Thursday, October 05, 2017

Seven out of 14 wasn't bad

Eight days since the last chapter, which again is too poor.  I've left home three times during that period.  On Saturday evening I went to the ATR studio for an enjoyable evening in the company of Kieran O'Sullivan, covering the racing from Chelmsford plus some good sport from the USA, most notably three Grade One races from Belmont Park.  Then the next two trips were both to the races: Sedgefield on Tuesday with Delatite and Salisbury on Wednesday (ie yesterday) with Roy.  Roy ran adequately on unfamiliarly soft ground to finish halfway down the field, which was OK; while the trip to  Sedgefield was simply terrific as Delatite won.

Gee, this win had been a long time in the expectation.  Just over 15 years, I suppose.  I bought his dam, a filly by Desert Story from the Ela-Mana-Mou mare Elba, as a yearling at Fairyhouse in September 2002 for 7,000 euros.  She descends from the great champion NZ filly and racemare La Mer, by Copenhagen, who was brought from her homeland to Ireland by the late Captain Tim Rogers of Airlie Stud, supposedly I believe to return to New Zealand eventually, except that she never did go home.  You still get good horses coming from her tribe, a recent example being Nahrain.

I was told that there was a tradition of giving Napoleonic names (eg Elba) to La Mer's descendants.  I don't know why, as Copenhagen was the Duke of Wellington's horse, not Napoleon's.  (Napoleon rode Marengo).  Anyway, as the filly was by Desert Story, the obvious Napoleonic option (to me, anyway) was Desiree, ie the romantic novel written by Annemarie Selinko about Desiree Clary, who apparently was Napoleon's first love and who ended up marrying one of his generals and becoming Queen of Sweden.  You might have noticed that Kirsten Rausing is also familiar with the tale as she too has used this story as inspiration for horses' names.

Desiree spent part of her racing career (such as it was) running in my colours, and part running in the colours of Dave and Lorraine Thompson who took an involvement.  She didn't cut much ice.  She did finish second at 50/1 in a regional race over a mile and a half at Beverley; and was actually unlucky that day, getting a dream run round but then being boxed in until it was just too late to catch another 50/1 shot.  She was only lightly raced as she was very hard to get/keep right.  She even had one run over hurdles, ridden by Vince Slattery at Leicester, but was hopelessly tailed off.  But she was a real dear, and she was the horse who was able to persuade Emma to have a few rides on the Heath.  Anyway, out of sentiment, Emma took her over as a breeding prospect when her racing 'career' had finally ground to a halt.

For years Desiree's breeding career seemed likely to be no more productive than her racing career had been.  She bred a few foals, none of whom had any aptitude for racing whatsoever.  One of them (Oscar Bernadotte - he's in the book too, Desiree's son) managed one run, but he was hopelessly tailed off (ridden by William Kennedy in a bumper at Southwell) and wasn't able to manage a second appearance, even though we kept trying for another couple of years to get him both fit enough and sound enough simultaneously to run again.  And then came Delatite, who is a massive tribute to his young sire Schiaparelli because, from this seemingly hopeless broodmare, he has managed to produce a good horse.

Delatite really is a lovely horse.  He ran three times last season.  Ran a nice race first time at Huntingdon on Boxing Day, finishing midfield and thus just managing to make his debut before turning five.  He ran a good second at Towcester on his second outing, but was disappointing next time at the same course when only fourth of six, ruining whatever chance he had by pulling much too hard.  My idea was to put him away, let him (we hoped) develop a bit more while he had it easy during the late spring and early summer, and then be ready to have his fourth and final (horses are only allowed to run in four bumpers, Championship bumpers excluded) bumper run early in the autumn when the National Hunt races are generally not too competitive.

If we say that I'd been waiting since September 2002 for a victory to ensue from my purchase of the yearling who went on to be named Desiree, then the last couple of months have been nothing.  But they have been something: they have been further frustration, further delays.  Delatite was ready to run in August, but then he pulled a shoe off and trod on one of the nails.  Further delay.  Then he was finally ready to run again early in September, but developed ringworm at the eleventh hour (being withdrawn on a self-certificate on the morning of the race when the ringworm appeared, which was very frustrating and annoying - I just thought I'd mention that because if you've read the Racing Post this week you might have gained the impression that trainers enjoy not running horses whom they have declared.  Believe me, on the rare occasions when you declare a horse and then something comes up to prevent him from running, you're so bloody frustrated and disappointed that you could scream).

