Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Gestation period of an elephant - but will it produce a mouse?

Great excitement.  The week started on a good note as it was the Open Day on Sunday, which is always an enjoyable day.  But what makes the week particularly exciting is that that wasn't the best bit.  Tomorrow is more exciting (for me, anyway, if not for anyone else) as White Valiant will make his debut.  He's three, so was born three and a half years ago, which means that he was conceived four and a half years ago.  But it's not just that I planned the mating five years ago (I'm his breeder, as well as his owner and trainer) - I planned it six years ago.  He's from the second crop of Youmzain, and I resolved to send Minnie's Mystery to him from the outset (well, probably before the outset, as he continued racing for so long), only she didn't visit him during his first season as she was booked into Le Havre (to produce So Much Water).

So the birth of a racing career which will take place tomorrow comes at the end of a very long gestation period.  Like all of Minnie's Mystery's offspring he has taken a while to come to himself.  In fact, he hasn't really done so even yet, but he's turned himself inside out during the past couple of months, and is now definitely ready to run - and, I hope, run well.  Certainly he's more ready than he was at the start of this year, around the time of the photograph in the first paragraph, taken by Emma, showing the proud breeder riding a very babyish horse.  (You can also see him more recently in the second photo with Aaron Lau; in the third photo with Clare Alexander; and in the fourth photograph with his half-brother Roy Rocket, last week.  And we see another sibling, So Much Water, this evening, in the sixth picture).  So I'm getting quite excited about my trip to Kempton tomorrow evening.

The only pity is that Josie isn't riding him, which is particularly unfortunate as she was kind enough to come in to put him through the stalls a couple of weeks ago, something which I certainly wouldn't have asked her to do had I known that she wouldn't be riding him first time out.  It's a cock-up really: she was booked for a ride in the last at Goodwood, and clearly wouldn't be able to get to Kempton in time for our race if that ran.  I waited until after declaration-time to check that her Goodwood horse was actually running, and only made other arrangements when her agent confirmed that the horse had been declared and that she wouldn't be able to be at Kempton in time to ride our horse.

So I made other arrangements - and then (because of another race being divided) the time of our race was moved back, so she would be able to be there.  Ah well - but there's no harm done because the good news is that I've ended up anyway with a booking that I am really happy with.  Paddy Aspell is one of the several very good jumps jockeys to have turned to the Flat.  He's in the same boat as Jim Crowley, Graham Lee, Dougie Costello and PJ McDonald.  He too was a very good jumps hoop (Cheltenham Festival steeplechase winner) and he too is a very good Flat hoop.  The only difference is that he hasn't taken off on the Flat, yet.

Paddy (seen here riding into the unsaddling enclosure on Gift Of Silence at Catterick a couple of years ago) was in the process of getting going on the Flat when he had a bad fall at Kempton late in 2014.  It was a very long, very hard road for him just to get back to race-riding again after that, never mind to pick up where he left off.  Happily, he has finally returned; and happily he rode two winners last week.  He's an excellent jockey who has had a few rides for us in the past - all totally satisfactory - and who has done me a lot of favours as regards riding work.  (He was previously down in Newmarket, with Marco and then Roger Varian, although he is now back up north).  Anyway, the upshot is that Paddy rides him tomorrow, which I am very pleased about.

So tomorrow's trip is the highlight of the week.  And if  Hope Is High survives The Eliminator for Newcastle for Friday, that will be another highlight because it will be nice to take her up there, not least because it will be my first visit there since the desecration of Gosforth Park.  So that's all good - as, as mentioned at the outset, was the start of the week, ie the Open Day.  We had plenty of visitors, all of whom were a pleasure to welcome.  It's just lovely that people are interested enough to come, so making them welcome when they arrive is the least we can do.

It was a shame that only 15 stables (a figure down even from the originally-intended 16) opened, but that's the others' loss.  It is understandable that Roger Varian, who clearly has had to contend with the problems of a virus this summer, didn't want to open; and he more than made up for not opening by taking part in both the football match and the show-jumping competition.  But it would be disappointing if others have used the supposed virus as an excuse - and particularly so if, by doing so, they have somehow managed to come out of it as winners, by putting out the message that they are the responsible ones, while we have been putting our charges at risk by exposure to the general public.  Which, of course, is nonsense.

The whole virus thing, of course, has been nonsense.  Not for Roger, who clearly had a worrying few weeks in the summer. But otherwise?  But I think what summed it up was that time when I got so fed up of hearing the RUK pundits wringing their hands over this virus-ridden town that I was moved to look at the Hot Trainers' list in that day's Racing Post, and noted that eight of the top 15 stables on it were Newmarket-based.  'The virus' has long been an easy and blameless excuse to explain away poor form - much better than the horse having jarred up, or just not being as talented as hoped - and will continue to be so.  But the observation I would make is that at this time of year there are plenty of horses showing signs of wear and tear from the physical strain of training, and that if you go out on the Heath in the mornings you will see 100 horses who aren't 100% sound for every one you hear coughing.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

just wondered what your thoughts were on the all two year old card at Naas yesterday as we enter the time of year when we get interminable divided maidens clogging up otherwise interesting cards is there any merit in the running of all two year old maiden meetings - the Naas meeting had acouple of nurseries - thereby giving the opportunities for horses to run , connections to watch I accept the bookmakers would say they get limited activity on this sort of race but that is true when they are part of a standard card .
Secondly back to hurdles - sorry - but how many sets of hurdles would you feel the average horse needs to school over before hitting the racetrack ? And once the horse has adapted to the hurdles does more schooling - which presumably is not at a racing pace - improve the jumping or does it take race conditions to do this
And thirdly given the number of falls in novice hurdles which occur at the last couple of flights in novice races would there be any merit in not allowing the use of the whip until after the final flight has been jumped as I have noticed that as the horses tire their jumping often deteriorates and when jockeys try to coerce them it often gets worse