Toby Coles’ racing diary: painful bills and a sprinting surprise

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  • Where does one begin? So much happens in a week that it is hard to remember it all.

    Last Tuesday I was lucky enough to go to Lordship Stud, owned by the Harrises. I looked at their yearlings which, unsurprisingly, were lovely. They are what all small studs would wish for in a draft of yearlings — they had a real Classic feel about them, and it would not be a surprise to see anyone of them cruising around Tattenham Corner in two years time.

    Wednesday was not as busy as first planned because Melody Belle was withdrawn from her first start. I was not quite happy with her shins. She is in the best form she has ever been in, but (there is always a but!) I was not quite happy enough with her to run her. Sir Mark Prescott taught me that you can always run in another race, but you can’t take back a race you have already run in. If you are not 100% happy, you can’t run. It is not fair on the horse, its owner, or yourself. You may damage the horse, sour the owner, and regret the decision, none of which one needs, as enough things go wrong without doing something purposefully wrong. So we did not run.

    Oh, how could I forget Thursday — it was that time of the month again. And yes, I am sure this is more painful than PMT: bill day. My mother had come down for the day, with my father, whom we duly packed off to the races. My father, mother, paperwork, and I equal a Big BANG. So father was sent on his way, and battle commenced, only this time I came out with a wing down. My maths from school taught me that incomings should be at least equal, if not greater, to one’s outgoings. However I did my sums, I could not the bloody lines level! Life goes on; just don’t tell the bank manager.

    Will Maurice start to pay his way?

    Friday arrived in the nick of time, as on Thursday a short fall off a long drop would have been preferable! Friday was back to the normal: organised chaos.

    We had a runner — Dear Maurice (pictured) was in a six-furlong race at Lingfield. Dear Maurice is a six-year-old Indian Ridge gelding who cost £240,000 as a yearling. It seems a little expensive now as he has only won about £15,000 of that back! He had not run for 344 days and had never run over less than a mile. I was putting my neck on the line by saying we should start him out on his first run for us over just six furlongs. Was I mad? Probably.

    As Dear Maurice went to the start under Ian Mongan, it dawned on me how little work we had really done with him, and how fat he still was… Had I just made my own noose from which I was now destined to hang? Thank goodness, he ran a cracking race, and was beaten just a length into second, 31/2 lengths in front of the next horse. Three lengths does not seem that much but in sprinting terms it is light years (well, that’s what I told the owners!). He ran a superb race, having lost about four lengths at the start leaving the stalls. He was then posted five horses wide the whole way. When entering the home straight he ran on strongly, and looks as though he can sprint! He earned just £900 in coming second, which still leaves a deficit of £224,100. That is one hell of a mission we have to get that back…

    Plucking a diamond from a sales catalogue

    Saturday was, as they say, the calm before the storm. For the next God knows how long, there are the sales at Tattersalls here in Newmarket. I was lucky enough to go racing in the afternoon and see some more horses to put on the Christmas wish list.

    In the evening a friend arrived from London and promptly left again for a party. The life of the unemployed!

    On Sunday the storm arrived, and with it the weather from hell to look at yearlings in. Wet and windy is not such a good combination for a wafer-thin catalogue page. There are over 600 horses being sold in just the first week of the yearling sales, all of which will probably have two too many zeros at the end of their price tags for my owners to get involved. They say one diamond is better than a bucket of mud — what about a whole bucket of diamonds? I was like a child in a sweetie shop without his granny to buy any of the sweets. And it is no use trying to steal one; I think they might notice if it were gone.

    Monday was a day much the same as Sunday. Most of it was spent either in the yard tending to the inmates or looking at potential inmates.

    Monday also brought some bad news; my Labrador has throat cancer and has to be put down. I may not have spent very much time with him over the past few years but, like all pets, he was very close to me. Not just a friend, but undoubtedly one of the best gun dogs I have been around.

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