Friday, July 01, 2016

Red-letter day

Dear old Roy has given us plenty of smiles (and plenty of fraught moments too, mind) over the past few years, but even by his usual standards of joy-giving he was generous on Tuesday.  And, true to form, he was brahma-ful from start to finish.  His first brahma came about an hour before we left for Brighton.  As he was set for departure later in the morning, I'd given him his breakfast and then left him alone.  We got to about 9.00, and he must have been feeling a bit left out as two lots of horses had been out to exercise without him.  Anyway, I saw him looking over his door looking as if he felt a bit neglected so, as we had had a sack of carrots delivered the previous day, I went to fetch him a double-handful of carrots to munch on.

Anyway, I went into his box, pulled the door to behind me without latching it, showed him the carrots and walked over to put them in his manger, assuming that he would follow me - except that didn't do that, rather he pushed his door open, walked straight out and, instead of heading over to eat grass on the lawn, turned left to head up to the field to play in the mud.  When he does that, he really makes himself filthy (as the first photograph, of him in the field two days previously with Irene Wilde and Cottesloe, reminds us) which isn't good on raceday, but fortunately I was able to retrieve him from the swamp when he'd merely splashed about a fair bit, rather than rolled in the mud.

Anyway, that was Brahma #1.  Brahma #2 wasn't Roy's fault: I did what I do once every five years or so, ie I was hit by the realisation halfway down the road that I hadn't put a pair of trousers into the box.  At Brighton it wouldn't usually be a problem on a lovely summer's day (which it was until midafternoon, after which it deteriorated to the extent that we had extremely heavy rain after our race) but on this occasion the shorts I was wearing really were very, very grubby.  Anyway, it wasn't the end of the world on a day when I was set to arrive with plenty of time on my hands at a racecourse which has a few charity shops within walking distance.

The upshot was that I felt as if I'd backed a winner before racing started.  I walked down into the town, found a charity shop, and then had cause to reflect that, when one finds a charity shop, there are normally a few more nearby, which would be good as I couldn't find anything suitable in the first one I entered.  Nor the second.  Nor the third.  Nor the fourth.  The thing is that I'm quite fussy about trousers (a statement which might surprise anyone who has ever seen me wearing trousers) simply because I'm a member of the dying breed of Britons who like to wear trousers which fit.  Anyway, I was started to accept that I would indeed be leading up in my grubby shorts - and then I spotted, hanging on the £2 bargain rail outside the fifth and final charity shop on or very adjacent to Kemp Town High Street, a lovely pair which looked so likely that I didn't even try it on.  When I put the trousers on on my return to the racecourse - well, they could have been made to measure (or, as everyone likes to say about everything nowadays, 'bespoke').

That happy bargain was a great omen for our race, and I chanced upon an even better omen on the stiff uphill march back to the track - as the second paragraph confirms.  Anyway, that bargain and that sighting set the tone for a wonderful, truly joyous victory.  Roy is really (finally) growing up and he settled beautifully out the back for John Egan, who rode a perfect race.  John began quietly to work his way forward inside the final half-mile, both horse and jockey knowing exactly where the winning post was.  The Sir Mark Prescott-trained hot favourite Palisade, a lightly-raced and improving Cheveley Park-owned three-year-old son of Fastnet Rock, shot into a long lead three furlongs from home, and inside the two-furlong pole was so far clear that he seemed sure to win decisively.

However, Roy's tenacity, aided by John's determination and judgement, enabled us to come out of the pack, claw back the deficit stride by stride, and snatch a thoroughly thrilling victory on the line, the margins being a head and 15 lengths.  It was an epic contest, so stirring that, had it been a Group One race rather than a handicap at Brighton, it would have been a shoe-in for 'Race of the Year'.  Heart-stopping!  Any victory means a red-letter day, but even by that standard it was a special occasion.  The weather had deteriorated totally by the time that we drew stumps on our happy post-race reflections, and I (and all the gear, plus the driver's seat as I'd left the window open) was soaked by the time that I set off for home, but that didn't matter at all.

The day ended perfectly with a classic Roy brahma.  Brahma #3.  I got home about quarter past nine, just as it was getting dark.  I led Roy off the box and left him loose in the yard to wander around and pick grass as I packed things away, cleaned up and sorted things out.  An hour or so later I was just about finished.  The fact that I couldn't see Roy anywhere didn't really register on my brain as it was dark by this time, so he would surely be around some corner somewhere.  Anyway, I went into the (dark) feedroom to fill a bucket of food for him - and was stunned when I turned on the light to see him standing in the depths of the room, helping himself to his dinner.

He's so funny.  The look he gave me when he turned round to see me, blinking as the lights went on, was just so funny.  He's a really terrific horse who is a source of joy whatever he is doing.  And thus ended a lovely day.  Again we'd struck really lucky - when he'd won the previous week we were late enough in a lovely day for the track to have dried out enough to suit us, while this time we were early enough in a day which started glorious but ended up very wet for the track not yet to have deteriorated.  And we had an even-number draw both times, a massive advantage with a horse who is very restive in the stalls.  One way and another, we were very, very lucky, over and above the luck of having this lovely horse.


glenn.pennington said...

Lovely post John- much enjoyed (along with the shillings I won on Roy winning and being placed.)
Great advert for your skills and judgement.

John Berry said...

Cheers Glenn

Brian Jones said...

2:40 Leicester - £12,602 to the winner..

Lets hope there was a breeders prize too.. whoever that may be ...

Roy will be thru' OR70 next week and Dream back thru' OR80 again, cracking effort from the old boys.

Neil Jones said...

Just found your blogs John. They really are a terrific read. But this one had it all after a tough day this has made me smile. Thank-you