Saturday, September 17, 2016


I really enjoyed my trip to Hexham yesterday.  The hot and sunny weather did indeed end yesterday.  Farther south and west of here there were three inches of rain overnight and into the morning, but we had not had any here by the time that we left shortly after 7.00.  It duly arrived here, and by the time that I got home at 10.30 a band of rain had moved over, depositing 18mm on Newmarket.  So it would have been a fairly miserable day here, a horrible one in other places, but Abbie and I managed to avoid the rain: it was raining in Hexham while we were in Newmarket and raining in Newmarket while we were in Hexham, but none actually fell on us (although we drove through plenty).

It was simply glorious up there, notwithstanding that we saw much more cloudy than blue skies.  (Actually, thinking about it, it would be fair to say that I really enjoyed being at Hexham yesterday, but I didn't enjoy the travelling.  I enjoyed the final stages of the outward journey and loved the first 40 miles of the return journey, savouring the Northumbrian countryside on a splendid evening; but the bulk of the outward journey took place in solid rain, and the last couple of hours on the return were very hard work.  We didn't actually get back that late (10.30) but it felt much later than it was.  Thank God I had been able to doze for an hour when I was up there, as even with the benefit of that I was finding it hard to stay awake).

That was my first visit to Hexham since Bold Cardowan won a novices' hurdle there under Richard Guest on 2,000 Guineas Day 2002, and I must make sure that I don't leave it another 14 years before I go there again.  The claim that it is Britain's most beautiful racecourse is easy to sustain, and its canteen is right up there with the very best, which is always a major factor in my grading system.  And the racing surface was lovely: they had had a lot of rain overnight and it was a bit wetter than 'good', but really it was just very, very good.  The fact that they hadn't raced there for four months obviously helped, but basically the turf was so pristine that it could have been four years.

Cottesloe ran a nice race.  He basically jumped well, albeit was just a tad deliberate on a couple of occasions, as one might expect with a horse in his first jumps race.  The three horses who beat him all had some decent placed runs to their name, and he'll be sharper in his jumping for having had that experience, an experience which he really seemed to enjoy, as he was the most relaxed and calm at the races, both before and after the race, than I've known him for a while.  He can go back to the Flat next time (Nottingham 11 days hence) and then I hope can go back over hurdles the time after that.

I hope that we shall have two runners next week.  Hope Is High and White Valiant are both entered at Ffos Las on Tuesday, but regretfully I think that we ought to abandon that plan, as the ground will probably be just a bit wetter than Hope Is High (who would be the reason for making that marathon trek) would like.  So what we shall probably do is let White Valiant (pictured in the final two paragraphs, doing stalls work with Josephine Gordon seven days ago) make his debut at Kempton AW on Wednesday, and let Hope Is High run at Newcastle AW on Friday, The Eliminator permitting.  In the interim, we have the Open Day tomorrow.  It is disappointing that there will only be 16 of the 80-odd stables in town open; but we shall be one of those 16, and it will once again be nice to welcome visitors.

And one other piece of house-keeping: as Neil Kearns correctly spotted, Cottesloe, although he had schooled over hurdles in the winter, did his more recent schooling over 'brush hurdles', which isn't ideal, but was the least unsatisfactory of our options.  We had the choice of schooling over hurdles on turf or over 'brush hurdles' on the AW.  We have had very good weather, so schooling over hurdles would have meant schooling on ground much firmer than I would ever ask him to race on over jumps, meaning that the AW option was preferable.  But that's life: you usually have to settle for the least unsatisfactory option, rather than the most ideal.

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