Sunday, May 09, 2021

Things that really matter

Our trip to Chester on Thursday was pleasant enough (not least because of one of the few lockdown consolations, ie much less traffic than usual) but I didn't enjoy watching Kryptos' race.  I'd feared the worst when we drew 11, and my fears were justified.  The first four were drawn 3-2-1-6.  It's hard to find a right answer from a wide draw there unless they crawl in the early stages (very unlikely) or the race is very solidly run (which wasn't the case here).  You can either go very hard early on and  consequently probably weaken at the end, or start positively and try to slot in / take back from the start (delete as applicable) and then never be involved in the race.  Frustrating, especially in a messy race as this was, and not much fun to watch.  And disappointing when you were thinking that you had a horse ready to run very well.

I must say that I'm at the stage where I could do with a good result as my morale is quite low at the moment.  It's funny how easily swayed is the human mind.  You have something go gloriously right and you think that life is a bowl of cherries; you have a run of setbacks and it's easy to fall into the mindset of thinking that things are never going to go right.  I'm lucky in that I'm fairly mentally resilient and generally quite philosophical but I can see why some people struggle.  The answer is easy enough, really: you just keep on keeping on, keep doing what you believe to be the right thing, and keep working hard.  But the downside to that is that doing that does make you want to feel that you're achieving something.  So a good result at some point in the near future would be very useful.

I'd like to think that we'd have a chance of a welcome good result this week, although it may not work out like that, not least because I suspect that we may end up being able to run only one of the three possible chances.  Eljaytee (on the left as we look at the two horses in this photograph) makes his debut tomorrow at Windsor, but it would be a pleasant surprise to have a debutant win a maiden race as competitive as the one in which he will be running.  We then have, or should have, three handicap runners, all of whom I would hope might have some sort of chance of providing a great boost to the morale.  How many will run, though, remains to be seen.  I will declare three (or, rather, have already declared one and will declare two more) but I fear that that won't yield three runners.

First of these should be Das Kapital at Chepstow on Tuesday.  He's declared.  He needed the race to be divided to get in, but happily it has been divided so he's got in.  That's great.  I earmarked this race, over a course and distance over which he has won and been second, three weeks ago when we were midway through the very dry spell.  I reasoned that in another three weeks the weather would probably have broken and there would be a decent chance of him getting his preferred soft ground.  Two weeks on from that plan being made, the weather did indeed change.  So that's great - except that by now the weather has changed too much and the track is currently water-logged.  There will be an inspection tomorrow (Monday) morning, but more rain is forecast and I'm not hopeful.  It would be annoying if racing is indeed abandoned.

Then we come to Bath on Wednesday.  We entered two horses whom I would not want to run on rock-hard ground, which is what Bath would have been prior to the weather breaking, but Bath too has had plenty of rain, albeit probably less than Chepstow, and the ground shouldn't be far from good.  Possibly on the soft side, possibly on the firm side - but not far from good either way, and that should suit me fine.  Cloudy Rose is sure to get in, but I'm not optimistic about Turn Of Phrase getting in.  It would be disappointing if she doesn't because I'm keen to run her again.  She ran lamentably last time, far worse than I was expecting, but she doesn't overdo herself, and in retrospect I feel I may have been a bit easy on her going into the race.  She's done plenty since then and she's ready to run again, so let's hope that she is allowed to run this week.  I won't hold my breath, though.

To move my gaze away from my navel to things that really matter (and to highlight the absurdity of worrying about whether a horse will or won't run in or win a race) I'd like briefly to pay tribute to two great racing men who have recently passed away.  I was very saddened to read of the death of Brian Forsey last month.  I only remember the tail-end of Brian's race-riding career (he was 68 when he died, 14 years older than I am) and I seem to recall that he was combining training and riding by the time that I began to follow the sport in 1977.  I only got to know him in the last few years and didn't see him often as he didn't train many runners and neither do I, so there would only be one or two meetings each year (either Flat or National Hunt, and on that subject it's worth mentioning that he was one of the first trainers consistently to use Hollie Doyle whenever he could) at which we both had a runner.

But I always enjoyed the occasions when our orbits did intersect.  I would be delighted any time I looked through the runners at a meeting we were going to and saw that Brian was going to have a runner too, as I knew that I would be guaranteed a friendly greeting and some good conversation.  He was a lovely man, kind, gentle, quiet, unflappable and generally smiling.  Not that I'd given the matter any thought, but I'd just assumed that our paths would be crossing occasionally for many years to come, but cancer can come out of nowhere and clearly it came out of nowhere to claim Brian.  I feel his death sorely and I didn't know him particularly well, so can only offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Since then the death has been reported of Frank Morby.  As with Brian, he was in the latter stages of his riding career by the time that I began to follow the sport, but at the time at which I became addicted Peter Walwyn was the leading trainer in the country and had Pat Eddery as his stable jockey and Frank Morby as his second jockey, so that fact about F. Morby was good enough for me.  The only time our paths crossed was one which he will have forgotten about seconds later but which remains fixed in my mind: I got his autograph one afternoon at Ayr in maybe in 1977 or '78, when he was up there to ride a horse for Peter Walwyn, owned by Lord Howard de Walden (which won - and needless to say I can't remember the horse's name).  It was only a few years after that that he moved to Kenya, but his place in both racing history and my memory is secure.  And from all that I've heard of him, he was as nice a man as you could ever hope to meet.  Again, condolences to his loved ones.

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