The Grand National viewing figures are still disappointing ...

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We have one runner today at Lingfield

Friday, 06 April 2018

"A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold."

Ogden Nash.

Rum Ration and Astroblaze

It’s slightly breezier this morning but a very similar day to yesterday and with this wind, the ground is starting to dry. If it stays like this we will be able to get onto the turf next week, which will be very enlightening. Everybody is in this morning and good cantering on the polytracks has once again been the exercise. All has gone well.

Velvet Vision

We have one runner today and that will be it for the week. Clearance runs in the 3.25 at Lingfield. He has always galloped better at home than he does on the track and I have fitted cheekpieces in the hope that they concentrate his mind. He has got the ability to be involved if putting his best foot forward. Shane Kelly takes the ride.

Roof Garden

It is interesting to see that there is a major row about the new Britbet operation with the Arena Racing Company up in arms and issuing an ultimatum to the racecourses involved. What with Betfreds original Tote operation looking likely to expand considerable, and now this situation, it will be fascinating to watch from the outside how it all evolves. This is typical of our industry where nobody works together and everybody pulls in different directions, purely for their own good. Mind you this situation has been caused by the Government who sold the Tote off to an independent, rather than sell it to the racing industry that would have developed it in the interest of the sport other than to private shareholders. Once again a kick in the teeth.

Garrison Law

I see my prediction about the Jockey Club upping the prize money came true. Any increase in the prize money is very welcome and the Cesarewitch, especially, will be going up on the same lines as the Ebor to £½ million and then up to a million in a year’s time. They have no sponsor for it though, which doesn’t surprise me, and although these two big races are worth so much, you will not be able to take part with a normal horse as it will become a Group race without black type. Only the highest rated horses will be able to take part and once again these races will fall to the big boys.

Astrodonna and her Bated Breath colt and Diverting with her Nathaniel filly

The first breeze up sale went ahead yesterday and as I predicted it was very selective. In fact only 50% of the lots found buyers and both the median and average were way down. I am sure the same trend will continue with vendors finding it hard to sell in the middle to lower markets. There will obviously be a few good horses come out of them, as there always is, but it is like everything, whether it be a picture, a vase, or a horse, they are only worth what they make in the ring. That sometimes can be disappointing for the vendor, but we have been living in a world of inflated prices for a while now and some common sense would come in handy as most of these horses will be racing for a pittance.

Phil on Friday

It was the first Grand National I saw in the flesh. My father and I travelled on an ‘Aintree Special’ train (hauled by a steam locomotive!) back in the sixties and, as if the occasion itself was not excitement enough for a boy, the Russians had sent over three horses to put us in our place.

They came by rail across Poland, Germany and Holland before boarding a boat to Harwich then travelling on to Aintree. Sadly the Russians’ best hope, Epigraf II, had to be scratched, probably through exhaustion after the long journey, and despite threats to withdraw the others because they had been allocated top weight (which, of course, they had to be, never having competed in Britain before) the remaining pair took part.

The Red Flag flew over the Aintree stands and, obviously, the colours worn by one jockey were plain red and by the other bright orange. Grifel came down at Becher’s first time. He was remounted but after at least one other horrendous error was pulled up after a circuit. The other, Reljef, unseated at Valentine’s.

The Russians had vowed before the race that, whatever happened that day, they would be back to win within three years. They have not been seen since.

A few years earlier, however, the boot had been on the other foot when Russian Hero won the great race.  The racing correspondent of the Daily Worker, the Communist mouthpiece in Britain, naturally tipped it. With a name like Russian Hero he had no choice. He was the only newspaper man to do so but probably every communist-minded person in the country was on as the Cold War loomed.

Even sixpence was a lot of money in those days but when Russian Hero won and multiplied the outlay 66 times might a few have been tempted to turn to capitalism? The victory resulted in ‘the largest collective transfer of wealth ever to communism’s stalwarts in Britain’ according to one newspaper report.

Since the war the National has been won by Red Rum, Red Marauder and Red Alligator, none with Russian connections as far as I know, so the East-West conflict on the Aintree turf across all those years remains a 1-1 draw – somewhat reminiscent of the current diplomatic tit-for-tat, I suppose.


A new rider has joined the team

Thursday, 05 April 2018

"Forgive, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace."


Cantering up Hamilton Hill

Indian Red

It’s a bright, dry morning and I am sure the temperature will rise considerably as the day goes on, but at present it is still a two coat morning. If there was some wind it would be even colder. Everybody is in and in fact we have gained another rider, which makes it even better and if we can have a consistent run at it now, I can see us having a very good spring. Two good canters close to home has been the exercise once again with everything moving well and really getting into the routine. Having the extra rider means I can give some of the more backward two-year-olds a longer exercise, which will do them the power of good.


I don’t know why we have to have headlines on the front of the Racing Post about the crackdown on trainers who have non-runners with their self-certificate rates above a certain threshold. To me it is a bit like being a naughty school boy and a quiet word would work much better than a public flogging. It was the BHA who wanted 48 hour declarations, the reason given was that the papers would have the cards earlier and the overseas punters would have more time to bet on our racing. All it has done has caused problems for trainers, especially on the turf, where the clerks of the courses blatantly lie about the ground and it changes so quickly. I would think the majority of non-runners are withdrawn on ground reasons, but with 48 hours, horses can get temperatures, knocks and not eat up overnight very frequently. If it were still the 24 hours system there would be a lot fewer non-runners. All the trainers on the list that is published in the paper are flat trainers with the 48 hour rule. No jump trainers, who still have the 24 hour rule, appear on the list so it proves the point conclusively. However, my gripe is why does the Racing Post headline this event caused by the BHA?

Roof Garden

I have no idea what is going on at Musselburgh but the fight against the council continues and this well run, and popular track, would quickly go into decline if the council were allowed to take it over. I suppose they could build on it, which must be in their minds, but it would be a sad loss to the north, and especially Scotland, if it were sold. I am not privy to the ins and outs and politics of the region, but there seems to me to be a lot of stubbornness and ignorance of how the industry works between all parties. Let’s hope somebody can be found with some common sense and calmness to get the show back on the road.

Second lot walking back to the yard

It’s the first breeze-up sale of the season today with the Tattersalls Ascot one kicking off later this morning. It will be interesting to see what the demand is like as the numbers are up at all the breeze-up sales this spring and the horses will have to go somewhere. To my mind the price of horses have escalated out of all proportion over the last 10 or 15 years since agents have been involved, and a bit like the premier league, where the cost of players have dramatically gone up, the same has happened with the horses. There are a lot of false prices and again common sense must start to come into play if we are to encourage, what I call a normal owner, to either expand his string, or be a first timer. It is a lot better to enter the sport at a reasonable figure, i.e. between £5,000 and £30,000 than be asked to stump up £50,000 to £100,000 for something that will be running for £2K.


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