Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Pleasant Valley Sunday

Highlight of my weekend?  Easy: the lovely full-page feature which Nick Godfrey wrote in the RP Sunday's 'Story of the horse' slot about Roy, "the popular grey whose love of Brighton has taken him from zero to cult hero".  I had been very moved when Nick had contacted me a few days previously about the project, moved that Roy (pictured here twice on Sunday morning, the second time with his great friend Indira; and then in the third paragraph this morning with his sister So Much Water) should be accorded the honour of being the subject of a feature which is generally reserved for high-class horses.  And I was then overwhelmed when I read the article.  Nick had done such a lovely job of organising the reflections of Larry McCarthy, John Egan and myself, creating a truly lovely article.

It says a lot for how much I enjoyed reading Nick's piece that I rated doing so as my highlight of the weekend, because I had really enjoyed the Coral-Eclipse the previous afternoon.  Ulysses would have been a popular result with me whatever the circumstances.  I have huge respect for Michael Stoute and like him very much, sometimes wondering if the most genial, jovial and invariably friendly man whom one sees on Newmarket Heath is the same man whom the press tend to describe as if he were a cross between a Dickensian recluse and a Trappist monk.  And I hold Jim Crowley, a top-class jockey who is at least as high-calibre a human being as he is talented a jockey, in similarly high esteem and am always pleased to see him win.

Furthermore, I always love to see a mating of a Derby winner (in this case Galileo) over an Oaks winner (in this case Light Shift) producing a champion.  And the people within the stable closest to the horse - Radka Hovadova who looks after him and usually rides him, Sarah Denniff his head lad, and Kevin Bradshaw, former jockey of Minnie's Mystery in Jersey, who I believe gallops him on the rare occasions when Radka doesn't - are all people whom I would love to see enjoying top-level success under any circumstances.  But in this case there was a particular reason for my cheering so passionately in front of the ITV Racing programme on the television on Saturday afternoon.

I'm a big believer in the 'back the first jockey/trainer/horse you see' maxim.  It's remarkable how many Saturdays there are during the summer when the first jockey or apprentice I see in the morning rides a winner in the afternoon.  On this occasion it was a horse.  Lucinda (on Wasted Sunsets) and I (on Freediver, formerly trained by Michael Stoute and formerly resident in Freemason Lodge, coincidentally) were trotting down the Bury Road at around 5.55 on Saturday morning, heading for the Al Bahathri.  As we trotted past Freemason Lodge, I looked over the wall and saw three horses standing out on the lawn in the middle of the yard, picking grass.

This trio was clearly waiting to be loaded on the truck to go to the races.  All three were wearing travelling boots.  Two bay horses and, nearest to me, one chestnut.  Radka was holding the chestnut.  One didn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that they would shortly be on their way to Sandown Park, and that the one closest to us was Ulysses.  Well, he just had to win, didn't he?  The first one to run, El Hayem, won.  Ulysses was the second to run, and he won one of the most exciting Eclipse Stakes ever, as well as the second fastest (second only to Sea The Star's Eclipse in 2010).  A thrilling race, and a lovely result in every respect.

There are, of course, things which just have to happen, and things which would be too good to be true.  So, I suppose, it went without saying that the most obvious winner of them (ie the third one to run, the Queen's Frontispiece who started odds-on) would be beaten.  That would have been the icing on the cake.  But, even without the icing, the cake was still a mighty one which gave me a lot of pleasure.  I'm hoping that our trip to Bath tomorrow night with Hope Is High (pictured in the final two paragraphs, coping well with Blakeney interrupting her dinner on Sunday evening) might give me even more pleasure, but we won't count our chickens.   As ever, we'll hope for the best and expect nothing.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Met Sir Michael on the gallops a few years and he could not have been more friendly.He was working a bunch of two year olds and told us the breeding of each one as they approached. Top man.