Tom Symonds’ racing diary: hunting the Duc

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  • On Saturday 3 December I stepped up Duc De Regniere’s work by taking him for a day hunting with the South Hereford.

    He had run an odd race at Newbury the weekend before. While he jumped and travelled with his usual aplomb, he offered rather a tame finish, which is most unlike him, as stamina is his forte. Although he has earned a very high rating under both codes, I feel that he is more effective over a fence than a hurdle. On Saturday he is due to run in the Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot and I hope he will show his old zest again.

    When I asked his owners if I could take him hunting they gave me the proviso that I had a photo taken and reminded me that it was called National Hunt racing! He is certainly going to make a very fine hunter once his racing days come to an end. He was so brilliant that no one could quite believe that he was still in training!

    Scholastica’s hunt for black type

    This weekend also sees the return of Scholastica in a rather competitive bumper on Ascot’s Friday card. This is a Listed bumper which means that as it is of a certain class (higher than the average bumper), and it will appear in bold or black type in her pedigree if she happens to finish in the first three.

    Pedigrees are often read at great speed and lots of bold type is attractive in a family that one might buy in to; it denotes quality. For mares, winning is paramount and black type is a bonus. For example, although Long Run will not be reproducing after he retires, he is updating and upgrading his half sister Liberthine’s pedigree while she produces the new prodigals of the family. I only hope that someone can say: “I have a sibling to that talented bumper runner Scholastica!”

    A Henderson benefit

    Last weekend appeared to be a Nicky Henderson benevolent card at Cheltenham, and how appropriate on his 61st birthday! The very talented tongue-twister Quantitativeeasing had threatened in big handicaps and got his just desserts under an inspired Barry Geraghty. Appropriately, Quantitative Easing is an own-brother to multiple Grade One black type winning mare Asian Maze, so a similar situation to Liberthine and Long Run.

    Oscar Whisky and Grandouet both staked their Festival claims in style. While Oscar Whisky has yet to step up to three miles, Grandouet has shown dramatic improvement on the course that most would have said negated his tremendous speed. The Festival markets muddied once again!

    On Friday, Sprinter Sacre made his eagerly awaited debut over fences at Doncaster and put in some impressive leaps. Sad as I am, I have waited for this day ever since I laid eyes on this most beautiful and scopey beast. A warming thought in the forthcoming cold winter months.

    Sky could be the limit for Dunaden

    It was great to see Dunaden supplement his Melbourne Cup victory in the Hong Kong Vase. For a while it looked like he would not get to the front in time, but he tenaciously flattened his ears, stuck his head out and ground them down under Craig Williams. It will be interesting to see how Dunaden is campaigned when he returns to European shores as he seems a very versatile, not to mention improving, performer.

    The Big Buck’s Show

    The weekend coming sees the Big Buck’s Show move to Ascot, where the Long Walk Hurdle looks to be at his mercy – unless of course an improving horse like Dynaste can topple this mercurial champion. The undercard has the ultra competitive Ladbroke Hurdle as the highlight. This isn’t a race for the faint-hearted as it’s traditionally a large field and run at a frenetic pace.

    Broken jockeys

    I just hope this weekend doesn’t have the same attrition rate for jockeys as the last one. Although Seven Barrows celebrated, most of their thoughts were with another birthday boy in Jerry McGrath who suffered a bone-crunching fall from Dave’s Dream. One must remember the risk these jockeys take with the following ambulances a constant reminder to them of their mortality.

    Richard Killoran broke his collarbone and Robert “Choc” Thornton has broken his arm; they will be having what most dream of – a very idle Christmas! Thankfully, Jerry suffered no more than severe bruising but the worry for him and his friends and family must have been unbearable.

    At Fontwell on Tuesday, AP McCoy grimaced at the thought of missing the winning ride on Lets Get Serious so rode through the pain he suffered from the blundering State Benefit in the previous race. Furthermore, Barry Geraghty limped away from his fall on Tanks For That and found pain to be no barrier to riding a power-packed treble – missing that really would have been a pain!

    The hitherto clich ©d “risking life and limb” has never been so true but, as my friend Guy Disney simply said on losing his leg, “mate, it’s all part of the job…”

    It seems to me that jockeys and soldiers concur – do what you love until you can do it no more.

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