I then picked out another race for him, but when that came along I wasn't yet satisfied that the ringworm was inactive.  Anyway, this was driving me mad.  The idea had been that we'd run late summer or early autumn, before the racing began to get competitive again.  And we were now getting well into the autumn, into the proper National Hunt season when plenty of nice horses start running again.  Anyway, I saw a race at Sedgefield on 3rd October and that appealed to me.  I always think that inexperience is a disadvantage at Sedgefield - which means that experience must be an advantage.  And Delatite was as experienced as any bumper runner can be.  Furthermore, you generally get truly run races at Sedgefield, which is what you want with a hard-pulling horse.

Anyway, we got to Sedgefield.  Even the previous evening I wasn't convinced that I'd be totally happy with the horse in the morning, and feared that I might have to end up making him a non-runner again.  Which would have been more than frustrating, as the horse's work really had begun to be very good, to the extent that I had rashly described it to Emma in the middle of last week as "outstanding".  (And I am generally very conservative about being positive in advance of races).  As it was, though, I was happy with him when I went to see him at 5.30 on Tuesday morning.  So off we went - and the trip turned out to be more than excellent.

Jack Quinlan has been giving us a lot of help and was consequently first choice to ride, but he was obliged to ride another horse in the race.  William Kennedy, a terrific jockey who was our automatic first choice for years until he became Donald McCain's jockey and thus became a lot less available than he had been previously, and who has been a great friend to all of us, was able to step into the breach, which was wonderful, not least because it turned out that Delatite needed a lot of help from the saddle, and jockeys don't come any better than William.

Even though Delatite won easily, he did a lot wrong in the race.  I'd convinced myself that we wouldn't have a repeat of his last run at Towcester, because he's the easiest horse to ride in the yard at home.  I could gallop him with one hand behind my back.  But once the race got underway, he was again very headstrong.  William was brilliant on him.  After the race it became clear just how well he had ridden because the bit had gone through the horse's mouth.  The horse won easily, but plenty of jockeys wouldn't have won on him simply because they wouldn't have been able to control him.  Ah well - next time (which might be on the Flat, in a 12-furlong maiden race at Pontefract towards the end of this month) I'll put a ring-bit on him, and fingers crossed things will be more straitghtforward.

So that was that.  Any winner is special, but this winner, the first winner ever bred by Emma, was very special indeed.  The Racing Post the next day informed us that it was our seventh winner from our past 14 runners, which perfectly sums up the purple patch we have been lucky enough to have been enjoying over the past few weeks.  We're now down to seven winners from our past 15 runners because Roy was unplaced at Salisbury yesterday, but even that was a respectable run: heavy ground on his first start beyond a mile and a half, bearing in mind that his best form is on very fast ground, wasn't ideal, but he still ran respectably and did his best, finishing no worse than halfway down.

And now the icing on the cake: Nicola's appeal this morning against the 10-day suspension which the Lingfield steward had given her last week was successful.  Common sense had said that it would be a formality because the suspension was unjustifiable, but today's verdict was still a big relief because one can't take anything for granted.  She had been suspended under the rule used to police non-triers for a ride about which I am as sure that she was trying as I am sure that today is Thursday.  The stewards clearly felt that if she had ridden differently she would possibly have finished second rather than fourth - but, fair dinkum, it's just ludicrous to suspend a jockey who you feel could have ridden better, unless you feel that whatever mistakes or wrong decisions were made during the race were made deliberately.  If the stewards were to start doing that, they would be having to hand out suspensions every race.

It would be like suspending footballers for shots which hit the post or cross-bar, or which go wide of the goal or over the top.  Suspending cricketers for bowling wides, dropping catches or missing the stumps.  Or even just for getting out.  That's sport: it's split-second decisions while doing something which is difficult.  Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't.  God only knows what made the stewards at Lingfield think that it was sensible and correct to hand out a 10-day suspension for what could at worst be described as an innocent mistake.  But happily we don't need to worry about it now: common sense has prevailed and the BHA appeals body has done what it can to right their wrong.  And we don't need to worry about who will ride Kilim at Brighton on Tuesday either.

1 comment:

David Winter said...

Well, what a lovely backstory to Delatite’s victory. It just goes to show how character building breeding is, whether for private or commercial purposes. People who are not animal lovers won’t understand, but our dogs and horses become our surrogate children so after worrying and fussing and fretting and we love them by the minute,it’s wonderful when they achieve. For that reason Emma must be floating on a wispy white cloud somwhere enjoying her justly awarded success. Its a tribute to John’s undoubted training talent and Emma’s huge soft spot for a seemingly lost breeding cause that has brought about this little story. They say that what goes around comes around...it certainly has this time. Thanks guy’s, for letting us share your trials and tribulations of racing life and enabling to derive pleasure from your passage.