Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jesus wept

Aaagh.  Frustrating trip to Windsor on Monday.  I'd said in advance that I hate backing up horses because you feel bad if they don't win.  I could have added, only I didn't realise that this would apply, is that I hate having odds-on horses, because then anything other than a win is a disappointment.  So the worst thing to happen is to back up a horse and him/her be odds-on, and not win.  That's what happened at Windsor.  Hope Is High (pictured with Jana in the first two paragraphs, in the Windsor stableyard before the race) went off the 5/6 favourite and finished second.  So I wish that I hadn't run her, and had just waited to run her next week at either Leicester on Tuesday or Yarmouth on Friday.  But one can't turn the clock back - and, of course, if I hadn't run her, I'd have wished that I had, because I would have been looking at the race and thinking, "What was I thinking not running in that?  It would have been a penalty kick!".

I'm not usually one of these winning-is-all-that-matters people.  For me, any time you run well you can be pleased and proud.  And she did run well.  You always do if you finish second.  And particularly this time as, on form, we couldn't beat the winner Powered anyway.  Two starts back, Powered had finished one place (and a head) in front of us giving us 3lb; this time we had to give Powered 3lb (and would have been giving him 8lb had we had the apprentice whom I'd booked, Jane Elliott who would not have had a claim in the race, rather than the less experienced one whom I chose to replace her, Darragh Keenan who claimed 5lb in the race).  It's just that Powered went into the race a 27-race maiden (notwithstanding that he'd finished in the frame on his last eight runs, including four times finishing second) so everyone, myself included, had stupidly and unwisely assumed that he would again be placed without winning.

Hope Is High is such a trouper because she ran well, honestly and to form despite appearing not to handle some aspect of  the track.  As previously we set out to have her close up all the way, but she came off the bridle going into the bend and looked unbalanced all the way around it, thus losing both her position and her composure, and consequently turning into the straight in a worse position than should have been the case, and not on an even keel.  Impossible to know what caused this, but I'd put my money on it being either the result of her racing right-handed for the first time, or the fact that, while she likes a sound surface, the bend at Windsor has been watered very heavily since the debacle last month when racing was abandoned after a horse sprawled on the turn.  But still she ran to the line dourly and determinedly, bless her.

I felt bad.  I wouldn't have backed her up had this not been an apprentices' race, but would instead just have waited for Leicester eight days later.  But this did look a winnable opportunity - and when you see a winnable opportunity in an apprentices' race on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, you pretty much have to run if you have a suitable option the following week as well, because you then have the opportunity to sneak two wins for the price of one, as it were, on account of the fact that you don't pick up a penalty for winning an apprentices' race, so have a week and a half to run again unpenalized.  This was the best plan that this mouse-man could lay, but sadly, of course, it fell at the first hurdle as she didn't win the apprentices' race.  So she's now having the rest of the week off, and we can have another go in another couple of weeks' time, or whenever seems suitable.  No rush this time.

Aside from that, and aside from the fact that So Much Water (pictured in the third paragraph, in the parade ring) ran lamentably later in the card, it was a very pleasant evening at Windsor.  It was a very hot one, but I love hot weather - even if the horses found it a struggle, and So Much Water in particular has done little other than sleep since then (as the fourth photograph, taken the next day, suggests).  And there was good company there too, including some Aussies with whom I'd dined the previous night, who were on a tour taking in Newmarket and Royal Ascot.  I'd spent time with two different groups of touring Aussies over the weekend, which was great: I love this town, and am so proud of it when we find racing people travelling from all corners of the world to see it.  When that happens, it is a pleasure to show it off to them and to help them to savour it.

