Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Red-letter day

I'd been dreaming about yesterday for a long time (only I didn't know, of course, that it would specifically be yesterday that I was dreaming about) but really I'd got out of the habit of thinking that it might happen.  When Roy was younger, I was sure that he would win at some point, and there were were several reasons why I really wanted this to happen.  But several disappointments later, I'd come round unconsciously to understand that the best way to avoid further disappointment with him was not to want or expect anything too much.  But yesterday it all fell in to place, Roy getting us off the mark for the year - and that was really, really special.

There were two principal reasons why I was really wanting Roy to win a race.  Firstly, he races in the colours of a very dear friend, the late Joe McCarthy, and is owned by his widow Iris and daughter Larry.  For that reason alone, I so wanted him to win - and, besides, it meant that he just HAD to win, because every horse who had raced in those colours had won, so it behoved Roy not to let the side down.  Anyway, he'd been taking his time about keeping this proud record afloat, as is shown by the fact that until yesterday afternoon he was a five-year-old maiden.  But, happily, he's a maiden no longer.

The other reason why I so wanted him to salute the judge was that I bred him, and I'd never been winning trainer and winning breeder simultaneously.  Minnie's Mystery's first foal, the 7-year-old Grey Panel, is a multiple winner owned and trained by Tony Le Brocq, thanks to whose kindness I am breeding from Minnie's.  Her second foal Dream Walker is a multiple winner, owned by Keith Brown and trained initially by Ian McInness and more recently by Brian Ellison. Roy, her third foal, has been the first whom I had retained, so his winning had been a dream.  Now it is a dream come true.

The icing on the cake was that John Egan rode him.  John started riding for us in 1997 shortly after he came over here from Ireland, and his first five rides for the stable (three on Il Principe, two on Largesse, sire of Grey Panel) were all winners.  He has been my first choice of jockey ever since, and is a friend as well as a colleague.  We haven't been able to use him much in the past decade because he has rarely been in the UK in recent years, but he's come back this year, much to my pleasure.  So the fact that he was Roy's jockey made it extra special.

That, of course, grossly underplays John's part in Roy's victory.  The main reason why John being the jockey made the day particularly special is that Roy probably wouldn't have won with pretty much any other jockey riding him.  John has made a big difference several times in the past, and he did so again yesterday.  In fact, with most other jockeys, Roy wouldn't have run, never mind won.  Roy is naughty, and one of his foibles is that he doesn't like standing still in either a horsebox or a starting stall.  We've finally found a way around the problem of him playing up in the truck, but the stalls are a different matter.

With Roy, as soon as the declarations are out, I look to see where he is drawn, praying for an even number.  Yesterday he was drawn three, which meant that he'd be loaded in the first half of the field (which thankfully wasn't too big).  He's better in a blindfold, but the stupidest rule in the book (which is saying something) is that a horse has to go in first if he wears a blindfold irrespective of whether he's a bad loader (in which case it's common sense to load him first) or whether he's like Roy, ie a horse who walks straight in without hesitation but then won't stand still once he's in there.  Common sense says that such a horse should go in not too early - but the rules say that, if you put a blindfold on him to try to make him less restive in there, he has to go in first.   Unjustifiable madness.

Anyway, Roy reared quite dramatically while he was waiting for the final horses to be loaded.  A lot of jockeys would have been straight out of the back, and Roy wouldn't have run but would instead have been heading for a stalls test (which he'd fail).  John, though, just calmly put a hand on his head, waited for him to come back down, and made something difficult and dangerous seem just a minor inconvenience.  And then he gave him a 10-out-of-10 ride in the race.  Couldn't ask for more.  Roy was given a warning for his misbehaviour; and three warnings mean a stalls test.  Which he wouldn't pass - but we'll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.  As of now, though, nothing can spoil the joy of yesterday.

The lovely post-script to Roy's antics was that, when I shamefacedly mentioned them to John (and most jockeys would have let you know that they hadn't been impressed), John just said, "Oh, that was nothing.  He's not really doing anything wrong - he was just messing around."  That's John - and that's Roy too: like Brian in 'The life of Brian' (and wasn't it lovely that the last race was won by the splendidly named Welease Bwian?) he's a naughty little boy.  It's best to keep the same person riding him because he's actually a very easy ride if you are used to him, but if you don't know him, or aren't used to his idiocy, he's a pain in the neck.

He just plays around all the time.  He never messes around on the outward journey, but once you turn for home he's a nightmare.  If you know him, you know that that's OK, because he's never going to do anything really silly or dangerous.  But if you don't know him - well, you'd think that he's a mustang.  There have been a couple of amusing illustrations recently.  I was coming back across the Severals the other day and went past William Haggas, who, seeing Roy clowning around, offered the advice, "You shouldn't be riding a horse like that at your age!".  In similar vein, Michael Stoute pulled over when he drove past Roy doing his clown act down the Bury Road the other day.  I often wonder if we are talking about the same Michael Stoute, because the press talk about him as if he's the most reserved and taciturn person, but I'd say that he is one of the most jocular people I know - as you can deduce from his laughing observation that, "I hope that you haven't had your breakfast yet"!


bigalp said...

So pleased Roy has won for you John keep up the good work. Hopefully we will see you in three weeks.

neil kearns said...

many congratulations even better john was riding

neil kearns said...

new tablet so been catching up on your recent blogs with regard to your comments on ground I thought sir mark prescotts brilliant interview with big mac on atr a while back told everything you needed to know on sward watering and after effe ts thereof

M Anderson said...

Congrats Mr Berry. Very well deserved win.