Since my last blog I have seen racing drowned literally and metaphorically. Aintree was a fantastic meeting but to say it wasn’t marred by the deaths of Gottany O’s, According To Pete and Synchronised would be an understatement of the largest proportions. This will be the only mention I make of these lost warriors because, although they made a premature exit from this world, to carry on assessing the nature of their demise would be unfair on those still grieving their loss.
Dason Court inmates perform well
Meanwhile at Dason Court, Mirific put in a vastly improved performance from the front. Frustratingly he finished second but we learned plenty from it, which is the most important part. He is ready to go again now but, while he wants very soft ground, horses cannot wear a snorkel and flippers…
Another very pleasing performance, and again from the front, was from Trojan Sun at Southwell. There are many reasons why this was so satisfying.
Elsa had chosen the race because she thought he would enjoy the brush hurdles as he is a future chaser. I had met his owner-breeders Ian and Angela Low while I worked at James Fanshawe’s in Newmarket when their horse – Trojan Sun’s half brother Alfie’s Sun – had won at Huntingdon for Don Cantillon. My girlfriend at the time looked after “Alfie” so I went along to Newmarket’s Chinese restaurant, The Fountain, for the celebrations. It was not long after that I discovered that their son Matthew was engaged to my mother’s best friend’s daughter, Katherine.
It was at their Warwickshire wedding that I was promised my first horse, which became Trojan Sun. A tedious link, perhaps, but a very small world.
However, small is not a word that I would use to describe Trojan Sun, so to win over hurdles was a bonus and at a time when Ian was wondering whether to persevere with him. It has just taken him time to learn to settle and breathe properly. It was an old colleague who did the steering as Jerry McGrath made every yard of the running to win comfortably.
Trojan Sun has since jumped 10 fences and returned home for a summer break.
Jumping from Punchestown and Sandown
The recent action at Punchestown was swimming with stars. “The show must go on” appeared to be the theme of the week, and many plaudits must go to Richie Galway and his team for battling through horrendous weather.
The highlights for me were AP McCoy’s power-packed ride aboard Alderwood; Philip Hobbs’s Lazarus-like performance with Snap Tie and the reappearance of a horse I have longed to see ever since I saw him at the sales in Flash Of Genius.
Hurricane Fly rather breezed in rather than with his usual electric surge, and Quevega duly disposed of her rivals that include the gallant Voler La Vedette.
The percentage of horses that have followed up their Cheltenham Festival successes must be the highest for many a year. Sir Des Champs and Champagne Fever look destined for top honours next season with the latter likely to follow Florida Pearl and Missed That by going straight over fences. Paddy Mullins must have been pinching himself all week – and not so he could feel the warmth from the bitter wind. He is riding with the utmost confidence and was simply brilliant aboard Uncle Junior in the La Touche Cup.
Sizing Europe capped another good season by reversing placings with old rival Big Zeb. The notable performance came from the fourth-placed China Rock, who followed up this two-mile “warm up” with victory in the rescheduled three-mile Guinness Gold Cup on Saturday. Every cloud does have a silver lining for some.
This weekend also brought a turn in Tidal Bay, who annihilated his rivals in the Bet365 Gold Cup under top weight. There was no doubt that there was talent dormant in this horse somewhere, but to dispel his burden in such conditions with such disdain was startling.
Sanctuaire took his more experienced rivals on a tour de force in the two-mile Celebration Chase. A horse of his ability could yet prove a potent threat in the top division.
Once again Daryl Jacob proved a more than able deputy in Ruby Walsh’s absence. He and Richie McLernon had shone as “understudies” at Aintree, providing an enthralling battle to the line in the Grand National on Neptune Collonges and Sunnyhillboy. The former, don’t forget, became the first grey to win the National since Nicolaus Silver in 1961 and revived memories of John Hales’ super grey One Man, who was so tragically lost on the Mildmay course in 1998.
The imperious Black Caviar
For me the weekend was all about the astounding antipodean achievements at Randwick and Morphettville. In wording Black Caviar’s victory in detail, the Racing Post’s use of the word “imperious” says what a thousand words could to describe this rarest of animals.
While Black Caviar created headlines of her own, some others achievements may have gone unnoticed with Gai Waterhouse ruling Randwick. Pierro won the Champagne Stakes, thus completing the two-year-old Triple Crown, and More Joyous won her third Group One within a month. This mare is unbelievable and brilliantly campaigned by the queen of the Australian racing circuit.
In the Northern Hemisphere another spectacular stalwart, Cirrus Des Aigles, won his first Group One on home turf when dancing away with the Prix Ganay at Longchamp. Throw into the cauldron the now-mended Frankel and there is a lot to look forward too.
A new season starts
The majority of the equine and human in mates at Dason Court have gone on their holidays and the time is fast approaching to build up to next season. Plenty of replenishment is needed in terms of both the yard and the bloodstock. This quest to improve everything annually, and particularly the bloodstock, is something that Nicky Henderson and his Seven Barrows team instilled in me – look to the future. Something I always live by is to remember where you have been, where you are and where you are going… A philosophy I hope that helps me better last season’s tally – and I had better get going as it has already started.