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The morning has gone very smoothly

Friday, 09 June 2017

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."

American Indian Proverb.

22_Between_The_Banks
Working Between The Banks

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The Guv'nor watching Astrostorm and Dixon gallop past 

It is a breezy morning, but bright and warm. I think showers are forecast later on, and towards the weekend, but I am sure with this wind they will quickly blow through. I have had a great morning so far with the first two lots galloping Between The Banks on racecourse side. This is a very famous peat moss gallop and is my favourite place to work horses. It is only open when the conditions are right and you have to know how to ride it. There were several of my lads who had never been up there before, so I gave them a good talk beforehand as to what to expect and how I wanted them to gallop. Everybody took it on board and we had two lots that went very smoothly. There is no need to go too quick on this gallop as it gradually rises and the horses are doing plenty of work on the collar.

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Debrief after first lot

We have no runners at the weekend, but plenty are entered next week. The two-year-olds that have run have certainly come on for their experiences. We are starting to get to the bottom of quite a few backward ones and most of them have tightened up well and are looking fitter than I have had them for a while.

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Hold Firm leading the two-year-old colts

There have been plenty of articles this week on the lack and retention of stable staff, which I have commented on. All trainers are very aware nowadays of looking after their staff and paying them as much as they possibly can. There is a small article today on time off for staff, which is always one of the things thrown back at the trainers, but horses are 24/7 and the majority of the prize money is very poor and I can assure everybody out there that 98% of trainers are on a knife edge financially all the time. We would love to employ more staff so that everybody can get more time off, but until we can charge a fee that would allow this, the situation will continue. If the prize money was what it should be for an ordinary race, then the owners would be happy and flocking in there droves, but when you get a race meeting like Yarmouth last week with four races under £2000 to the winner, you can see what I mean. Staff are the backbone of our industry and do a brilliant job, but the only solution to the problem is prize money and the solution to that is a or b. a) is cut the fixtures and put the prize money into the other races or b) put minimum values up to £7000 for the poorest race, it is simple but getting to the situation is the tricky bit.

10_Honey_Clear_Jewel
More two-year-olds at seccond lot

Phil on Friday
02_Phil

From adversity to acclaim in two-and-a-half minutes. That was last week’s Derby story for jockey Padraig Beggy, back from Australia where a few years ago he received a 15-month ban; he had ridden  just four winners in three years, one this season; and had only seven rides in 2017 before Epsom.

There are echoes here of the great Charlie Smirke, reckoned by many to be the best, and the unluckiest, jockey ever to sit on a racehorse. He won the Derby in 1958 on Hard Ridden, only his fifteenth ride of the season, and had previously come back from years in the wilderness to ride three other winners of the great race. But controversy and misfortune were never far away.

His career began brilliantly. By the time he was 19 he was retained as first jockey to the Aga Khan, then the turf’s most powerful owner. But calamity struck with a vengeance two years later. He was left at the start on odds-on favourite Welcome Gift in a little race at now defunct Gatwick and at the subsequent inquiry the stewards considered he had made ‘no effort to start’. They arbitrarily withdrew his licence.

It took five arduous years to get it back, during which time Charlie became, in his own words, down and out. He took a job on Brighton beach, wringing out bathing costumes and painting beach huts for 30 shillings (£1.50) a week, and at one point was so poor he had to pawn his overcoat.

Then news filtered back that Welcome Gift, by this time exported to India, had shown a marked reluctance to leave the gate on many occasions and it was intimated to Charlie that he could re-apply for his licence. The following year he won the Derby on Windsor Lad, then won it again on Mahmoud and later Tulyar, after which he came out with the famous pun ‘What did I tul-yar?’

But disaster followed him everywhere - he was once disqualified from driving ‘for life’; he was divorced, married a singer, and when that liaison failed as well he remarried his first wife; he was constantly in trouble with the stewards. However, following an unfortunate incident at Longchamp when the crowd hurled gravel at him after he was beaten on a fancied runner, he won his fourth St. Leger on the aptly named Never Say Die.

Weight problems added to his woes, but he was to have the last laugh on his many critics when he won his fourth Derby, on Hard Ridden. At the end of that season he finally called it a day. He died in 1983, aged 86.