Four Miracles has a lovely filly foal
Friday, 24 March 2017
"There is no need to reach high for the stars. They are already within you – just reach deep into yourself!"
Walking back to the yard
It’s a dry, bright morning and I think we will have much of the same over the next few days. There is a slight breeze and everything is drying out after this week’s rain. Any warmth will certainly help the grass to shoot up and in fact the fields are beginning to look much better already. We have had a busy morning with Gabrielle and Stevie both in and riding out. Every canter close to home was being used, whether it was grass or all-weather, and although we have had a few on the walker, and a non-runner in the yard man stakes, we have got on really well. Don’t forget the clocks go forward an hour on Saturday night / Sunday morning, so you will be losing an hour in bed.
Dot Green cantering on the Hamilton Hill
We have no runners this weekend but there is plenty to watch on the TV, with the highlight being the World Cup meeting in Dubai. It starts early enough, at 11.45 our time, with the World Cup being the climax at 4.45. This meeting used to coincide with the Lincoln meeting at Doncaster, but this year it doesn’t, and I think it is much better this way.
The saddest thing over the weekend is that Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium will be closing down after Saturday night’s meeting and will be built upon in the not too distant future. There is uproar about it and a big article today in the Racing Post says it’s a grim warning for horseracing as well. I am not so sure about that. The dogs were very popular before, during and after the war, but most of the tracks had been built in places the public could walk to. These stadiums are right for big developments which is what all the London ones, and a lot of other cities have done. The columnist compares Kempton Park to these greyhound closures, but I think he is a bit mixed up in his thinking here and I wonder how many times he has actually been to Kempton on their evening meetings. Nothing lasts forever and things must change and with greyhound racing, it has been going on for a while with the drop in attendance and popularity of the sport generally. A lot of the stadiums just cannot make it pay and it is a no brainer to sell for building. Towcester has been a big hit, but as you know there is no charge for entry there and that is a big incentive when you are taking a family out for the evening. Our free race days have always been very popular and I think more should be held, but with the crisis in the industry with racing staff, we need an all-weather track at Newmarket as soon as possible for so many reasons. Kempton is the obvious place to build on and I know there have been many voices against it, but it is so obvious to sell and reinvest the money in other projects.
Fast Company ex Four Miracles filly foal
We had another foal last night, this time a filly by Fast Company to Four Miracles. She is a sister to our own Hold Firm, who has won five times now. An attractive, good size foal, she was soon up and sucking and the mare absolutely loves her. She is a funny old mare in that she never lies down after having a foal and jumps up straight away after foaling. It is a habit very hard to get them out of. We always like them to lay still for 10 or 20 minutes, but there is no accounting for what some mares do. Our foster mothers have been very good and the two orphans are loving their new mothers, even if Paula does look like the wildest hippy you have ever seen.
Mega proudly looking over her Garswood colt foal
Phil on Friday
Almost there – just a week or so to go and ‘The Lincoln’ will herald spring and the start of flat racing on turf.
Sadly there’s hardly a whimper, let alone a fanfare, for the opening of the new season these days, but what memories The Lincoln holds. Babodana won it for the Guvnor in 2004 of course and, four years later, Smokey Oakey repeated the trick. Babodana, still going strong aged eight, was third. I got the result on my phone in Malaga airport and spent most of my winnings on further calls just to confirm it!
Then there was the Newmarket-trained Lincoln winner who got dafter as he got older and staged a one-horse stampede through the town centre, and beyond, at rush hour …
He was being schooled for a future over hurdles and probably didn’t like the idea very much, so he unshipped his rider on The Links training ground and galloped off on his own, heading for home.
Now The Links must be nearly a couple of miles from Newmarket town centre, but he thought he knew where he was going and half a ton of horse-flesh hammered off down the Cambridge Road and on into the High Street, just missing cars and buses and the throngs of people on their way to work or, even more worryingly, to school. Then the equine equivalent of sat nav broke down, he missed a turn to his yard and headed off in the direction of Fordham, followed at this stage by a posse of anxious but powerless pursuers.
There were plenty more near misses then, finally, the old lad came to a halt in Tesco’s car park. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d ended up in a ‘disabled only’ parking bay - after all, he had covered three or four miles at full tilt on hard road surfaces and he was a soft ground specialist!
Happily he escaped unharmed and so, by some miracle, did the entire population of Newmarket.
It all reminded me of the day our old retired greyhound ran away from home. We couldn’t track him down anywhere until a startled lady driver reported seeing a white streak somewhere near the top of Kentford High Street.
At his peak the dog could reach 40 mph on the level and Kentford High Street, downhill and firm underfoot, probably got him back to something approaching that. Our (then) young son asked if he’d get a speeding ticket! Thankfully, no, though he was probably close to10 mph over the limit at some point. In the end we got him home in one piece and there were no multiple pile-ups in his wake.
No, OK. These things are not that funny really, but all’s well that ends well …
We are due to have a spring like weekend
Thursday, 23 March 2017
"Most people, upon reaching the top, look down and enjoy the view. The smart money is on looking up and finding new mountains to climb."
It’s been a damp start to the morning and with a good breeze, it’s on the cool side, but the forecast is to clear up and be much more spring like over the weekend. It has already been a hectic morning with plenty of cantering on many different canters both turf and all-weather. It has also been busy on the stud with three mares covered this morning by Oasis Dream, Archipenko and Casamento. Thank goodness they were local coverings and all went well.
I see that licencing is going to get tougher for apprentice jockeys and the way they are being trained. A new licencing course of 10 days is what every budding jockey will have to attend now and there are only 24 places for this year. The jockey’s chief executive says ‘these changes are the result of a significant amount of work over the last three years’. I am all for as much education and training as you can give these young people. Everybody knows I have always encouraged apprentices, but in everything you get good ones and bad ones and under this scheme this will still happen.
We don’t get good English jockeys coming through nowadays as in the past apprentices signed on for five years. This does not happen now. All the best jockeys of the past, and even today, have been with one employer for a good length of time, but with the modern day working methods there is no tie to anybody. You can’t live in the past I hear everybody cry, but it worked then and somehow it has got to work now. The other thing we must do, and I have been bashing on about this for at least 30 years, is create a proper apprentice race programme which we haven’t got at all. If this was the case, there would be much more competition within it, and the apprentice title wouldn’t be an afterthought as it is at present.
It’s interesting to see Tony Mullins, the Irish trainer, completely rejecting the Horse Racing Ireland chief executive about the state of Irish jump racing and how it is dominated by major owners, to the determent of everybody else. He is quite right in what he says that Ryan Air hadn’t been allowed to take over Air Lingus, as it would be a complete monopoly on airlines then. He thinks the racing industry should put something similar in place. No rules are being broken at present but he believes the rules should be changed before the industry is killed off. He has a good point here but neither the Irish HRI, nor our own BHA understand what is happening below the top level, or if they do they are putting their heads in the sand and doing nothing about it. But let me tell them, doing nothing about it will end in disaster at some stage.
The situation cannot remain as it is and when you have the likes of Godolphin having a quarter page advert for stable staff, work riders and yard staff in the Racing Post today, everybody else has very little chance of recruiting. Just think, they have got Warren Place to fill next year with 300 horses and that will require staff. This problem is set to run and run.