Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Out of the snow into the twilight zone

The big freeze has been and gone.  As it always would do: the advantage of the weather closing in at the start of March is that one knows at the outset that it won't last for long (whereas when it closes in at the start of December one tends to fear the worst!).  I erred on the side of caution.  We had a normal morning's work on the first day of snow (Wednesday) which I think was more than most others did because by the time our last horse went out at noon, the Heath was otherwise deserted.  Well, what little one could see was deserted, anyway, as we were in a blizzard at the time, with consequent poor visibility.

I got it into my head that, with this snow falling on top of solid ice and then the temperature set to dip to six below overnight, Thursday morning wouldn't be great.  I was worrying about it and didn't sleep well that night; and when Jana came in on Thursay morning I could see that she was thinking along the same lines as I was.  It was thus an easy decision to leave everything in their boxes that day.  Roy was the only horse about whom there was any urgency (as he was set to run the following Wednesday, ie tomorrow) but otherwise everything else was not close enough to a race for missing a handful of day's work to be a concern.

Anyway, everything stayed in on Thursday, and I put the hold-up to good use by ensuring that any horse who was going to be due a vaccination in the forthcoming months had it, and also by getting some chiropractor work done.  (Both of these are things that horses want to have an easy day or two afterwards).  We led Roy to the lunge-ring on Friday and he had a good exercise skittering around in there; and then again on Saturday, when Das Kapital and Parek (Sussex Girl) did so too.  Those other too would have gone on Friday as well, but both had had a vaccination on Thursday so they were better off taking it easy for another day.

On Sunday Jana and I rode Roy and Das Kapital for a canter up the All-Weather on Long Hill, and I took Parek to the lunge ring.  Our ride made me particularly glad that we hadn't ridden on Thursday, Friday and Saturday because, even though the thaw had started at lunchtime on Saturday (after another couple of inches of snow overnight Friday into Saturday) and it had thus been thawing for around 20 hours, the walking grounds were still treacherously icy.  Getting to the Heath was easy and cantering was easy (as, in fact, I think it had been throughout, thanks to the good work of the Jockey Club's Heathmen) and walking home was largely easy as we walked on the (thawing) grass; but when we had to cross the walking ground at the bottom of the hill it wasn't much fun at all as our horses were both sliding around.

The disadvantage of the missed work was slight; but the disadvantage of a horse or a rider injured in a fall on the ice, which could easily have happened, would have been colossal.  Under the circumstances (ie most of the horses not due to run for a month or more - and in most cases considerably more; and with the freeze-up even at the outset clearly only going to last for a matter of days) I found it an easy decision not to try to play the hero.  Plenty of trainers did keep going, and that decision was not wrong because the all-weather facilities we have in Newmarket are excellent.  But I am happy with the option which I chose.

By Monday morning most of the snow and nearly all of the frost had gone.  In fact, it ended up almost like a spring day.  And we were 100% back to normal.  Now we'll see whether Roy runs better or worse for having had an interrupted preparation, because he's going to Kempton tomorrow.  (It's another trip into the twilight zone: it's a 'twilight' rather than an 'evening' meeting, and our race is 9.10, which makes me wonder what time we'd be running were it an evening meeting.  Midnight?).  I'd planned to give him three shots of fast work up the Al Bahathri in the preceding couple of weeks.  The first one (two Saturdays ago) was a debacle as we found two horses from another stable walking up the Al Bahathri as we approached the six-furlong pole, which was not only one of the most scary things that has ever happened to me, but also meant that the gallop was completely cocked up (which, compared to avoiding a probably-fatal accident by only inches, split seconds and luck, didn't really matter).

The second gallop didn't happen as, even if we had decided to go to the Al Bahathri during the freeze-up, we wouldn't have wanted to do anything too fast on it.  And the third only happened today, which was rather eleventh hour.  As one would have expected, Roy blew harder after today's gallop than one would have liked, but all that means is that he needed the work today.  It doesn't necessarily mean that, having done that work today, he'll still be underdone tomorrow.  Roy's such a quirky horse that he might go and run better for having done very little.  (I don't do much with him even when I do manage to do as much as I had planned).  We'll see.  There are never really any rights or wrongs even with a 'normal' horse (if there is such a thing) and Roy definitely isn't one of those.

One thing you might find odd: Nicola will be riding against us.  That was my decision.  Michael Madgwick has been a good supporter of hers this winter.  She has been riding a horse for him called Hi There Silver.  He was second under a different rider when Roy was fourth earlier this winter, and I felt bad that day that I'd advised her to ride Roy.  She's ridden Hi There Silver a couple of times since, and he ran particularly well last time, running like a horse who might win in the near future.  Before the entries for this race closed, I said to her that my guess was that Hi There Silver would be entered in the race too; and that, if that were the case, I thought she ought to ride him rather than Roy.

Anyway, Hi There Silver is in the race.  He's 4/1 second favourite, and Spotlight in the Racing Post says that "this may be the day".  Roy is 15/2 fifth favourite, and Spotlight says he "has a shout".  Michael, one of the gentlemen of the turf and one of the trainers I get on best with, has been such a good supporter that it wouldn't be fair to him to have her not ride his horse so that she could ride a lesser chance in the race instead, even if that chance is Roy.  And I wouldn't want to ask her to ride for us if she had the chance of riding a better chance in the race.

And we have a good replacement as we're using another good apprentice: Georgia Cox, who often rides out here on a Sunday if she isn't required that day by her boss William Haggas.  Let's hope that Roy can do the impossible and win not merely away from Brighton in general but on the all-weather in particular.  And if he can't, let's hope that Hi There Silver can do so.  A win for either horse would put a big smile on my face.  Big enough, in fact, to help me do the impossible, ie stay awake during the drive home after this dauntingly late race.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

couple of shots in there that would make a really good ijf christmas card !!