Thursday, October 22, 2015

Busy but good

I think that when I last wrote a chapter on this blog we were one third of the way through our runner-fest.  That was three trips to the races in four days: Fakenham with Tommy on the Friday, Catterick with Zarosa on the Saturday and Pontefract with Blue Sea Of Ibrox on the Monday.  At that stage we'd got the first leg out of the way, ie Tommy had run deplorably at Fakenham, courtesy of bleeding.  So that was not a good start to our busy period - a period which for me was even busier because, over and above being at the races for three of those four days, I was on At The Races on the fourth day (ie last Sunday's Sunday Forum).

So that meant that I was spreading myself very thin, from which I have still to recover.  But it was worthwhile, I am happy to report.  Saturday's trip wasn't a bad one: Zarosa (seen in the first paragraph going to post under Noel Garbutt) was having her first run for almost exactly a year, and ran well, finishing sixth of the 15 runners. She had looked turning in as if she might finish third or fourth, but then she got a bit tired.  That was very excusable, and overall it was just good to see her back in action, running competitively and enjoying herself.  I generally enjoy our trips to Catterick, and that outing was no exception.

I'd rather got out of the habit of enjoying trips to Pontefract, not least because I am pretty sure that, prior to last Monday, the most recent winner I had trained there had not been in the current century.  And during the current century I would guess that we've had more years than I've had runners at Pontefract, so all in all it's not been my most obvious source of pleasure.  But that's all in the past now, because Monday's trip there was a real proper highlight - arguably a career highlight, because the winning of maiden race with 7-year-olds ranks almost by definition as a special event.

It was a lovely autumn day there anyway, as the photograph in the second paragraph suggests, but it became all the more lovelier (considerably lovelier) when Blue Sea Of Ibrox saluted the judge under a very sound ride from Dan Muscutt.  She won at 20/1 but, while that implies that her victory was a surprise, that was not the case; the only surprise was her SP.  I'd thought in advance that she would be second favourite at around 4/1.  There was a three-year-old filly trained by John Gosden whose form was solid and who looked to have at least 7lb in hand of all her rivals, but Blue Sea Of Ibrox worked out second best almost whichever way you looked at the form (unless you threw in her National Hunt form, and doing that would have been silly).

So I thought that John's filly would be odds-on, and we'd be second favourite at around 4/1.  Well, how wrong can you be?  John's filly didn't even start favourite (she went off second favourite) and we were hardly even in the betting.  So I got that completely wrong.  But the important thing was that I got the important thing right: ie Blue Sea Of Ibrox was in the right race on the right day in the right condition with the right man on board having been given the right instructions.  Doesn't happen very often, you know!  But when it does, it's fantastic - particularly when it's with a 7-year-old maiden who the cognoscenti reckon has no chance.  She's a nice filly, but - and it'll be interesting to see what the cognoscenti make of her chances if/when she lines up at Newmarket eight days hence.

Between now and then we might/should have Cottesloe (seen in the seventh paragraph sharing a picnic lunch with Blue Sea Of Ibrox on Monday) at Wolverhampton tomorrow (Friday); Indira at Catterick on Tuesday; and Russian Link at Stratford on Thursday.  But we'll cross those bridges when we come to them, and in the meantime we might use Blue Sea Of Ibrox as a link to take us to a current hot topic, ie horses changing stables.  This shouldn't be a hot topic at all, of course, because it happens every day.  However, with the Sheikh Mohammed Obaid horses leaving Luca to go to Roger Varian and with Paul and Clare Rooney's horses leaving Donald McCain to go God only knows where, and with both of those having been front-page-news, we ought to touch upon them.

Basically, it's no big deal: horses change stables all the time, particularly nowadays.  The reason is nothing more complicated than something that is central to human and animal behaviour: the fact that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.  I suppose that often the mover might say that he is moving them to a better trainer, but that is rarely true: Roger is not a better trainer than Luca, and whoever receives the Rooney horses will not be a better trainer than Donald.  Nor a more honourable one either.  But if someone fancies a change - well, that's only natural.

We've been the beneficiary of horses moving around - eg Blue Sea Of Ibrox coming here from a good trainer, Alan Brown - and we've been the 'victim'.  In fact we've been both in the same case, eg Marvin Gardens coming from Phil McEntee to here and then going back to Phil after two runs, or Grand Liaison being trained here at two,three four and six, but by James Given at five.  You never know what goes on between owner and trainer, in the same way that you never know what goes on between husband and wife - but, whatever it is, the sun always still rises the next day, and life goes on.  Any time a horse has come here, I've contacted the previous trainer and there has never been an issue - and when it's been the other way round, there's never been an issue then either.

I was surprised to learn that Paul Rooney was Donald's principal owner (I had thought that that was Tim Leslie) and that he owned 50 horses, because I'd have struggled to name one horse he owns (Starchitect?) so it's understandable that he's decided that it's time for a change as he has not enjoyed much success.  But they'll still be the same 50 horses, and moving them from one good trainer to another isn't going to alter that.  But it's hardly front-page news, just as the Sheikh Mohammed Obaid thing was hardly front-page news.  It's probably just that the journos probably don't appreciate that in the real world it happens all the time.  As Viz puts it so well, these articles would be best creditted to the prize-winning journalist Phil Space.

On the subject of questionable journalism, I'm pleased that the Racing Post has used two of the headlines this week which it ought to have been saving for 1st April. Firstly (on Monday) we had, "Qipco urges Ascot to consider track covers against rain risk" which surely has to be a spoof; now (today) we have, "Gleneagles all set for Classic bid".  This puts me in mind of something which I wrote in last week's Winning Post.  Regarding Aidan O'Brien's claim that Air Force Blue is the best two-year-old he has trained, I had to add, "Assuming that he hasn't forgotten that he trained Johannesburg, ...".  Now this one should have the rider, "Assuming that Aidan realises that there is a Grade One weight-for-age race over a mile on turf on the same card, and assuming that he knows that the hot favourite for the Breeders' Cup Classic, ie American Pharoah, is effectively in the same ownership as Gleneagles, ...".


bigalp said...

Wish we had known you were at Pontefract on Monday John, we would have made our way down to see you and cheer Blue Sea Of Ibrox on, well done. Best Wishes Alec & Jayne

David Winter said...

John..I fully understand that it is the owners right to change trainers, virtually on a whim and certainly when things don't seem to be going well but to take 50 odd horses each from the likes of Mr Cumani and Mr Mcain seems harsh unless there was a falling out of such proportions that no alternative was posssible. The fact that both trainers had been retained for such a long period would lead one to think that the patrons didn't think they were bad trainers, I am of the opinion that when one places a horse with a trainer it is incumbent of you to act responsibly and sympathetically with the training and running of the animal, realising that its his livelihood and your entertainment. More so than ever when you have a significant percentage of the stable in your ownership. God only knows the state of the two trainers digestive tracts and sleep patterns after the bombshells landed; for many stables it would be the end . This is a two edge argument of course; a sensible trainer would i am sure, as a protective measure [ and as many in business generally do] and not have one client that in the evnt of loss, would place the whole business in jeopardy. This, of course, is easily said but when a long standing owner wants to send you a couple more, its a brave man who say's, no thanks. The one thing these two incidents bring home in flashing neon light is how very precarious this training jobby can be and to more thoughtful when placing your charges in the first place and to act with some sensitivity.
Regards, David