Friday, June 30, 2017

Forecast seemingly set fair on several fronts

I'm very tired, but I ought to write something.  We took Roy to Newbury last night and that outing should be covered, albeit briefly because I didn't get home until almost 1.00 am (the race having been at 9.00 pm) which means that the day was a long one, having started with tacking up my first lot at 5.30 am.  So I'd like to be in bed well before nightfall tonight.  But I didn't mention Roy's race in advance (this laptop having been off-line for a couple of days during the week, courtesy of the handiwork of a visiting 'handyman' who had cut through the telephone line which leads into the house) so I should mention it now, now that we have internet again.

Roy's high enough in the weights at present, and the only way to solve that disadvantage is by running.  But, even if one knows that winning off one's current mark might be hard, one still tries to win, obviously.  To do that, one wants to find a suitable race.  Plenty of races aren't suitable for Roy because it suits him to be ridden from the rear (he will only relax if ridden very quietly, and he won't finish the race off well unless he has relaxed early) and one gets so many slowly-run races nowadays.  I took a punt that an apprentices' race at a 'galloping' track might give us a chance - but the winner made all the running, which tells one all one needs to know.

But I wasn't unhappy with his run.  He relaxed beautifully and then stretched out nicely to the line - but in a race in which very few horses were able to improve their position.  So that was OK, and otherwise it was a lovely evening.  I've been very down on Newbury in recent years, and felt for too long that they were getting too many things wrong.  And I was very sceptical about the re-development.  But I could not have been more impressed by the place last night.  The facilities at Newbury are currently excellent (and getting better all the time) and the redevelopment is now coming together very nicely.

There was a lovely atmosphere there last night, a good crowd of people enjoying themselves and behaving well.  There were plenty of racecourse employees dotted about, and every one whom I passed took friendliness, courtesy and helpfulness beyond the call of duty.  We all worry about racing's future, but if the impression gained at Newbury last night is any guide, the future of our sport is bright.  We have been worrying particularly over the past week or so following well-publicized displays of uncivilized behaviour which blighted both Royal Ascot and the Friday night meeting at Newmarket last week, but it would be wrong to get too carried away.

Bogans aren't a 21st-century innovation, nor were they a 20th-century innovation.  There have always been bogans, and popular racedays have always attracted them, going all the way back through the centuries.  We're probably approaching the 30th anniversary of a racegoer being fatally stabbed after racing by another race-goer in the coach park of the July Course (for no more complicated reason than that the assailant was drunk, and presumably a very unpleasant person anyway) and we can never be complacent on this subject.

We never have been able to be complacent, and never will be able to be.  I can't comment on Newmarket's meeting last Friday as I wasn't there (I was at Bath, running Kilim) but I can comment on the meeting at the course the following afternoon (when Kryptos ran) and every comment which I made earlier in the chapter about the pleasantness and positivity of the atmosphere, the demeanour and behaviour of the crowd and the helpfulness, courtesy and professionalism of the staff  at Newbury last night applies equally to Newmarket last Saturday.

Just one other thing I ought to mention before I close.  I think that I am probably justified in describing myself  as good at picking up on good jockeys at an early stage.  I believe that I am correct in saying that two subsequently very successful jockeys each had their first outside ride for me early in their apprenticeship (Richard Mullen, apprenticed to Michael Bell, on Further Future at Brighton in September 1995; and Keith Dalgleish, apprenticed to Mark Johnston, on Quakeress at Southwell in January 2000) and over the years there have been several others whom we have used regularly well before they became household names, including Lisa Jones and Josephine Gordon.  On this subject, I'd be bold enough to suggest that the apprentice who rode Roy (very well) last night, Nicola Currie, should have a bright future.

It would be good if Nicola, who hails from the Isle of Arran and who is apprenticed to Richard Hughes, could progress because we are a bit short of Scotch jockeys at present, on the Flat anyway.  It was very good (from the point of view of a Scotchman such as myself, anyway) when Willie Carson and Richard Quinn were both among the leading riders.  But more recently the ranks have been thinner.  Allan Mackay is long retired, as are Keith Dalgleish and Greg Fairley, who both come from same town that I do, Hawick.  Also retired is Ian Mongan, whose Scotchness is even less obvious than mine, but who (I believe) was born in Glasgow before moving to Brighton at an early age.  Robert Havlin is on the sidelines at present.  Lee Newman has resumed riding, but in Western Australia (and is currently injured).  So that probably just leaves Danny Tudhope currently among the first division of Flat jockeys, unless I've overlooked someone.

So let's hope that Nicola (who was having her first, but not I hope her last, ride for us last night, although she would have ridden Sussex Girl at Salisbury a couple of weeks ago had that filly run) can develop a good career.  She should be able to do so as she rides extremely well and seems to have a good racing brain - as does another Scotch apprentice, Aarron Miller, whom I see every day as he is apprenticed to William Jarvis.  Aarron had only his second ride in the maiden race in which Kryptos ran at Newmarket six days ago, and he's obviously a lot less seasoned as regards race-riding than his peers who have had more experience on the course than he has.  But, assuming that he gets sufficient opportunities to hone his skills, he too has the talent and work ethic to thrive.

Oh yes.  The weather.  We still had the good weather at the start of the week, but all changed on Tuesday and we had a couple of shocking days midweek (three inches of rain in 30 hours) but it seems to be picking up nicely again.  That's good.  We usually get less rain than the west side of the country, but not on this occasion.  Hopefully, though, that drenching was only a blip, and the forecast looks good for next week.  July starts tomorrow, and let's hope that the largely hot and sunny conditions which we had for most of June can keep going through July and August, and even beyond if we're lucky.

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