Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Red-letter day

True red-letter day yesterday.  I thought that White Valiant was ready to run well on his debut yesterday, and felt that his chance was much better than his 100/1 price suggested.  But to win the race?  Well, that might have been a bridge too far, because several of his 14 rivals came from stables who generally have nice horses, and were seemingly well supported in the market.  Mind you, my one ray of hope was that Hugo Palmer's debutant Fabritius, a Dutch Art gelding, was vying for favouritism - and you don't need to know much about stallions to feel that when the distance is one mile and five furlongs, then, all other things being equal, there might be more reasons to fancy an unraced son of Youmzain than an unraced son of Dutch Art, a sire whose stock tend to thrive almost exclusively at distances no farther than a mile.  But maybe that's oversimplifying things.

Anyway, White Valiant didn't just beat Fabritius: he beat all his rivals.  Daryl Jacob, as expected, gave him a lovely ride, and the horse's fitness, professionalism, ability and genuineness did the rest.  It was just very, very exciting.  Huntingdon is our local National Hunt course, but I'd never previously trained a winner there.  So that's a racecourse ticked off - and that's a fourth individual winner (from six foals of racing age) for dear old Minnie's Mystery, who has proved to be a wonderful broodmare and whose progeny tally of wins now stands at 28.  I was a proud and very happy breeder; a proud and very happy owner; and a proud and very happy trainer.  Simultaneously!

The brahma of the day was that this was the first time I have had a runner in a race in which the competitors have been obliged to be blood-tested beforehand, presumably so that their sodium bicarbonate levels can be tested in case of any of them have been given a 'milkshake'.  Honestly!  I feel that we've been through this in a previous chapter of this blog, and I don't have the energy to run through it again.  But basically, bearing in mind that the milkshake has to be given not too far in advance of the race, that traffic and distances in the UK mean that competitors leave home many hours before the race and arrive at the racecourse several hours beforehand, most trainers don't even accompany their horses to the races ...

In short, you don't need to know much about anything to know that for nearly all the horses who were tested yesterday, the giving of a pre-race milkshake would have been totally impractical.  We left home five hours before our race and got to Huntingdon four hours before the race (and Hugo's horse was already there when we arrived) because we combined the transport with Lucy Wadham's runner, who was racing 95 minutes before we were.  Had I wished to give White Valiant a milkshake, I wouldn't have arrived at the racecourse so many hours before the race, and I definitely wouldn't have shared transport with a horse from another stable.  Fair enough testing any for whom it might have been feasible, if the authorities are so desperate to spend money; but testing horses for whom it would be totally inpractical - just plain silly.   (And that's not even mentioning how surprising / disappointing it is that in 22 years as a trainer I apparently have not managed to convince the BHA that this is something which would be so far out of character for me that it is inconceivable that I would do it).

The Levy scheme has just been referred to the Home Secretary, racing's finances are in shocking disarray - and yet this pointless farce took place yesterday, at possibly a four-figure cost.  And that's our only runner this month - so it would be a massive coincidence if this was the only race before which such a procedure has taken place.  One had to sign a form to acknowledge that the horse had been tested and that this was indeed his blood - and, manna from heaven for me, there was, for no obvious reason, a 'comments' box at the bottom of the form.  It would have been wrong not to write, 'Complete waste of money'.  Well, they did ask!

Anyway, no harm done, and I did see the funny side of it.  But, honestly -  this is a classic case of the BHA showing what one might call champagne tastes and a beer pocket.  British racing has a major funding problem - but that doesn't seem to stop our overlords acting as if the BHA has an HKJC-sized budget.  Still, it's good to have a brahma.  (We generally get one).  And it's even better to have a winner, not least because we so rarely get one.  But we got one yesterday, and I headed home very happy with a winning horse in the back of the truck, plus a framed photograph, a lovely device for showing the replay, and - a particularly nice touch - a huge box of bags of Pipers' crisps for the staff.

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