Toby Coles’ diary: rabbit food and Swedes

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  • Last Wednesday started full of expectation as Cotton King was to run in the two-mile 0-65 handicap at Nottingham. Sammy and I had started in what felt like the middle of the night to get the other horses done. Sammy and Cotton King hitched a lift with one of Rae Guest’s horses that was running in the same race, while I stayed in the yard to finish off and give the remainder their lunch. I left for Nottingham with a Swede in the passenger seat. Not that I have gone vegetarian — it was a friend who was riding in the lady amateurs’ race.

    We had gone to the races with a little bit of confidence and Mrs Hamilton, a friend of hers and both my parents had come to watch Cotton King. He looked magnificent, and a picture going down to the start. But he got stuck in the mud, and ran no real race.

    Miss Zetterholm, who was riding for Stuart Williams on a horse that had just arrived from Italy, fared slightly better and, given a clear run — which is almost an impossibility in a ladies’ amateur race — would have been close to the action at the sharp end.

    The journey back would have near enough been unbearable without the company; it had been a massive disappointment of a day. I have never really shown my emotions in public, and don’t intend to start, but it was good to have someone in the car with me on the return journey to keep me from driving off a bridge!

    No time to feel sorry for ourselves

    Thursday was a little dull to be honest; both Sammy and I were slightly down. But there was no time for feeling sorry for oneself. It was Melody Belle’s turn to take to the racecourse on Saturday. We had to get the preparation just right, as in her last start things had not gone to plan. She was to take on the who’s who of trainers, owners and some of the very best fillies of her age, a fearsome task for any horse.

    That evening a couple of friends put together some supper. It was only as I went through the door I remembered they are vegetarian! Despite feeling like an overgrown rabbit, it was rather good. However I drew the line when they said they were going to do a vegan week this week. What on earth happened to a good hearty meal? I might even have to cook for myself…

    A better run from Melody Belle

    Saturday started rather well. Lion Tamer, a three-year-old with a good friend of mine in New Zealand, won Australia’s Victoria Derby by an ever-increasing six lengths. It is just Bjorn Baker’s second full year training in partnership with his father. I have rather a lot to compete with, but just give me the horse, and we will show those colonials!

    Melody Belle (pictured above) was ridden as if it a normal day before her run as she is slightly highly strung. Any change in her day may have made her a little anxious. An hour before her race at Newmarket Sammy and I walked her over to the racecourse. She was far more relaxed than she had been before her first start and when Sophie Doyle was legged up the filly seemed to be far happier than she had been at Salisbury. As she went down to the start, I had just two wishes; firstly she had a good experience, and secondly, that she didn’t disgrace us. She did both!

    We beat The Queen’s horse, Hopscotch, but there were a further 10 in front of us who were closer to being hung for treason than us. Our filly came home without a blemish and seemed to enjoy the outing. I met Mrs Hamilton with her daughter, my parents and a friend of hers for some tea to discuss the outcome. We all came away feeling pleased that she had run a good race.

    Sunday passed without a hiccup. Sammy was off for the weekend, and I spent it with my horses. Monday was like playing musical horses. I took Cotton King to a pre-training yard I use in Leicestershire for a freshen-up. Then lunch with my parents, then to see a National Hunt horse I am going to train in a month or so, followed by a drive north to Limestone Stud to pick up the Royal Applause filly we bought at Doncaster seven weeks ago. She has also gone to the pre-trainer, and will join us in Newmarket in about five weeks.

    On my return to Newmarket I met with a dinner invitation for some venison and apple crumble, something I could not turn down. None of this vegan nonsense!

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