Tom Symonds’ diary: looking forward – and back

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Anyone who has seasonal affective disorder will currently be at their happiest with the sunshine finally returning from its sabbatical. The good weather is a prelude to the hugely exciting couple of weeks ahead, with the Olympics and Goodwood just around the corner.

Bradley Wiggins set the bar high with an unbelievable effort in the Tour de France. Whilst Bradley was effortlessly scaling the peaks and valleys of France, my elder brother Philip and his two friends, Max Paddick and Will Poole, cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats in six days. The weather was far from clement, but they achieved their aim with an average of 164 miles per day.

This mammoth effort was in aid of the Lt Dougie Dalzell MC Memorial Trust (DDMT) which has been set up in memory of their great friend Dougie Dalzell, a lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards.

Dougie was killed in action in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device (IED) on his birthday in February 2010 and was subsequently awarded the Military Cross, an award granted in recognition of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land. He was a great guy and is terribly missed by friends and family alike.

In memory of Dougie, the DDMT seeks to assist persons who are currently serving or have served in the Armed Forces and their dependents, and thereby improve the quality of life of soldiers who have given so much for their country. It should really read “selflessly give” as these are people who merely regard life and death as “their job”. Sadly for those who find themselves helplessly left behind minus a friend or family member; doing something courageous such as this six-day slog can only enhance the memory of someone and countless others who modestly fight for their country. Well done guys, I am sure Dougie would be proud.

A bit of a social whirl

During the past week I attended the Racing Welfare quiz at The Lamb Inn in Shipton-under-Wychwood. It was a very well-subscribed event and for a great cause. The winning team was headed by none other than former duel Grand National-winning jockey Carl Llewellyn and although “phone a friend” didn’t exist, no one said anything about phone usage of other means. Not that I am suggesting any skulduggery, but one wonders…

I also had the pleasure of attending the annual Wessex Area Point-to-Point Awards dinner and dance in Dorset. Although a parochial affair, it credits all who successfully devote time to the local and broader point-to-point sphere. Luke Harvey was compere for the evening and at his jocular best. I sensed a certain amount of camaraderie within the local attendance where everyone, friends and family, cheered on each other’s success and achievement. A great community who made all in attendance feel very welcome.

While some excelled through the winter game, there were plenty who excelled later on on the dance floor; a dangerous place if ever there was one.

Old friends and new horses

The previous week I did briefly find myself at the Newmarket July Sale. Although I was unsuccessful in my bid to obtain anything, I did catch up with some old acquaintances.

James and Jacko Fanshawe had a busy week but were in great form. As ever the yard looked impeccable – at home my father is still striving to make horses and horticulture co-exist in such effortless harmony “just like at Pegasus Stables”.

Janet Anderson and Tom Fanshawe gave us a tour which, of course, started with Tom’s pony Beside The Sea, who has the honour of sharing accommodation with Cesare.

Around the corner is retired Group One-winning stayer Invermark. I was reminded that, as it was when I was there, he is still a handful and creating havoc, even in his latter years.

I have been fortunate to obtain a four-year-old gelding from his family. Their breeder, Dr Catherine Wills, kindly phoned me about this horse – Foxcub – who missed out on a Flat career and thus turned into a Flat-bred National Hunt store. He is a strong sort and also very sharp. He is progressing well and that is all I will say as his owners – Celia and Michael Baker – remind me not to speak too soon…

Racing round-up

July Week was notable for the unseasonably soft ground and there was no performance more likable than that of Mayson in the July Cup. He simply jumped and went. What was more remarkable was that it was Paul Hanagan’s first domestic Group One. He is not your average dual champion jockey in that the big-money group races haven’t been evident on his CV, but it doesn’t detract from his ability and energy to ride plenty of winners.

Giofra handled the testing ground better than all her rivals in the Falmouth Stakes and looks like another talented filly from the Alain Du Royer-Dupre stable. The Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe is her target and this could turn out to be a truly great renewal.

If last Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is anything to go by, then the fairer sex may hold sway. Danedream is a truly remarkable filly and the word bargain doesn’t even start to describe her, having been purchased for a mere €9,000.

The last word must go firstly to Sheikh Fahad al Thani, whose family company QIPCO continues to support British racing in courageous style, and secondly to Magnificient Style, who is stamping her mark on the summer middle-distance races much like her former owner Robert Sangster shaped the breeding world (most notably with Eclipse winner Sadler’s Wells).

While recent Coral Eclipse winner Nathaniel wasn’t quite successful at the weekend, his sister Great Heavens made no mistake that her season is just beginning in Sunday’s Irish Oaks. The John Gosden and William Buick summer success story continues and if it is written in the stars that Gosden could be champion trainer for the first time, Galileo could appropriately be a big factor in the outcome.

Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk