Last Wednesday was a day of consolidation within the yard, as I had been away for a couple of days trying to find another inmate for the equine health spa which goes by the name of Coles Racing. Sadly we had come home empty-handed, but there are always horses for sale so we will get one — the right one — in time.
On Wednesday evening after afternoon stables I jumped into the iron horse which took me through some bleak blizzards on my way shooting in North Yorkshire. Sammy was left at the helm with the fear that I might not be able to return through the snow! On my arrival after a somewhat tiresome journey, I was pleasantly surprised, as sitting next to the fire was one of my godfathers, Martin Letts, who is the longstanding master of the College Valley/North Northumberland Foxhounds.
Thursdays’ guns included four amateur huntsmen, a steward, a journalist, myself and a couple of others. It was a great boys’ day out with a huge amount of banter and piss-taking. If it moved and was legal it was bagged! I was looked after like a king by my hostess. It felt like turning back the clock discussing hunting, rather than racing, as it is in hunting that my roots lie.
The Arctic Circle, otherwise known as Yorkshire
After a slurp of tea, I was on the road for a quick dinner with my parents before getting home in time to do late night-stables — when the horses get their last feed, hay and water around 10.30pm. So Sammy could sigh a sigh of relief as I had returned from, what had felt like, roughly 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle! One can only imagine the thoughts of those birds that had migrated from the snow to be followed by realms of the stuff.
I am like all trainers, I am sure, in loathing that fluffy white stuff. One should go to France to ski, not down Warren Hill. We in Newmarket are unbelievably lucky with the Jockey Club Estates as their groundsmen do a fantastic job in keeping the gallops open regardless of the minus-13 degrees temperature which we have seen.
The programme book is looking particularly bleak at the moment as one can barely predict a meeting that is not going to be abandoned.
At least she wants to eat!
On Friday morning I got my first glimpse of Batya in daylight. She is a German-owned filly who had arrived the day before while Sammy was at the helm. She’s a striking bay filly with a large white blaze with four (well not quite with four white socks but) white stockings. This filly by Whipper has a flowing action and a wonderful temperament under the saddle, if not quite so agreeable when shown her food! It is a massive attribute for a filly to want to eat, because when one does not wish to eat it makes it extremely difficult to train them as they fall away to nothing, so I am quite agreeable to a filly who tells one to get out of the stable when she is eating.
In the afternoon after morning stables a little research was done on finding a company to provide some much-needed clothing for the ever-growing staff. First on the list were hat silks — royal blue with an orange pompom, quite entertaining as one can be seen for miles looking like a giant kingfisher perched on top of one’s mount, instead of a branch above a pool of fish.
Saturday saw most of the yard have a gallop and all that were put through their paces were pleasing. Rich And Reckless, a three-year-old Starcraft filly which I have recently leased to a partnership of mainly friends, was very pleasing in only her second piece of work after a long lay-off. It would be amazing if we could get a win from her sometime in January or the beginning of February. Saturday also saw the arrival of a Balmont colt from Tara Stud whom I hope to syndicate in due course.
We can all dream…
It is at this time of the year that one is allowed to dream. The yearlings in the yard could be anything and we could be sitting on a Coventry winner, Queen Mary winner, Guineas winner or even a Derby hope. One has to be an eternal optimist in this game as when the blows come, and they do come, one can see at least a shimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
It was Sammy’s weekend off but thankfully Sunday was an easy day as most of the yard had stretched their legs at speed the day before. I had also given Sammy the Monday off as she had worked like a slave for me the previous week. Hard work is a prerequisite if one works for me, but even I know when the wick is running low!
Keyaza’s owner, Sam Hoskins, a good friend, had come to Newmarket for a Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Next Generation committee meeting. Killing two birds with one stone, he came to see his giant Azamour filly ridden. She is rather nice, albeit mammoth, and if Lady Luck is on Sam’s and my side, she will prove to be as big a star on the racecourse as she is in size.
Tuesday was back into the routine of our daily equine spa. The horses are at three different stages. There are those yearlings which have been and are being broken, older horses in preparation for a winter-spring campaign, and lastly those ticking over soon to be back in the thick of things for an early start to the next turf season.