Friday, April 07, 2017

A Grand week, but a tragic one too

This week started with the terrible news of the death of James McNeile as a result of head injuries sustained in a fall in a point-to-point at Larkhill on Saturday.  News like that is as bad as it comes.  This is a dangerous sport and we are never in an accident-free phase, but even so recent months have been bad.  Over and above a fatality and several extremely serious injuries in races/point-to-points, we've seen too many serious injuries in training.  There have been too many to list, but recent weeks in this parish, aside from Allan Mackay's terrible fall, have seen Phil Cameron (Saeed bin Suroor), Jade Gooch (Roger Varian) and Tom Burke (Charlie Appleby) sustain injuries the recuperations from which will take months rather than weeks.  Thoughts and prayers with all affected.

To move on to happier topics, Aintree is being a delight, as usual.  Plus I think that it has been relatively unattritional so far, which is great.  It was lovely to see Lizzie Kelly and Tea For Two win the Grade One steeplechase yesterday.  The female contingent hasn't looked back since the hard-to-justify decision by France-Galop to give female riders a 2kg allowance sparked a minor bout of discussion on this side of the Channel.  I was on the Sunday Forum on ATR nine days before the Cheltenham Festival and, when I gave my opinion that the idea was nonsense, it was put to me that it might be more justifiable over jumps.

I pooh-poohed this too, and since then we have had all three amateurs' races at the Festival won by female riders (which I am sure had never previously happened) and now Lizzie Kelly doing so well yesterday.  Hopefully the idea that being female makes a person intrinsically an inferior race-rider has now been properly kicked into touch.  One is, of course, always going to find some odd-balls trying to maintain that being female does actually mean being inferior, but one just has got to live with that.  What one doesn't want to do, though, is to give such fools the idea that the BHA agrees with them.

What else is happening?  Well, we haven't had a runner since Kilim went to Wolverhampton on 18th March, ie 20 days ago.  But we ought to have one next week: today I entered Delatite for a bumper at Towcester on Thursday (13th April).  I hope that he might then 'open the floodgates' (which phrase I have put into inverted commas to show that my tongue is in my cheek).  But, relatively speaking, he would be opening the tricklegates.  I hope that So Much Water might go to Brighton two days later, Saturday 15th April.  Then I hope that White Valiant might go to Fontwell on Friday 21st April, and Roy (whose Sunday display adorns the first paragraph, of course) to Brighton on Tuesday 25th April.

Looking farther ahead, there might be a suitable(ish) race for Hope Is High's resumption at Yarmouth on 2nd May.  There would be a suitable race the same day for Kilim at Brighton, but I suspect that she won't be running in it simply because, while she's doing her daily exercise very satisfactorily and happily at present, her winter coat hasn't begun to move at all, which inevitably puts the thought into my mind that it might be wise not to be in too much of a hurry to give her her next race.  I'm looking forward to running her on the turf, but there are several months of summer racing ahead of her, and it wouldn't make sense to rush into giving her a race when she's going to show up looking a lot less ready than her rivals.

It's one thing running a horse with a thick winter coat in the middle of winter (and I know that a lot can change in 27 days, but even so ...); quite another running him/her with a thick winter coat in the late spring when all one's rivals have shed theirs.  Aside from that, I hope that we aren't too far away from giving three three-year-old maidens their first start of the year, which for two of them will be the first start of their lives: Sussex Girl, Irene Wilde and an as-yet-unnamed daughter of Myboycharlie.  They are all closing in on a race, with Sussex Girl perhaps the closest to running of the trio, but as yet I haven't been bold enough to name the day.  There's no point in setting oneself up for the disappointment of a postponement.

More immediately, we have the Grand National tomorrow, of course.  I'll probably give Blaklion and Wonderful Charm the opportunity to become the first Grand National winner I've backed this century, but if either of them were to manage to salute the judge, he would be doing so without my seeing it: I'll be on my way to Milton Keynes with Jason Weaver for an evening shift in the ATR studio.  (Although I see that the National is surprisingly late, so we might be there in time).  Wolverhampton, Aqueduct and Keeneland.  I'll have to try to do some homework to help me to hide the biggest gaps in my knowledge, and I'll need to stay alert for what for me will be a late night, so getting an early night tonight seems a good idea.

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