It’s been a week without a winner, but one full of promise.
Of the runners this week I was pleased with all bar one. First Act threw in a flummoxing effort at Leicester. There is no doubt that she would have preferred better ground, but she was still disappointing. In account of her poor racecourse performances, which do not corroborate with her homework, we gave her a wind operation. I was therefore expecting an improved performance, which it appeared to be for a way, but the result was the same – pulled up. An enigma indeed.
On Wednesday we had three runners at Hereford and one on the Flat at Kempton. Trojan Sun put in a vastly improved effort on ground that would have been too testing for him. He was also only just ready for the race as he holds little condition, so I didn’t overdo him for his first run back from his wind operation. He was more relaxed throughout the race, jumped well and, although he finished down the field, he galloped all the way to the line and in a quality type of race.
I am going to run him in another novice hurdle and then wait for the ground to dry up and ready him for novice handicap chases. A horse of his size and immaturity requires patience – a word all owners love!
Alpha Way alerted us that his mind was places other than Hereford when he misbehaved at the start and made a jumping error – both uncharacteristic. He didn’t run too badly in a higher class race and is earning extra poundage all the time – good for people and not horses.
Nuisance ran a great race and traveled so well. She looked inexperienced in the final furlongs and she struggled on the testing ground. Having only just turned four, I was delighted with her run and she should improve on that effort next time out.
On Friday many expected Mirific to make a successful handicap debut. While he ran well in third, it wasn’t what everyone expected. While saddling Mirific I glanced at the opposition and, incidentally, also our travel companion. Nagpur was this lovely, big, strong, chasing sort who I took rather a shine to and also decided was built to carry weight; in this instance 12st4lbs, thus spotting us just over a stone. He is trained by form encyclopedia Venetia Williams, who wouldn’t run a horse with that weight without knowing he had a chance on form.
Nagpur absolutely obliterated the field and is definitely a name to note. If I am going to emerge from a battle defeated it might as well be an educational battering!
Mirific came out of the race creaky and sore but will hopefully improve with more tender loving care. He is very fragile – all part of the challenge I suppose!
The Flaming Matron ran a blinder in the Doncaster bumper on Saturday and looks a dour stayer. She was actually quite an appropriate runner as the seemingly timeless standing dish of St Richard’s school (my prep school) matron Fiona Rhatigan sadly died last week. Fiona and Benedicta “Dicky” Sewell always allowed me to watch the racing on occasions. Television was only to be viewed for educational purposes of course and this was all part of mine! Fiona will be greatly missed. Her formidable manner and wicked sense of humor will be forever in my and countless others memories.
Hurricane blasts past
The weekend action saw the return of Hurricane Fly. The superlatives simply run dry. The only way I can convey what he does is that he reminds me so much of Istabraq. He was the horse that captured my imagination and without him I would probably have never lasted through school. You can imagine how I felt visiting him at Martinstown Stud, and then he came to stay at Seven Barrows for a photo shoot with Binocular. It was like meeting your teenage idol – sad but true.
Hurricane Fly had so many things against him on Sunday that a defeat would have been excusable, but he put in a monstrous performance in horrendous conditions.
Flemenstar turned the Baileys Arkle into a procession and, while it is sad that we wont see him over here (he has an aversion to travelling), it is doubly sad that we won’t see his trainer, Peter Casey. Mr Casey somewhat shocked television presenter Tracey Piggott with his rather candid description of his planned celebration. A real character and one who won’t let the “best horse he has trained” race unnoticed. He certainly does look talented indeed.
Cheltenham Trials Day
Cheltenham Trials Day on Saturday saw Big Buck’s tantalise in-running punters once more. His incalculable talent is married to his mercurial way of running. He is the archetypal anti-hero and this “failed” chaser has earned more of a cult following by his domination of the three-mile hurdling division.
The Giant Bolster and the admirable Midnight Chase were names that also featured on the winners’ list. Midnight Chase is a horse I can see with serious place prospects in the Gold Cup in March; he has a tough attitude, like many by Midnight Legend.
The Giant Bolster raced from the front and gave a breath-taking display. His jumping has left a lot to be desired on occasion and, although it was under a light burden, it was impressive.
The Triumph Hurdle market has more changes than the BHA’s rulebook and Saturday’s controversial trial race didn’t help matters. In this sphere, the horse that I cannot wait to reappear is Minsk, trained by Dessie Hughes – watch this space intently!
On Tuesday I attended Jo Winter’s funeral, which was like a who’s who of racing. Jo was Fred Winter’s eldest daughter and very close to all at Seven Barrows. She will be sadly missed as her work ethic and attention to detail was second to none. Jo provided trainers like Nicky Henderson, Alan King and Sir Henry Cecil with horses in the best of health for the season ahead, making a trainer’s job much easier. This is not forgetting the countless horses that got sent back to her for her to resurrect.