Thursday, April 20, 2017

Everything's turning to white

Busy time for the progeny of my broodmare Minnie's Mystery, who lives at Haras de la Cauviniere in Normandy.  Her offspring (all bar the first conceived in France, all born in France) are 9-year-old Grey Panel, by Largesse, trained on Jersey by Tony le Brocq; 8-year-old Dream Walker, by Gold Away, trained by Brian Ellison; 7-year-old Roy Rocket, by Layman, trained by me; 5-year-old So Much Water, by Le Havre, trained by me; 4-year-old White Valiant, by Youmzain, trained by me; three-year-old Rock On Dandy, by Rajsaman, trained by Harry Dunlop; a two-year-old son of Youmzain (ie a full-brother to White Valiant) who, the last I heard, might be going to a breeze-up sale in France next month; and a colt foal by Rajsaman (ie a full-brother to Rock On Dandy).

The reason why Minnie's has no six-year-old is because that foal, a Gold Away filly (ie a full-sister to Dream Walker) was fatally injuried in a paddock accident at the stud when she was a yearling.  The reason why she has no yearling is because, having foaled late and awkwardly in 2015, she was not covered that year.  She had a difficult time this spring too during and after foaling, and she won't be covered this year.  I suspect that she won't be covered again, but there's no need to rush into taking that decision.  Anyway, those horses represent her tribe, and she's been a wonderful matron.  And her progeny are making it a busy April for her.

Dream Walker ran in the Lincoln on 1st April.  So Much Water ran at Brighton on Easter Saturday, 15th April.  Grey Panel ran at Les Landes (the only racecourse he has ever run at, where he has won 13 races) on Easter Monday, 17th April.  White Valiant is declared to run at Fontwell tomorrow, 21st April.  And Roy is an intended runner at Brighton (a racecourse with which he has nearly as strong an affinity as the one which Grey Panel has with Les Landes, having won five times there) on Tuesday, 25th April.  No wins or minor placings so far this month for Minnies' progeny, but the two best chances are the ones still to come, so let's live in hope, until the races are run anyway.

While we are running though their names, I might just run through the backgrounds to the names of the three horses whom I train.  (I also named Grey Panel.  All the horses, like their mum, are grey).  Roy Rocket is named after the character in Graham Connors' song of the same name.  Roy Rocket wasn't his real name, but "when he was young he moved to the city to give it a try, changed his name to Roy Rocket because some fool promoter said it sounded right".  He "had a record released but it died without even making the charts; came back to his hometown (Mackay in Queensland, Graham Connor's hometown - Roy Rocket does exist); married and settled down".

'Lay' is the old English word for a story put to music, just like this song, so the layman is Roy Rocket, the songman (who now works as a mechanic in the garage and joins his friends with his guitar every weekend - "Roy Rocket is alive and well, every Saturday night at the Grand Hotel"), the musical story-teller like Graham Connors.  So that's why we have Roy Rocket, our dear Roy.  No specific greyness in that, but there is with the other two.  White Valiant doesn't refer to the stallion (well, with Youmzain what could you do?  What does it mean?  I don't know because my Arabic is worse than my Latin) but we have the greyness, or the whiteness anyway.

The song is by The Mutton Birds, the one-time band of Don McGlashan, formerly with Harry Sinclair in The Front Lawn, now generally solo, often singing with Neil Finn.  It's a great song.  Disturbing, in the vein of The Doors' Riders In The Storm.  With a similarly disquieting sound.  The narrator picks up a passenger on a quiet country road in New Zealand in his car, a white Ford Valiant.   He reassures her.  ("You're from the family that moved in up the valley.  It's lucky I picked you up and not somebody else") but we just don't know how it ends.  "We'll have to turn inland - there's been a landslide at the quarry.  Although I say it myself, you couldn't have better help if you found yourself losing your way round here.  You can still see the moon., though it's the middle of the morning.  You can smell the clay.  Like I said, you can count yourself lucky: not many people know this way ... Remember where we left the car.  Remember it's a white Valiant".  Great, great song.

And So Much Water.  Paul Kelly.  Another great layman, another who writes great stories and puts stories to music.  Stories written by himself, often in the spirit of the American short-story-writer Raymond Carver, writer of So Much Water So Close To Home.  Paul's 1989 album, released 12 months after Carver's death, bears the same name.  The title track of the album, though, has a different name (if that isn't a contradiction in terms) although it is the same song.  Everything's Turning To White.  (Other, of course, than listening to the song or reading Carver's story, a good way of finding out what happens is by watching the excellent movie which was made out of it, Jindabyne, with Gabriel Byrne).

"There's so much water, so close to home.  When he holds me now I'm pretending.  I feel like I'm frozen inside.  Behind my eyes, my daily disguise, everything's turning to white".  (The narrator is the main character's wife).  And So Much Water, like her mum and like Roy, hasn't wasted too much time in doing the standard grey horse's thing of turning to white.  And she's by Le Havre, the port on the north shore of the mouth of the Seine estuary, where, of course, there is so much water.  So if you've ever wondered whether these names have merely been picked picked randomly from the ether, they haven't.  There's method somewhere in the madness.  As is often the case.

For illustrations, we have So Much Water in the pen a couple of evenings ago (showing that she has come out of Saturday's race OK) and then in yesterday morning's sunshine; White Valiant (photographed by Emma on Long Hill) being ridden by his breeder about three weeks ago; the three siblings - SMW, Roy, White Valiant - in the field during a dry spell last summer; Roy in the stableyard in yesterday morning's sunshine; White Valiant's ears looking out at the frost-crusted Side Hill AW canter shortly before dawn yesterday, when the temperature was zero degrees; and then three shots of the Heath as both the sun and the temperature began to rise.


glenn.pennington said...

great post John - you have some eclectic tastes in music - I'm just listening to the Mutton Birds and catching up with "White Valiant"

neil kearns said...

that looked pretty smart to me many congratulations and i thought he was named after something like a soap powder !! need to broaden my musical knowledge

neil kearns said...

go roy that looked as my grandson says eazy peezy lemon squeezy looked very decent on that run John and as usual Mr Egan excelled again I do wonder if there is a better rider of difficult tracks currently around