it - and we'll just observe that if you have the patience to wait for horses to mature, problems often short themselves out.

I can't end this chapter without touching on the other half of our week as regards the horses we have declared.  Four declared.  Two runners, two winners.  (And total for entire month and for grass season to date: three runners, three winners, which are nice figures to reflect upon, for a change.). And the other two?  Both eliminated, which at a time when we supposedly have a major problem with small fields is remarkable.  Fen Flyer at Newcastle on Tuesday: 31 declared, 14 got a run, 17 were eliminated.  Senator Matt took me by surprise as there were only 22 entries for his race.  But most were declared, simply because these lower-rated older handicappers don't have alternative options.  So 16 were declared; he was number 14 - and, yes, 13 get a run.  We've discussed this previously, and no doubt will do so again.

Grand Liaison's week is here in pictures (with, of course, Roy sneaking into the first photograph.).

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