Toby Coles’ diary: A bitter lesson learnt the hard way

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  • Last Wednesday saw Nineteensixtysix depart for a new life in Gloucestershire. He has been an extremely painful lesson for me, but one that will never be forgotten. We had bought him this spring as a breeze-up horse. Unfortunately, I paid for him rather than the new owner.

    A couple of months later, after naming the horse Nineteensixtysix, the owner decided that he was not for them. Nineteensixtysix had undergone a gelding surgery and numerous other ailments, all of which tightened the belt on one’s practically non-existent bank balance. Nineteensixtysix, therefore, became one of Coles Racing’s assets.

    This stunning-looking gelding by Encosta Da Lago (AUS) did have one use, as I was to give a share of him to one of my best friends as a wedding present, all costs paid! Unfortunately, he did not have the mind to be a racehorse (Alex, do not fear, I’ll find you another one) so at a massive loss to Coles Racing he has gone to a friend in Gloucestershire where he will learn another trade within the horse world.

    On Thursday we had a little respite from Jack Frost’s grip and we were able to gallop all the older horses. It was a relatively encouraging morning with some glimmers of hope for the New Year. It is about time that I told you that Coles Racing is on the move, albeit not very far, to a yard just 300yd from where it is based now.

    Yard move on the way

    My present landlord and landlady, Mr and Mrs Rae Guest, have been the very best landlords that I could have had. It is from the continued support of owners old and new that this move has come about. My numbers have swollen past the capacity that I have at the moment. It was on Thursday that the new yard went under the scrutiny of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) inspector. Thankfully, it has passed and I will become a licensed trainer from Cedar Lodge Stables in the New Year.

    Overnight the temperatures had plummeted and now Newmarket Heath had become one’s very own little winter wonderland. As I gingerly approached the yard, in anticipation of any damage caused by the previous days’ exploits galloping, I somehow managed to end up on my arse, not once, but twice, leaving the car park. All the horses had come through their work without an injury. On Friday the BHA had decided to put on an all-weather bumper card at Kempton Park on Tuesday where Charlie’s Boy would run in the first race.

    On Saturday the weather closed in even more and I decided that Saturday would be Sunday (it is quite fun playing God sometimes). On Saturday evening I was to take the yard to “the dogs” for an evening watching the dish-lickers at their finest. Sadly, even these hardy pedigree pooches had succumbed to the weather and we went out for dinner instead. It was a fun evening amalgamating those associated with Coles Racing and those involved at Cedar Lodge, namely Mrs O’Neill, my future landlady, and her motley crew.

    Messy but effective

    On Sunday morning, I did something I had learnt last year in the depths of winter in America. We mucked out straight on to the yard creating a passable path for horse and rider from the stables to the Heath (see picture above). It may not sound terribly becoming, but it is extremely practical and a great way to prevent an accident.

    I must congratulate and thank all those involved with the Jockey Club Estates in keeping the gallops and Heath fully functional. They do an amazing job in both keeping the grounds open and dealing with ever annoying trainers who consistently break the rules. Many of my schoolmasters would tell you that I am not adverse to getting into a little bit of trouble through my need for complete autocracy!

    On Sunday I had somehow managed to second another of racing’s beauties to work for me. This time it was not to be Francesca Cumani, pitting her fitness against Cotton King, nor Amanda Zetterholm riding a piece of work, but an apprentice in the form of Leonna Mayor. However, my plan of doing some serious work on my street credibility fell fairly flat on its face as there was not another sole on the Heath.

    By Monday one was beginning to feel rather like the abominable snowman while out on the horses. On returning to the yard one had lost the feeling in one’s hands and were fearful of our feet smashing like glass when jumping off our mounts. However, it was rather amusing that when we returned from first lot, both girls riding out with me had frozen hair and eyelashes! The horses’ manes were white and their whiskers were frozen solid for it had been at least -11 overnight.

    Monday also saw the arrival of two new inmates for Coles Racing. Both had ventured down from the north so when encountering the tropical temperatures of the Midlands they must have thought that they had gone on holiday to Barbados. A fine idea in anybody’s mind as a result of the weather that we are encountering now. My perpetual loathing of the snow is unsurprisingly increasing day by day.

    What’s up with Charlie’s Boy?

    Tuesday started at an ungodly hour when I collected the little horse box I hire to take Charlie’s Boy south to Kempton where he was to run in the first race, a National Hunt bumper over two miles. Previously he had run at Uttoxeter and had stopped as if shot three furlongs from home. Unfortunately, he did the same again today and we will have to do some serious diagnostic work with the vet to find out what has stopped him.

    In my view, it could only really be one of two things to stop him that quickly. Firstly, bleeding from the lungs. We, however, know that he did not do this as he was given an endoscopic examination after the race, looking down the trachea where no blood was found. The second is the dislodging of his soft palate because of holding his breath when put under stress. If this is the reason it will be a rare case as he makes no noise as in most cases the noise is described as a roar, hence the term roarers.

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