I had taken one of the groups, the one under the aegis of Bryan Martin, a very nice man who was the recently-retired Greg Miles' predecessor as the race-caller in Melbourne and who will be forever remembered for his spine-tingling "Better Loosen Up wins for Australia" call of the 1990 Japan Cup, out on the Heath on Saturday morning.  It was a truly glorious day, and it worked out very well.  I just took pot luck on whom we would find where and when, but between 6.00 and 8.00 we saw James Fanshawe working some horses on the Limekilns, William Haggas working some on the Al Bahathri, and then David Lanigan, Luca Cumani and Michael Bell working some on the watered gallop next to the racecourse.  The icing on the cake was that we had a good look at everyone's favourite horse, Big Orange (pictured walking around post-work in this paragraph and the next) and the further icing on the cake was his mighty Gold Cup triumph this afternoon.  A further bonus would be if The Tin Man (pictured in the fifth paragraph, pulling up post-work under Tom Queally) whom we saw gallop on the Limekilns could win the Diamond Jubilee on Saturday.

The big race on Saturday, however, will be the 4.00 at Newmarket, a mile three-year-olds' maiden race.  Or it will be from my point of view.  Kryptos (seen in the next paragraph, hanging out with Parek, ie Sussex Girl) will have his first run from this stable in that race.  That's nice, and doubly so bearing in mind that he nearly died in the first week of February, surviving a twisted gut only thanks to the expertise of Newmarket Equine Hospital surgeon Mark Hillyer and to the dedicated and skillful care which he received during his week in hospital.  It's great that we have him ready to run so soon after that.  He's a lovely horse and I hope that he will run well, even if winning the race (or being placed in it, come to that) might be easier said than done.

The big race tomorrow, by the way, will be the first race at Bath.  Kilim (seen in the next paragraph, in the field one evening last week with her friend So Much Water) runs.  I'm really looking forward to that.  I gave her the second half of the winter off as AW racing is no good for her: she can pull very hard so needs to be buried away, and the generally false tempo of AW races usually means that horses who need to be ridden like that can't win.  So I put her aside to wait for the turf in the summer; and then when the weather turned so good, I thought that Bath might be a good place to resume as the ground gets hard there in good weather, and consequently the fields get weak.  You never like running a horse on hard ground, but if any horse can cope with it, she should be able to: she's only tiny, both short and slight, and has small feet, and is sound, and is by Dansili whose stock generally go well on firm tracks.  So we'll see what happens.  It'll be good to have her back racing, anyway.

So that's that.  Monday's trip to Windsor was a debacle, but no lives were lost so we won't get too down about it.  I got things wrong, but that's part of being alive.  And, all told, it's been a good week so far: idyllic weather, and wonderful racing to enjoy on the TV from Ascot.  Big Orange's win was a highlight, as was the win of a horse from a small Newmarket stable (the Richard Spencer-trained Rajasingh) in the Coventry Stakes; and as was, funnily enough, the win in the Sandringham Handicap of Con Te Partiro.  It was a joy to see Jamie Spencer ride her so well, and I was very pleased that Wesley Ward has done well.

It is not that I wanted the beaten trainers not to win (in fact, in the King's Stand we had Clive Cox and Sir Mark providing the place-getters behind Lady Aurelia - who is pictured here at the National Stud one afternoon last week - and I would have been very happy indeed if either man had trained the winner) but I wanted Wesley to do well.  As regards the disappointing whingeing (from people who ought to have known better) about the supposed unfairness of Wesley being allowed to work his horses at Ascot and the disappointing prominence which the Racing Post gave to the unsporting utterances of a tiny amount of people, it's probably a case of the least said the better, but I'll just quote a tweet from Jamie Osborne which sums up my feelings exactly.

"Disappointing that 'us Brits' are sounding so chippy towards Wesley Ward.  The aggravated voices are not representative of us all!".  The fact that I was merely one of 41 people to retweet that and merely one of 249 people to 'like' it tells the tale.  So I'm glad that Wesley is having a good Ascot.  'We Brits' owed him that.  (And what we particularly didn't owe him was for one of our number to ride a bicycle into one of his horses.  How the hell did that happen, particularly as I can't see that his horses would have been anywhere other than the National Stud and the Heath, plus the July Course car-park in between them?  As the shortest verse in the Bible says, 'Jesus wept'.)

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