Thursday, November 09, 2017

Running to stand still

Much too long a gap between chapters, I'm afraid.  I'm afraid that I just didn't have the muse sitting on my shoulder.  Or, rather, I had one subject hanging over me and I couldn't write a chapter without mentioning it - but it was just too depressing, and I couldn't bring myself to write about it.  But now I can.  So, where to start?  I'll try to keep this brief as I run through it, and we might as well start at the beginning.  The beginning as I see it is actually a bit before the beginning; but in retrospect this is the beginning in my mind (even if at the time I never dreamed - ie had the nightmare - that this might be the beginning of a story in this stable) so this is where I'll start.

There is a very good young horse whom I like, easily the best horse in a small stable which I like.  About six weeks ago at the races I asked how he was, and this is the gist of the shocking reply: "It's awful.  An infection blew up in a hind leg, and we have no idea how it got there.  He hadn't cut his leg or grazed it, or anything like that.  It didn't respond to antibiotics, and just got worse quickly.  He went in to the vet's, and it looked like he would die.  That was about three weeks ago.  It looks now as if he's going to live, but he's not out of the woods yet, and it's very doubtful whether he'll run again".  I felt so sorry for the horse and for his connections, as nightmares don't come much worse than that.

B*@@&r me - the same thing happened to Delatite.  Nineteen days ago I declared him for a race at Pontefract.  A few hours later he was badly lame in a back leg.  There was no visible break in the skin anywhere (and he's the cleanest horse in the stable as he doesn't go out in the field but just wanders around the yard some afternoons, as one can see in the first two paragraphs - and it was still dry at the time, so the horses weren't getting wet or dirty out at exercise) so I assumed, by default really, that this must be coming from the foot.  But actually it wasn't.  It got worse quickly.  He started on penicillin but the infection showed no response to that whatsoever and he continued to deteriorate.  Sixteen days ago I took him into the veterinary hospital for life-saving surgery to flush out to the infection which had taken hold inside his leg and was quickly causing serious damage to the structure of the leg, over and above making the whole horse very ill.  

We're now in the same situation as that other horse.  Delatite is still in the veterinary hospital.  He's perky again and seemingly getting better, but he isn't totally out of the woods.  And it's very doubtful if he will race again, after the damage which his leg has suffered.  Unbelievable.  It would be easier to stomach if there was an explainable cause-and-effect (con)sequence, but there isn't.  And it's heart-breaking for Emma and her co-owners.  You have your mare covered, wait six and a half expensive years while nothing much happens and nothing much seems likely to happen until finally, against all odds, out of nowhere he starts to improve dramatically and he wins a race; he comes out of the race well and you start to face up to the fact that you actually have a potentially good horse on your hands so you plan to run him again - and then, boom, your dreams are blown out of the water and all you have is a big vet's bill, while all the while watching a lovely and loved horse suffering badly and seemingly just dying.  Heart-breaking.  And I'm captain of this ship, and it's happened on my watch.  And that hurts.

So you see what I mean?  I couldn't write a chapter of this blog and pretend that the elephant wasn't in the room.  But I just didn't want to talk about it, didn't want to write about it.  The thing with racing is that the downsides are (a) things going wrong with the horses and (b) disappointments.  This was a massive dose of both simultaneously.  These things do take their toll on you, and at times it's simpler to suffer in silence.  I wouldn't say that I was in denial about it exactly, but that's mainly because I am not the right age to use the phrase and I do not have the right outlook on life to use the phrase.  But at times it's easier not to dwell on things.

Right - that's that out of the way.  I've just been up to the vet's to visit him, he's very perky.  Right now it's hard to see him not surviving this, and that's all that matters.  

"Apart from all that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs Lincoln?"  Well, as always, life goes on.  It has to, and it's just as well that it does because that's what keeps you going.  You have to.  And we've been busy, even if very quiet by the usual standards.  The funny thing was that Mrs Lincoln did actually have a lovely day, apart from the matter of her husband being assassinated: the evening of the Tuesday 16 days ago saw me taking Delatite into the veterinary hospital, but the afternoon had been lovely as Sussex Girl had landed a thrilling win at Yarmouth (see the photographs in the third and fourth paragraphs) under another excellent ride from Nicola, following up their Brighton victory five days previously and bringing the curtain down on the filly's season in perfect style.  And her owner Dan Tunmore was able to be there, which he hadn't been at Brighton, so that was perfect.

She's on holiday now and so are all the other horses whom we have been running over the summer.  We only have two horses in strong work at present, both horses whom we haven't run before: Amenta and Freediver.  The work in the stable isn't quite as easy as that would imply as there are a few horses doing slow work, and there's never not much to do; but certainly we're quieter than normal (as we usually are during the final two months of the year) which is no bad thing.  We rarely have many runners during the winter as I try not to run horses on the AW unless I have to, but there is always the odd horse who hasn't done anything through the summer and who looks as if he/she might be going to come good at some point, so you end up running him/her over the winter.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to both of those horses running in the near future (God willing).  Amenta has been here about six weeks, and was fairly fit when she arrived.  She came from Roger Charlton's stable.  She'd had her two years there and had raced three times, but she hadn't done enough to justify holding her place in a stable of that calibre, especially as she's her own worst enemy as she's not an easy ride.  But I'm going to be bold enough to run her in the near future, probably in a six-furlong maiden race at Lingfield in nine days' time.  I'm looking forward to that.  I ride her every day (and have surprised myself by enjoying doing so) and having a runner is always doubly exciting if it's a horse whom one rides every day, because one grows particularly fond of such horses.

I hope that Freediver (who appears in the final five photographs) will run two days after that, in a maiden race at Wolverhampton.  She's a three-year-old Juddmonte-bred filly, by Bated Breath. She had two unplaced runs as a two-year-old for Michael  Stoute, but hasn't run this year.  She was sent to Tattersalls' February Sale, where Emma bought her for 1,500 guineas.  As was the case with Hope Is High (bought out of the February Sale the previous year for 800 guineas) I didn't even see her until after she had been bought, so again if there's any subsequent credit eventually due, it'll be due to Emma, not to me.  We'll see what happens, but it might be unwise to work on the assumption that she cost nearly twice as much as Hope Is High so should do nearly twice as well.  Of the two fillies, Amenta seems the faster and Freediver seems the stronger stayer, so the former can start off over six furlongs and the latter over eight-and-a-half.

So let's see how things pan out.  We had a lovely run of success over the summer and autumn, but basically we're back to square one now.  Parek (Sussex Girl) became, I believe, our ninth winner from our past 19 runners by scoring at Yarmouth, and Roy would have taken it to nine out of 20 by running (adequately, but unplaced) at Newbury at the end of the week (seen coming back in after the race in the fifth photograph, with Milly Naseb).  But that already seems a long time ago.  It'll be a whole new campaign when we resume having runners if'/when Amenta runs at Lingfield, and the two runners will both be first-up.  That's the thing: whether it's that today's success pretty soon becomes yesteryear's old news or that your horses can nearly die out of nowhere, you don't really get the chance to rest on your laurels in this game.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

hope the horse comes out of everything OK and that you soon have a new star to go to the races with , keep smiling