Toby Coles’ racing diary: Robin Hood and riding to the races

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  • Last Tuesday started in an unusual way — waking up late. Not by fault, it was the first morning in five months where I wasn’t riding out. I was staying with some friends in Lincolnshire for the sales at Doncaster. As they say, “a change is as good as a break”.

    The sales were strong for any nice type of horse, and too strong for me to play. However, there will be at least one lot from the Doncaster select sale coming to me! It was well worth the trip. I felt like Robin Hood, having had breakfast with a past Sheriff of Nottingham and somehow acquiring a horse without a penny in my pocket.

    On Tuesday night, I headed back after the last lot to get home to Newmarket at about 11.30pm so I could ride out in the morning in preparation for the runner on Friday. On Wednesday, thankfully, I managed to get a lift back to the sales after riding out four lots at home. It was a slightly less productive sale day than the first one; I was unable to prey on some unsuspecting owner who had not sold their horse. I think they had become wise to my tactics! After watching a little Oasis Dream filly go through, towards the end of the sale, I headed home, and was in bed by 9.30pm after checking the horses had not managed to kill themselves while I was away.

    There was no reason why they should have killed themselves, as Sammy —the girl who works for me — had kept them wrapped in cotton wool. I suppose it is like a father tucking his young children into bed after a day at the office.

    Thursday, thank goodness, was not as the man upstairs intended — for me it was a day of some rest. I was reminded that we can’t burn the candle at both ends all the time last week when out for dinner with some friends. I was awoken mid-meal while using the base of a cactus plant as a pillow by conversation about what was going to be drawn on my face!

    Not such a madman on not such a no-hoper

    Cotton King (pictured above) took to the racecourse for the second time on Friday. This time it was over the straight mile at Newmarket on soft ground in a Class 4 maiden. If I told you he had come tailed-off last over 1 mile 2 furlongs just over a week prior to this in a Class 5 at Folkestone, having been outpaced from the start, you would rightly call me mad, and tell me that we would be beaten by at least two furlongs.

    I got some rather odd looks as we arrived at the July course, not in the back of a horsebox, nor being led, but ridden. David Simcock’s look said it all. “MAD” was the word in his head as I appeared over Devils Dyke wearing a bright orange pair of trousers riding this no-hoper for the 4.35pm.

    Jockey Tom Queally gave me the saddle, and once again his looks said it all: “what is he doing with that horse here?”

    Saddling was interesting, as Cotton King refused to go into the saddling boxes and started to throw a strop. Mrs Cumani came to the rescue. Having given me some well due abuse over the colour of my trousers, she helped tame the beast and put the saddle on him. Just one turn in the ring as we were somewhat late for our engagement, with only a few words to Tom: “Please don’t stop pushing him, and try not to come last by too far!”

    Cotton King did himself justice, and came a very creditable seventh, not from seven, but from 13, and did my confidence a world of good, as I had thought he could run within 20 lengths of the winner and he in fact ran within 12 lengths. He was very green throughout the race and will come on for it. It was confirmed how insane people must think I am, as when asked by his owner Mrs Hamilton, how I was going to get him home, I replied “ride him”.

    Her instant reply was: “Who else does that?”

    To my knowledge, no one. In fact he really enjoyed his ride home and it was a good way to cool him down both physically and mentally. It is not often you can ride across the middle of the Newmarket heath, stopping to pick some grass whenever you want.

    Too soggy for Littlemisssunshine

    Saturday saw the beginning of the bank holiday weekend; unfortunately horses don’t know the difference between Christmas and a normal day, let alone a bank holiday. So it was business as usual and three lots before rushing home to tidy the nest as my parents were visiting having spent the last two weeks in the north of Scotland.

    Sunday began with riding Littlemisssunshine. She is at her peak now after her last start at Folkestone just over 10 days ago. The rain has come at just the wrong time — she is a good to firm ground filly, and can’t go a yard in this softer ground. She has an entry at Musselburgh on Friday, but it looks unlikely she will get into the race. It is so frustrating to have a horse at its peak and not be able to run it.

    We also galloped two of the yard’s horses on Sunday — a six-year-old gelding who gallops like his middle name should be Shergar, and a two-year-old filly by Verglas who has done very little. Not really a likely pair to go together. Both went well.

    Today (Monday) has been as the last three — cold. I think I must have ancestors who came from warmer climates, hence my liking of cacti and hatred of the cold. There is nothing worse than being cold. It is the same for the horse, I think. I will be off to all the charity shops around, asking for them to hold any duvets that may come in. Not for a fetish for other’s bedding, just a need for my horses to be warm!

    Tuesday brings the return of Pipit Nest to the races.

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