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Two runners tomorrow night at Chelmsford City

Friday, 10 March 2017

"Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way."

Daniele Vare.

The sun rising over Newmarket this morning

It’s another mild morning with some sunshine and high wispy clouds. It is due to get wetter later on today and I think some bands of rain are forecast for the weekend. It has been a really hectic morning already with first lot going out just before six, and then we had a new foal at the stud at 7.30. Lady Bellatrix has been very unsettled for a few days, but produced a really nice colt foal. We will keep a very close eye on both though as anything can happen in the next 24 hours. The horses have been cantering well on the polytrack canters close to home and everything is ticking over well. A few new staff have turned up which is helping the situation.

Lady Bellatrix and her colt foal by Casamento

We have no runners today but two tomorrow night at Chelmsford City. Hold Firm runs in the first at 5.45. He is a course and distance winner and with Gabriele Malune claiming the 5lb’s he should not be too far away again. He is a brilliant horse for this type of race and is always doing his best and is very consistent. We then have a long wait as typically, with the race splitting, we get the late division. Mr Turner runs in the 9.15 the mile and a quarter handicap. This is certainly not a very good race, he has no weight and if they go fast enough and he settles, he must have a chance of getting at least placed in this.

     07_Desert     10_TTMAB
Desert River and TTMAB out at first lot on Hamilton Hill

A couple of trainers are retiring due to financial problems, one in England and one in Ireland, and both quite high profile people with plenty of talent. It certainly points out how financially upside down this sport is and there must be so many more in a similar position. We seem to be getting very elitist and top heavy on both the flat and National Hunt. The big yards have 200 horses plus and monopolise the top owners. What can be done about this situation I am not sure, but the gloss and the interest will go out of the game if something is not done soon to alter this. A big increase in prize money at the lower and middle range is a must, as we don’t want to lose trainers with talent and we want to encourage new people and the young into the industry.

True Calling

Phil on Friday

Racing began at Cheltenham’s Prestbury Park in 1831 and it came about, in a way, through the efforts of a parish priest who was fiercely opposed to the sport …  

Previously, races had been run on Cleeve Hill, now the backdrop to the annual National Hunt Festival extravaganza, but the Rev Francis Close preached so much about the evils of racing that his congregation disrupted a meeting there and, the following year, the grandstand was burned to the ground. So the racecourse was moved to its present location.

The Rev Close was quoted as describing a Cheltenham meeting this way: “It is scarcely possible to turn our steps in any direction without hearing the voice of the blasphemous, or meeting the reeling drunkard, or witnessing scenes of the lowest profligacy.” I hope that doesn’t ring too many bells!

Next week upwards of a quarter of a million people will make the annual pilgrimage to Prestbury Park. Again, it will provide the best few days of jump racing to be had anywhere in the world.

This will be the second festival since the completion in 2015 of a £45 million redevelopment at the course, and how different it all is now to when my father took me on my first visit there. Swallowed up by the multitudes, I think I was able to see only one horse all day, the rest being obscured by other, taller racegoers.

Celebrated journalist and inveterate drinker Jeffrey Bernard, famed for his weekly ‘Low Life’ column in The Spectator, summed up the crowded chaos of the seventies thus: “I find it fairly sickening to reflect that one has to be a rugby player of almost international standard to get to the bars”.

Not all developments at Cheltenham over the years have been so successful as the recent outstanding project.  After a new stand was completed in 1979 the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan commented that it was “surely an improvement, but if you have binoculars capable of seeing through concrete pillars you’re advised to bring them”.

There was a suggestion at one point that a flat course could be built at Cheltenham. “Never”, said Lord Willoughby de Broke.  “It’s an appalling thought”. (In fact, races on Cleeve Hill, then later in the early years at Prestbury Park, were run on the flat. Steeplechasing came later).

Whatever they all had to say we’re certainly in for another real treat at Cheltenham next week - good luck! 


It has been a really busy morning

Thursday, 09 March 2017

"Promises and pie-crusts and made to be broken."

Jonathan Swift.

Astroblaze and Koin upsides for the first time

It’s a bright start and much warmer with the temperature set to rise as the day goes on. It is nearly a proper spring day. It has been a manic morning already, with Angie and I being up at 2.20 when a mare looked like foaling, but didn’t. I was then in feeding just after four and was back to take a mare to be covered at Juddmonte at 7.15. I had already seen first lot out, and I got back at the end of second lot. The mare that we thought was foaling has had to have a visit to the hospital as she was in a lot of pain, but they tell us there is nothing to see and everything is in the right place, so David will be able to go and pick her up soon. All the horses have been doing good cantering work. We lost a rider yesterday when one of the young ones left and gained another this morning that seems very good. We still need one or two good riders, but we aren’t too bad. It just frustrates me that the young of today don’t seem to have any get up and go, or any determination. I think it is drilled into them about health and safety and an easy life is what they prefer, but the truth is, you get nowhere without hard work and it will eventually dawn on them, but often much too late.

Astrojewel going out to exercise

There was very little for our industry in the budget yesterday, with business rates not having any help, and the self-employed being hit with higher National Insurance contributions. However, the new funding system to replace the levy took a step forward when the government published the draft legislation that will eventually replace our old levy system. The experts expect it to bring in an extra £30–40 million per year, which if used right, should help us greatly. It has got to pass the European Commission and I would hope there would be no delay with that.

Nailing on a shoe

The Cheltenham build up continues apace with the Racing Post and dailies full of plans that the trainers and owners have for their horses. As we all know a lot of fancied runners have dropped out and we will be without stars both equine and human, but Cheltenham is Cheltenham and everybody wants to have winners at the Festival. The excitement will mount even more in the next week. Once again I will be having my tipping competition with Richard Marriott, who did beat me last year. His pin obviously worked better than mine. It is such a nervous time for trainers this last week as you are trying to prime your horse to be spot on for the day. All travel plans have to be meticulously decided, especially coming from Ireland when the seas can be rough at this time of year. They will tend to arrive in plenty of time to give everybody a chance to acclimatise. Every race is a championship and there will be some very happy owners, trainers and jockeys, plus punters. If you can last the four days you are doing well, especially if you are an attendee. 


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