Monday, April 11, 2016

Trial of patience - nearing the end?

When Indira won at Wolverhampton 19th March (three weeks and two days ago) I didn't realise how long we would have to wait before running her again.  I had her next race mapped out: the first Catterick meeting of the season on Wednesday 6th April, two and a half weeks later.  In the winner's enclosure I had a discussion with those of her connections who were present, and we concluded that we'd reconvene at Catterick unless the ground was soft - and that we could probably expect good ground, as we seemed to be entering a period of settled, spring-like weather.

How wrong we were! The heavens opened and remained open.  You probably know how the Going Stick works, but basically it records the resistance the stick meets as it enters the ground, so that the lower the number, the softer (ie more yielding) the ground.  Five is very soft and 10 is very firm etc.  Anyway, when she won at Catterick in July 2014, it was 9.2, fast ground.  She ran there twice last October.  The first time she ran OK but slightly below her best on ground on the slow side, with a Going Stick reading of 7.9.  She went back on a wet day later in the month when the ground ended up extremely wet and testing, with a Going Stick reading of 6.9.  She ran deplorably.

At the time of entry for last week's Catterick race, the Going Stick reading was 5.9.  I couldn't believe that it could be a whole point softer than it was the day of that quagmire at the end of October.  Obviously we would need the ground to dry out significantly for it to be worth running her.  What happened, though, was that it kept raining and the number had reduced slightly to 5.8 by declaration time, which meant that it was a no-brainer not to declare her, especially as more rain was forecast.  That further rainfall duly came, and by race-day the reading had gone down further to 5.4.  To put that into context, the last time that they had had a reading for a Flat meeting similar to what it was at declaration time was the last meeting of the season three years ago in October 2013, when it was 5.7 and described as 'heavy'.

The Going Stick has been used at Catterick since April 2007 and that 5.4 reading last week was the lowest ever recorded at a Catterick Flat fixture.  In fact, even though they race on some desperately heavy ground there every winter, it is very rare for a jumps meeting to be run on a reading that low.  For instance, during the past winter, the lowest reading recorded on the hurdles track was 6.0, although it was 5.1 on the steeplechase track one time.  In short, my naive idea that we would find nice spring weather and nice ground in the first week of April was as far wide of the mark as you could get.

Anyway, the next option was Windsor today.  In the end I didn't even enter her.  It was 'soft' ground six days ago when the entries closed, and the forecast suggested that there would be rain there just about every day.  If it's soft ground in the spring, you can usually expect it to be 'good' six days later as long as the weather is anything like decently seasonal.  As it was, it was still 'soft' in this morning's paper, so I had no misgivings whatsoever about not having entered - particularly when I turned on ATR this afternoon, saw that there was torrential rain there and that it looked very cold, and the ground looked heavy as the jockeys were meandering all across the course up the straight trying (and failing) to find some ground that their horses could gallop semi-effectively on, and the runners were passing the post strung out like washing.

Anyway, we're told that all good things come to those who wait, so I hope that we'll finally get a chance to run her on Tuesday next week, just over a month after her win.  The weather shouldn't be an issue as it's back at Wolverhampton, so let's hope that we go there.  In retrospect, I'm half-feeling that I should have put her in at Wolverhampton on Good Friday, six days after she won there.  At the time I didn't know that we'd have to wait so long before running her again, but even so it would have been silly to run that day.

She went up 4lb for winning, so it really would have made no sense to run under a 6lb penalty.  It takes forever to drop 2lb, so there's no point in giving it away when you finally have received it.  And, as it was, the race was won by a nice Richard Fahey-trained horse who has a great record round there, so I don't regret not having taken him on at what would effectively have been 2lb overweight / out of the handicap.  Anyway, let's hope that the waiting is nearly over.

Let's hope that the miserable weather which this chapter has implied is almost at an end.  The pictures here give a false impression, but that's no surprise as what happens is that if we get a nice hour of weather my camera comes straight out; whereas if we get a bad week, it stays in my pocket.  But, although Windsor was horrible today and that's not far from here, it was very pleasant here today as it was yesterday (when all bar the first of these photos, most of which feature Roy and/or his sister So Much Water, were taken).  'Good' ground officially at Newmarket tomorrow for the start of the Craven Meeting, so let's hope that spring begins here.

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