Graham Fletcher: Rio horses to watch and bandits at 12 o’clock *H&H VIP*

  • As the Olympic countdown begins in earnest, Lord Harris tells me the great news that Hello Sanctos will definitely be available for Scott Brash to ride in Rio.

    He added that it will be his horse’s last championship — and how much he would love for him to win an individual gold medal.

    Meanwhile, Cassionato [Horse hero, 25 February] is the one Michael Whitaker hopes to ride at the Games.

    He’s always been a talented but difficult horse, but Michael says that since the grey came into work this time, he’s really grown up.

    Viking is a good standby for Michael. This horse has matured too and, in my opinion, is a class better than he was last season.

    Warming the cockles

    It’s always interesting to go to shows outside our usual catchment area. And while some centres can look a bit down at heel, I was pleased to find the complete opposite at Solihull.

    Even on a bitterly cold day, the whole place looked good after a revamp. And everyone running the show, from stewards to office staff, were as nice and optimistic a bunch of people as you could wish to meet. Full marks to them.

    Our stable jockey Alfie Bradstock rode an eight-year-old called Hello Disco Boy that Lord Harris has just sent to us. They went very well to be second in the horse’s first 1.40m.

    Hello Disco Boy has been very well produced by Matthew Broome, whose father David came to watch. After the class, Broomey emerged from Solihull’s welcoming café, from which owners can view the arena, looking very warm and comfortable.

    “It’s lovely up there,” he said.

    “Oh, good,” I replied. “You should’ve been in the bloody freezing collecting ring…”

    Backseat driving

    Having put my children on various calibres of horses over the years, there have been times when my heart’s been in my mouth. But all that pales into insignificance compared with when they start driving a car.

    Our son Will had his 17th birthday on 23 February, passed his theory test the following day and now has his L-plates in place.

    To my horror, Tina thought it would be a good idea for him to get some experience by driving us to a show. I did question the wisdom of potentially wiping out three members of our family in one go, but she clearly had more faith in his ability.

    For the first time in my life, I not only rushed to claim the back seat, but also buckled up in the back seat. And away we went…

    Riding shotgun, Tina’s instructions of “we’re coming to a corner, so take a check here” and “kick on after the junction” appeared to do the trick, albeit not in the terminology normally used by the British School of Motoring.

    I acted as lookout for cyclists, warning of “bandits at 12 o’clock” at regular intervals. When we overtook a man with a walking stick, I don’t think he realised how perilously close he was to needing two walking sticks!

    By the time we neared our destination, Will was doing a pretty good job. And as I relaxed, my mind slipped back decades to when I was his age and it was my father who was grasping hold of the passenger seat as I drove far too fast and erratically.

    “What’s up with you Dad?” I’d say. “I’m a very good driver.”

    “Yes, Graham, you are a good driver,” he’d reply. “But I’m just a bit worried we might meet somebody who drives like you coming the other way.”

    Those words of a wise man who never lost his temper are why I’m still alive today.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 10 March 2016