Tom Symonds’ racing blog: Champions’ Day and cabin fever

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  • What a weekend! The racing certainly lived up to its billing and the whip did exactly what it is meant to do – create a debate that nearly overshadowed a fabulous weekend of sport.

    The French had a weekend to remember with the gelded Cirrus Des Aigles gaining his first Group One win for his most endearing trainer Corine Barande-Barbe. He humbled future breeding millionaires with his unique – or should I say eunuch! – turn of foot.

    Christophe Soumillon then succeeded where General Montcalm failed in 1759 by conquering all in the Canadian International on Sarah Lynx for British ex-pat John Hammond and thus vanquishing his apparent – not to mention expensive – British misdemeanour.

    Mr Hammond also trained the winner’s sire, Montjeu, who had a Group One double with Miss Keller. This brings us back to the legendary Sadler’s Wells, sire of Montjeu – who also had Fame and Glory victorious at Ascot – and of course sire of Galileo (himself sire of Frankel). Galileo has certainly brought Derby-winning stallions back in vogue in a world where speed seems to be holding sway. His dynamic as a sire is second to none and his half brother Sea The Stars’ progeny still awaits us.

    I will leave Flat racing with mention of former H&H columnist James Fanshawe and his fantastic and patient handling of the very exciting sprinter Deacon Blues. And of course of Sir Henry Cecil; his regal conduct and quiet manner seemed to have been partly instilled into the hither-to-over-zealous Frankel – a horse that inflates Flat racing to a higher echelon of respect.

    Please let it rain…

    The team here at Dason Court, equine, canine and human, are all thriving. With no proper rain about we are still “patiently” holding off running horses. Cabin fever has not quite set in yet and the staff are enjoying being tossed around by very fresh horses!

    This always reminds me of my time riding the yearlings in the winter at James Fanshawe’s – wall-to-wall terror but great fun and very good for one’s riding.

    I left school and worked for Michael Scudamore Snr for a season. I then, under the guidance of Janet Anderson, went to work for James Fanshawe for three months in the summer and loved it so much that I stayed for nearly three years. An immaculate yard with fantastic horses, plus a boss who shared my taste in music, was just what I wanted.

    James has a great feel for horses and is a fantastic trainer of a racehorse. You could judge his mood if it was classical or rock music playing in his office. He was so supportive when I told him I was going to Seven Barrows to work for his antithesis, Nicky Henderson.

    My time with Nicky Henderson

    Becoming assistant to Nicky and part of his well-established team was going to further my education. I became the proverbial information sponge while at Seven Barrows. This was something I tried to explain to my school teachers when I decided against university. I wanted to learn practically -and earned while learned!

    It was at Seven Barrows that I met the ultimate teacher in Albert “Corky” Browne, Nicky’s head lad. He is someone who cares deeply for his job and will go to the ends of the earth to help you. “Working hours” don’t exist in his world – work is an hour-on-hour way of life.

    A good grounding

    I live in hope that an education in such respected establishments will serve me well. Having been in the Golden Valley and South Hereford Hunts and branches of the Pony Club, I got the best basic grounding with horses and the countryside. You also need very understanding parents who are willing to drive you around the country!

    However, it is later in life that you need to decide how best to endorse the opportunities that were given to you. Horseracing was the only equine discipline where I felt I could flourish.

    A great influence on me

    Lucinda Darling (n ©e Greenwood) was the epitome of someone who looked after horses to the highest standard and, much to her credit, with health and safety (equine and human) always in mind. Her stockmanship and horsemanship – a loosely used term but here very applicable – were outstanding.

    Although not a trainer, she was someone who had a deep impression on me as a person of great integrity. Charismatic and fun, she was also a very successful event rider while being an avid racing follower. I can still hear her say in matters of stressful complication “…don’t forget to KISS!” which, I was to learn, meant to Keep It Simple Stupid! Direct and sound advice indeed.

    At the moment I feel more of a hypothetical trainer as a lot has been talked but action has been sparse. I only hope that I can live up to people’s expectations. I feel and hope that I have created a good team in order to get the best results. I will talk more of the team next week, but until then we will all remain dreaming of what could be ahead for an exciting but so far inert team of horses! Whatever happens I will certainly not forget to KISS.

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