Not a drop of rain all day. A busy morning schooling all the 4 year olds and Legal Exit over fences. Zac Baker and Tommie O’Brien were the test pilots. They are all jumping beautifully, testament to the schooling jockeys. It is paramount you have good lads schooling, squeezing the horses in and sending confidence down the reins.
Pupil Assistant trainer Panda over saw it all.
Willie Mullins is all over the Racing Post today – can he win the trainers title both sides of the Irish Sea. I for one would have huge admiration for him if he were to manage that, the man is a genius and I very much doubt anything slips through the net. He will aim to bring more horses to the festival in March than many trainers have in their yard. You can be pretty sure they will be at their peak too.
For many more picture of the mornings schooling please visit my facebook page.
AN OWNERS REFLECTIONS –ARMCHAIR RACING
Over the festive season, and contrary to initial plans, I ended up in my favourite armchair, adjusted my stirrup lengths and settled into the horseracing. Let me explain.
The horse had several entries and the dog had several puppies. It never stopped raining. The weather was headline news. It was no surprise when Wetherby abandoned. At least there was ample notice so I never even packed for the overnight passage. Donnas turn next. Warwick on New Years Eve. There and back in a day if ever the weather eases and allows racing. In the meantime endless deluges.
It is testament to huge amounts of hard work in the background that any racing went ahead north of the M4 in the last fortnight. This is bonus time for racecourses and nail-biting time for ground staff and those who make the call to abandon or race. There were few meetings that didn’t need an 8 am inspection but a surprising number went ahead and nothing I saw from our living room suggested anybody had made a bad call. In the midst of a blur of races as I flitted through different channels I think there was even one run on good to soft ground. But in the main it was about mud flying such that colours were unrecognizable, while those horses that finished were doing anything but fly.
So the morning of the Warwick race dawned. Only just such has been this winters gloom. An 8 AM inspection and Tom rings to surprise us with the news that they race. Donna is on her way. I settle in to ring around the neighbours to offer armchair, sofa and finally standing room only for the 2.40. Furniture is rearranged. I watch Toms horse win the opener at Uttoxeter and text Donna; “hope you’ve arrived safely, yard on form! Puppies fine X”. The ground is holding up, Warwick bathed in sunshine. As people arrive I am aware of being gripped by my nerves. Most have watched old footage of our races but this is real-time and many of our friends get nervous in turn. For one or two the puppies prove too strong a distraction. I give up my chair and stand for the race. At 2.50 there is a roar as the result of the photo for second place is announced. The horse is fine the tension eases and people go back to their daily lives.
The following morning brings an early call from Tom. Horse fine trainer nervous. I know why. I have already noted the racecards for the day and Singlefarmpayment is listed as probable favorite for the handicap hurdle at Cheltenham. The Bank Holiday crowd will be big.
I am glad Tom is nervous. In the nicest way that’s what owners want from their trainer. It means it matters. We know that anyway of Tom but Cheltenham is also about media exposure. Donna and I are tuned in and as “off time” approaches we get nervous in turn.
Singlefarmpayment wins well. Punters dance around like marionettes as he crosses the line. He was a plunge horse as predicted. And then that media exposure that you couldn’t buy. Jo and Richard lead the horse into the enclosure. The trainer is described from his blog as a traditional horseman. After an advert break Tom is interviewed. He mentions Robbie and the team. He will wait to discuss the next race with the owners. Slightly nervous still? I think so and why not. The start of a New Year and what a start. The moment shared by all at the yard I am sure. And many others besides, some from the past some the present. And, lest we forget, some with four legs.
Like my armchair.