Tom Symonds’ diary: falling in love and Fox Rocks

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It has been a week or so of catching up with the holidaying horses and more sales. The trade at the Tattersalls “Derby” Sale in Ireland was ferocious, mainly because the quality was so strong. My owner described the arduous process of finding the appropriate horse, then “falling in love” and then being outbid as heartbreaking and draining. One has to feel partly attached to the horse on which you could be about to spend a considerable amount of money trying to obtain.

When our luck wasn’t apparent early, Tennyson kept ringing in my head. While we had “loved and lost” and moved on, I reminded myself of my fortune to have someone who will entrust me with “their love”. Thankfully our jury, consisting of owner and groom, plus agent David Redvers and assistant Hannah Wall, did find one that we unanimously agreed would be suitable. Any member of the jury has a right of veto, but all things fitted, as did the price of the final bid.

Thus, with everyone happy and owner head over heels with her true love, or number one of the list we had compiled from a load of horses, we went home before I got tempted to buy any more.

I was once told that the sales are the best free education you can get. I would agree, as there is so much going on coupled with so many people to learn from. It is certainly an emotionally edifying rollercoaster, but one that climaxes in what one can only compare to the largest poker game since Casino Royale itself.

This is not an attempt to surpass Mr Fleming’s thriller, but the sales version is made far more interesting by bidding on a horse where looks, movement and the all-important but intangible attitude is judged by human instinct alone. Furthermore, even if you obtain what you think is your unicorn (fabled creature), there is still the chance to be disappointed. A “bargain buy” will only be so when you have seen your faith vindicated on the racetrack.

Time and, of course, money will tell but they can’t all be swans and one has to realistic. However, at the moment they remain untapped potential with their value being in the potential that you believe them to have. Belief goes a long way – believe me.

Soles, souls and Fox Rocks

The weekend saw me take part in a “Mud Runner” event at Eastnor Castle and, while it was tough, it was made tougher by the fact that my soles decided to leave my shoes after 3K. A further 7K without soles was painful but satisfying to complete with a 4th place. Elements of Zola Budd, I thought.

I got my soul (sic) back for “Fox Rocks”, the Ledbury hunt ball, which was the next port of call. It was an excellent event which, like all heavenly things, had no boundary or end. In fact, it even provided Grecian-style (more heathen than heavenly?) facilities to freshen up before heading home to make 8:30am Mass. This manifested itself in many naked bathers frolicking in a duck pond in the early hours.

Worryingly, hunt balls are meant for people of a certain age, but it doesn’t disqualify juvenile behaviour… now that never gets old.

Sunday saw the hurdles debut of That Was The Pension at Uttoxeter. He is a natural hurdler and very quick through the air. From the moment we schooled him you could see his aptitude for jumping. Although his chassis is not so robust, he came out of his race in good health. He ran well but got tired as he was too gassy, having not run for four years. I saw plenty to suggest that he is worth persevering with and will find him another opportunity in a couple of weeks.

So You Think retired, and a bold move in Ireland

Sadly, the multiple Group One-winning So You Think will not be seen in the field of racing combat again. His time on UK soil will be vividly remembered by his current trainer Aidan O’Brien’s humbling admittance to his mistakes in training him and his former trainer Bart Cummings’ hubristic criticism of those handling him. Antipodean sporting pride is one that runs deep and I hope that So You Think will himself embellish his own pride at stud.

As So You Think’s name is temporarily extinguished, Camelot’s name is still lighting up the racing scene. His Irish Derby triumph will be remembered for his ability to handle extreme conditions as much for it being run at 7:40pm on Saturday night. It is to their credit that Horse Racing Ireland are showing a great desire to please the masses.

The talk of making Frankel more marketable is all very well, but it is really about making the whole package more accessible. Racing For Change is doing its very best to do this, but by moving a race as prestigious as the Irish Derby to a better time for public appreciation shows radical audacity in abundance. Criticised they may have been but they are trying their damndest to broaden racing’s sphere of influence. Come September, if Camelot does triumph in the St Leger at Doncaster then I hope he may have made the headline in papers other than the Racing Post.

This is no criticism of my daily must-read but a want to see a superstar (I’ll let you judge the quality of the current crop of three-year-olds) appreciated by all. Some may even find it more exhilarating than page three of The Sun… But I’ll let Mr Murdoch be the judge/control of that.