Thursday, April 16, 2015

We'll have another runner eventually

We haven't had a runner for ages.  Four weeks ago this Saturday we ran Near Wild Heaven under National Hunt rules (but not over jumps) but it's hard to think what and when our last Flat runner was.  We've had a few eliminated in the interim, but as for runners - none.  I thought, though, that we'd get back into the groove tomorrow by running Senator Matt at Bath, but unfortunately I felt obliged to pull the plug on that outing - and, thanks to my inattention, it was only a last-hour decision to pull the plug.  We've been having, by usual mid-April standards, lovely weather, but I hadn't thought to check the ground at Bath simply because at this time of year one just assumes that the ground will be goodish.

However, an hour before declaration time yesterday I realised that the ground at Bath was "good to firm, firm in places" (with no Going Stick reading available, which isn't very efficient) and the forecast suggested that it would be firmer still come raceday.  He wouldn't appreciate that, so he wasn't declared.  This was a real shame, not least because opportunities to run 45-rated horses off their correct handicap mark do not grow on trees.  But he'd have hated firm ground, and the fact that the firm ground has led to a small field is not really relevant.  If you don't like the ground, you finish out the back come what may; and finishing out the back in a small field is no less inglorious than finishing out the back in a big field.

It's hard to fathom why the ground is so bad at racecourses nowadays.  The Heath is never watered, and it is still good ground on the Heath, despite this extended spell of good weather.  We had Magic Ice, Galette Des Rois and Hymn For The Dudes galloping on the grass yesterday, and I galloped Roy Rocket on the grass this morning (well, afternoon, as it as after noon by the time that he worked) and the ground was grand, genuinely good ground.  But Bath is seemingly significantly firmer, and I can't believe that we've had wetter conditions here than they have had in Wessex, because it has been lovely here.

The Rowley Mile was clearly fairly firm today (the Racing UK replays are on the TV as I write, and I've just heard Richard Hughes suggest that the ground was "firm").  So what is going wrong?  Over-use, I suppose.  The ground on the Heath is used sparingly, mainly because there is plenty of it - and the AW canters and gallops take most off the pressure of it anyway - but racecourses get so much hammer nowadays that the ground suffers so much more wear and tear.  And it's the wear and tear which turns lovely turf into a rough and loose surface which gets much wetter in wet times and much drier in dry times.  A racecourse which might have had eight days of racing per year a generation ago now has 18 - and that's all that one needs to say.

Anyway, overall it's nice to be worrying about firm ground on the 16th April, notwithstanding the occasional inconvenience.  We've had unseasonably lovely weather - yesterday, all 22 degrees of it, in particular one could have called a lovely summer's day, rather than a lovely spring day, which was blissful - and that's great.  I'm sure that the ground down the hill at Brighton on Tuesday might be fairly bracing, but Roy and Magic Ice get the chance to run off their correct marks (well, almost) so that's too good an opening to turn to down.  I did say in a previous chapter that I wouldn't even enter Magic Ice at Brighton; but she's entered, and at present she is an intended runner.  I might end up not throwing caution to the winds with her - but, God willing, Roy can run there come what may.  He's so odd that he may turn out to love it!

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