Friday, September 18, 2015

Spoonful of sugar

We had a very satisfactory trip to Pontefract yesterday when Blue Sea Of Ibrox finished second at 66/1, which had been 80/1 in a few places just before the off.  She's a late-starter as regards Flat racing as she is a seven-year-old and only made her Flat debut seven days ago (when she ran at Chester) having previously raced something like 25 times over jumps. We've only had her since the end of June, since when she has been thoroughly straightforward and has worked pleasingly.

There were four runners in yesterday's 10-furlong maiden race who looked quite good, and she beat three of them.  The impeccably-bred winner High Baroque (by Lookin At Lucky ex Yesterday) won readily and was clearly the best horse in the race, but Blue Sea Of Ibrox had a good tussle for second with two of the other short-priced runners, and is pictured in this photograph getting the best of that battle.  The horse in Kirsten Rausing's colours, incidentally, is by Dubawi from the Group One winner Lady Jane Digby, which makes Blue Sea Of Ibrox's effort particularly creditable, as her pedigree is definitely more obsure than fashionable.  She was given every chance by the excellent 3lb-claimer Dan Muscutt and ran a lovely genuine race, so I hope that she will continue to thrive in her new discipline.

That was yesterday.  Looking ahead, we have the Newmarket Open Weekend tomorrow and Sunday, which should be a lovely event.  It has been good that the Open Day has been resuscitated in recent years, and it should be even better now that this year it becomes an Open Weekend.  There's definitely more than a day's worth of potential entertainment there, so it's a very good thing that there are two days now rather than one.  Of course, in an ideal world it would be an Open Week simply because there are so many stables open that nobody could visit more than a small fraction of them - but set against that is the fact that it's an annual event, so people can use subsequent years to visit the ones which they would like to have seen but were not able to fit in this time.

That observation, though, brings in my one reservation about the concept of an Open Day or Open Weekend: it implies that one isn't open on the other 363 or 364 days of the year.  That, of course, is not the case: we're open all the time, and I wouldn't want anyone thinking that our being open on this one particular day means that we don't welcome visitors on other occasions.  Far from it: I'm happy to welcome visitors any time they want to come.  But, overall, even if it might give a misleading impression of the potential welcome on offer at other times, the concept of an Open Weekend is a very good one, and I hope that it brings lots of people to see the town and the stables, and that they all have a lovely visit.

We should, of course, give Luca and Sara Cumani their due credit when we mention the Open Weekend.  Luca was the originator of the idea when having an annual Open Day in Bedford House Stables in the '80s, which used to prove so popular that it became the catalyst for Newmarket Open Day in the '90s.  That, though, fell by the wayside as a result of an invalid reason (that Sundays had become racedays) but happily common sense eventually prevailed and the Open Day was reinstituted a few years ago as trainers eventually had to admit that there being racing on Sundays should not prevent one Sunday per year being used for the Open Day.  And now it is the Open Weekend - and Sara is one of the principal organisers of that (and Bedford House Stables will be one of the most successful yards open) so they are still doing more than their bit.

Which might be a pertinent observation to make at this point because the most surprising piece of news in the racing world this week has been Sheikh Mohammed Obaid's decision to remove all his horses (30 or so, I believe) from the stable and send them to Roger Varian.  Luca has done very well for him over the years with High-Rise's Derby victory in 1998 being the highest point of their partnership.  This season, though, has seen its second highest point (Postponed's victory in the King George And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot) and has contained several other high points including Postponed's Prix Foy victory on Sunday, Connecticut's big win in Turkey seven days previously and his Listed win at Pontefract earlier in the summer, Lady Of Dubai's third place in the Oaks, and Ajmaan Bridge's win at Glorious Goodwood.

It is hard to know what was the catalyst for the dissolution of this very successful and long-standing partnership - in fact, I think that even Luca doesn't know - but life in general and racing in particular have long since taught us never to be surprised by anything.  Luca can, though, take one grain of comfort from this setback (over and above the fact that his team is going really well at present, and it's always easier to be positive when the horses are running well).  It's hard to name a trainer who commands more respect than Luca.  If one had to try to conjure up a name, John Oxx is about the only possible contender for that category - and he is the other trainer to have lost all his Sheikh Mohammed Obaid horses this year.  Being put in the same category as John Oxx is something to ease any bitter pill.

As the final four four photographs in this chapter suggest, we had a really lovely morning yesterday - and the forecast looks good for the Open Weekend, so that's great.

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