Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The future (revisited)

Not that this is a tipping column, but I seem to have tipped a(nother) winner.  A couple of chapters ago I ventured the opinion that Christian Howarth might be the next Newmarket-based apprentice to ride his first winner - and last night that did indeed come to pass as he won at Wolverhampton on Arabic Welcome, trained by his boss Marco Botti and owned by Lucie Botti.  That was really good.  I would imagine that he will progress from here.  Marco really is so good with apprentices (and horses - he really is a very good trainer indeed, and I feel largely an under-appreciated one).  Predictably, by the way, when I was running through our local apprentices the other day I omitted a handful.  One of these is another of his apprentices, Morgan Cole.  She's had three rides for him already this year, and the year isn't even yet three weeks old.

I also noticed Cameron Noble having a ride the other day, and so I was thinking that I'd overlooked him (which would have been unforgivable - although, mind you, pretty much everyone else does, which is ludicrous as he has ridden an Ayr Gold Cup winner.)  But I see that he's finished his apprenticeship now (through age, presumably) with a total of 70 wins to his name.  Or I suppose that that should be 69.5, as his Ayr Gold Cup win was a dead-heat.    I think that he was apprenticed to Michael Bell at that time, but he started and finished his apprenticeship with Roger Varian, and also spent some time in Australia early last year, where I think he rode some winners.  I'm glad that he's continuing to race-ride beyond his apprenticeship as he's a good jockey, and a very hard-working and diligent one too.

Another one whom I overlooked was Gabriele Malune, but that was understandable as I hadn't seen him for months.  But then I saw him (driving a car) one day early last week and a couple of days later he reappeared back in Amy Murphy's string, which was great to see.  He had a horrible fall at Yarmouth in the summer and was off, injured, for months, so I'm very glad that he's back in the saddle and, presumably, nearly ready to resume race-riding.  Also overlooked was Gaia Boni, who has ridden a handful of winners for William Jarvis, but again I haven't seen her for a while (and we pass William's string every day) and I don't know where she is.

Someone whom I do see every day, and have been seeing every day for a few years now, is Alice Bond, and I very much hope that she can add her name to the list of local winning apprentices sooner rather than later.  If and when she does ride her first winner, it will be richly deserved.  I think that she has spent her whole working life to date in this street, initially with Charlie McBride in Exeter House and latterly with James Ferguson in Saville House.  She had one ride for Charlie in 2018, three for him in 2019 and, after transferring to James, three last year (two for James and one for Simon Pearce).  (I cheated: I looked these statistics up).  She is a much, much better rider than this limited experience might suggest.  You'd happily put her on any horse to do anything, and she would be a gift in those apprentices races restricted to ones in the early stages of their career.

My worst and least forgivable omission, though, was from my list of successful new trainers.  Patrick Owens, of course, got off the mark last year in his first season with a license.  He trains (I think) in part of St Gatien.  It was particularly creditable that he did get off the mark last year as he only trains a tiny string of unremarkable horses.  And when I say 'tiny', I mean it: he only had seven runners all year.  (And I do mean runners: I don't mean that he ran seven horses).  (Again I've looked up the statistics).  He's a master-horseman who has a very good reputation as a breaker and, if skill and hard work count for anything, he will soon be much more widely recognised than currently he is.

Looking inwards rather than outwards, we had our second runner of the year last week when Turn Of Phrase finished second at Kempton.  (She's pictured post-race in this paragraph, and in the previous and next two photographs you can see her ears this morning.)  She ran a nice race, trying hard and running boldly all the way to the line.  She ran off a mark of 55 and was clearly going to go up a pound or two (I found out today that she has gone up 1lb to 56) so I thought that, if there were a suitable 0-55 before whatever her new rating would be would be applied (ie before this coming Saturday) we might want to run in it, simply because it might be her last chance to run in 0-55 company.  (56- and 57-rated horses, of course, can run in 0-55s, but they are the first ones eliminated, so in practice they only get in if the race is divided, which only happens in a minority of cases).

Anyway, the gist of this is that there is a 0-55 mile at Lingfield on Friday so I entered her for that. (It closed on Saturday).  But I won't run her in it.  It would only be nine days between races and, while there are plenty of times when nine days is more than enough time between races, she's still relatively unseasoned and not (yet) as robust as I'd like, so I don't think that it would be wise to run her.  Her race was last Wednesday, six days ago, and I'm only going to give her her first canter since then either this Thursday or Friday.  So running on Friday wouldn't be ideal.  I'll probably run her insteads in a 0-60 8.5-furlong race at Wolverhampton four days later.

One might ask what difference four days would make (ie having 13 days between the two races rather than nine) but I feel that in this case it would make a big difference.  And, all things being equal (which they aren't, not least because she'll be running off 56 in a 0-60 rather than off 55 in a 0-60, and that's clearly less desirable) I'd much rather run her 8.5 furlongs at Wolverhampton than 8 furlongs at Lingfield.  See, it isn't just questions of whether to run your 2,000 Guineas favourite in the Craven or the Greenham, or your Honeysuckle / Epatante in the Champion Hurdle or the Mares' Hurdle, that need to be agonised over!

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