After a torrid couple of weeks, in my last Horse & Hound instalment we were coming off a high from Cotton King’s win at Wolverhampton in anticipation of a hammering by the handicapper for winning with an ever-increasing margin.
One of my parents’ oldest friends, whom I have many fond memories of staying at her house during exeats from my prep school in the heart of the Cottesmore country, rang me asking if I would train her four-year-old National Hunt filly, something I jumped at for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, we were down on numbers due to the sacking of some inmates who were not even capable of winning a raffle with all the tickets! Secondly, there is nothing nicer than training for a friend who has known me since I was in a basket saddle.
I was to collect her filly two days later from Louise Allen, whose base is just outside Cheveley. Something that once again people might find a little strange — I took my tack and rode the filly home. I found she is forward-going, honest and brave, so with all these characteristics one can have a little hope.
A bitter blow for my Aussie friend
A bolt from the blue came from down under. Paul Messara, a friend who trains in Scone, New South Wales, was giving an exhibition gallop with his stable superstar Battlefield, a striking chestnut with a flax mane and tail. During the gallop Battlefield sustained a fatal injury and had to be put down. A bitter blow for the team. My heart goes out to them as I know he was much loved.
On Tuesday just past, I was lucky enough to gallop one of my string with one of my mentor Sir Mark Prescott’s horses. The horses will remain unnamed, how they galloped remain untold and my life remain intact!
Tuesday also saw Cotton King’s handicap mark published. He had been raised 9lbs for his six-length victory the previous Monday which seemed at the time a little harsh.
My Rich girl runs well
Rich And Reckless was the next to run. Once again I was to go back to Wolverhampton and appreciate the hospitality of the north Birmingham inhabitants. Her date with five other toy boys was at the civilised hour, if one was having supper, of 8pm. Even with such a small field she encountered a little bit of bad luck and was posted wide throughout the race. Carrying a stone and 2lbs more than anything else in the race, she finished a close third. A great run, even if, the trainer was a little angry.
Return of the King
Cotton King was to run at Wolverhampton the very next day. Surely now the little two-horse box could drive itself as it knows the road so well. The time of Cotton King’s race was more like “high tea” rather than supper, being at 6pm. Earlier in the afternoon I had watched a friend’s first runner under Rules come a close third at Fakenham.
Both my mother and Mrs Hamilton, with her husband, had made the trip to Wolverhampton to watch Cotton King in the 1mile six-furlong handicap. The pace was a reasonably strong one. Cotton King sat mid-division for the first three-quarters of the race, whereupon he made a slow move towards the outside and travelled easily in third three furlongs from home. Jockey Ian Mongan eased him out and asked for an effort, whereupon Cotton King skipped clear and put the race to bed with two furlongs still to go. One can only imagine the handicapper’s face after he had raised Cotton King 9lbs for a six-length victory; what was he going to conjure up for this 10-length win? The picture above is of Cotton King after his win, taken by John Berry.
After a late night two days running, Saturday morning was an anticipated gallop morning for some of the yard who had not run earlier in the week. My new inmate surprised me in both showing a little bit of speed and a great amount of resilience.
Saturday also saw a favourite of mine go for a well-deserved break. Graf and Grafin von Stauffenberg’s Lycidas travelled down to Kirtlington Stud where he will spend some time in the paddock maturing before returning to be prepped for an autumn start.
Sunday saw yet more tarmac. I was back on the road, this time taking Melody Belle to Mathew Mackley’s to be pre-trained. I also took a quick trip home, where I was met with a birthday luncheon any king would have been happy with. However, most people’s birthday luncheons do not come with a condition — that I was to have my hair cut! Ian, the local barber, had been press-ganged into scalping me.
Littlemisssunshine jumped onto the shuttlebus for her date with Derby-winning stallion Sir Percy, organised for sometime in the next couple of weeks.