Toby Coles’ diary: ‘twas the season to be jolly — and muck out

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  • Christmas week is the time to be jolly and all that. It was, therefore, spent clipping, mucking out, drain-clearing, snow-sweeping etc! No wonder I was called everything from the Grinch or Scrooge to the Christmas elf over this festive period.

    The day before Christmas Eve I felt particularly harsh in taking all the hair from Batya, a German-owned filly, as temperatures were still well below zero. However, it needed doing as riding a woolly teddy bear, albeit one that can gallop, is not really part of the Coles Racing ethos. Mind you she soon warmed up the day after as on Christmas Eve she, along with most of the older horses, galloped as I was to be on my own on Christmas Day.

    Scrooge or the Grinch?

    Both girls were given Christmas Day off so they could return home to their families. I don’t think therefore that either ‘Scrooge’ or ‘the Grinch’ are applicable to me! Christmas Eve was, however, quite a taxing day as, of the older horses galloped as we are hoping to have a late winter campaign with some of the team. It is often in the winter when one can pick up some smaller races with a lesser horse as the competition may not be as great as in the height of summer, so one hopes there is a little sense in the madness of preparing a large proportion of the string to run in late January.

    Christmas morning was superb. I was as happy as a pig in mud being alone with my “ponies”. Being as quiet as it was, it was the perfect day to take two of the-then yearlings over to the other side of town for an excursion into enemy territory without the enemy being present. Each time I was the only horse on the Heath — my very own 4,500-acre playground.

    No turkey, just a bit of race-planning

    After riding these two babies I tucked the rest of the string up and went to visit a fellow fledgling trainer, Ed Walker, who was doing battle with a broom. As I approached he suggested I join him in a Christmas morning sweep!

    Lunchtime was spent with my laptop and the Racing Administration website for my parents were still snowed in and, rather than put the day to waste, it was spent race-planning for the upcoming assault on the all-weather Flat circuit. In the evening I had an invitation to join yet another fledgling trainer, Hugo Palmer, for supper. I hope he is not as good a trainer as he is a cook because if he is I will struggle to get a horse past his. Supper was delicious.

    On Boxing Day my parents were able to get out of the snow and join me for luncheon. Unfortunately, the oven was broken, unknown to me, and the beef wellington was particularly rare, which I love. I think that my vet could have got this cow up and running!

    In the evening one of the fillies had a slight temperature and, as she is due to be one of those who run in late January, we took the sledgehammer approach and gave her every possible legal drug to get on top of a potential problem before it became a problem. Thankfully, the sledgehammer was big enough and the problem small enough that it was obliterated.

    On the move

    The rest of December was spent in preparation for another long weekend and the long-anticipated move to Cedar Lodge Stables (pictured). The long weekend was just that. After an early night on 31 December, where I was annoyingly awoken just past midnight by some rather loud fireworks, 1 January was spent preparing the new yard for our invasion on 3 January.

    All the stables were washed and disinfected and beds laid down. If only someone had had a camera they would have been able to catch me stripped off to the bare essentials stuck half way down a drain trying to unblock it. What a start to the New Year, covered in muck and slurry! Thankfully, Sunday evening brought some respite and I had a lovely supper with some friends who I had not seen for a while.

    On bank holiday Monday we went to war. After an amusing morning riding some very fresh horses, it was time to move the team from Chestnut Tree Stables to Cedar Lodge Stables, a move of just 300 yards. Pushing a barrow full of equipment it might as well have been three miles. Thankfully, the move went without a blip and the horses settled extremely quickly.

    Tuesday 4 January was highlighted by the arrival of Skyblue, a Royal Applause filly whom we had bought at Doncaster last year. She had come from Matthew Mackley’s and looked an absolute picture. I hold her in rather high regard and am excited about the prospect of training a possible two-year-old type. She is forward in her demeanour and could be quite early.

    We had a long morning the following day as those horses being prepared for a winter campaign had, possibly, their last hard gallop before they run. Of the eight we galloped, five went to the other side of town where they galloped up the Al Bahathri. All were pleasing and I am rather looking forward to their dates with destiny!

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