Thursday, December 23, 2010

That was (sort of) the year that was

The geese are getting fat but they'll have a long way to go to catch up with me. The great thing about this extended cold snap is that it's easy to pretend that it's just many layers of clothing but the new year, sadly, will have to herald a proper and rigorous keep fit campaign. Janet Anderson is already trying to persuade me to walk 100km in 30 hours for Oxfam in June, and in the shorter term my aim is to get back in the saddle come spring. Poor Panto won't know what's hit him after a year of almost permanent idleness.

With Christmas looming it's probably time for a bit of a review of the year from the small goldfish bowl that is Beverley House Stables.

The accident that claimed the life of Chris Watson last month has to be utterly the worst thing that could happen in any stable. We've lost a good friend, racing has lost an enthusiastic supporter and in the wider world there is one decent man missing. Chris will not be forgotten by any of us and our thoughts are very much with his family and friends this Christmas.

More positives aspects to 2010 include the addition to this stable of Hannah Nunn (pictured), who turned 16 in July and became a full-time member of staff the very next day. Hannah graduated from the British Racing School with flying colours and became the first girl ever to beat the boys in the fitness test. Her hard work, good manners and determination to succeed set a good example for any budding young jockey. Hannah has had two race-rides to date and has shown a cool head on each occasion. Hers is a name to watch out for and we hope she'll be having plenty more rides for this stable in 2011.

Hannah is of course very fortunate to have two such experienced and decent colleagues as Hugh and Adam. A racing yard can't function without good staff and we're very grateful to have such wonderful and trustworthy people involved here.

My small string is growing, though I can't say with any confidence that we'll see any of them on the racecourse any time soon. Oscar Bernadotte has a darling temperament but the trainer appears to be taking a very softly-softly approach with him. I'm sure he's right to do so. The same can be said for Ruby In The Dust, though John doesn't agree with me about her manners as he has nicknamed her 'The Maggot'.

Desiree's second foal Jack Irish (pictured, left) becomes a yearling on 1 January and may well beat his elder brother to the track. Since the December Sales, we also have a Rainbow Quest filly to race next year, named Maroon. She's having a break at the moment but will go back into training early next year.

Best news of the year for me was that Oscar's sire Sulamani has returned to Britain to stand at Yorton Farm in Shropshire. To truly like a particular stallion I have to have loved him as a racehorse and there's hardly a horse in the last few decades whom I have admired more than Sulamani. I know I can't be a lone voice in liking him as a stallion – his Classic-winning son Mastery has been a wonderful advertisement for him again this year – and I hope a plentiful array of NH breeders will take him to their hearts now that he's back in the UK. If his stock are anywhere near as tough as he was as a racehorse then he has to stand a chance of siring good bumper/hurdles winners in the next few seasons.

And probably equal best news was AP McCoy becoming BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He didn't need the marketing campaign. He is, quite simply, the best, and the best by a distance.

On the track there have been almost too many fantastic results to do justice to them all. I think perhaps their names are enough and these are the horses who have kept me enthralled this year (in no particular order): Goldikova, Workforce (pictured), Harbinger, Zenyatta, Time For Rupert, Kauto Star, Kauto Stone, Mastery, Harris Tweed (GB), Harris Tweed (NZ), So You Think, Americain, Mister McGoldrick, Monet's Garden, Peddlers Cross...I could go on forever and I know I'll have missed many wonderful horses.

Most wonderful of all are those currently very woolly creatures who inhabit this yard. Extreme Conviction has to win BHS Horse of the Year for his four victories but each and every horse here brings joy in different ways and watching the young ones learn to become racehorses is endlessly enjoyable.

I'm not going to spoil Christmas by thinking about the potential carving up of next year's Flat season for no justifiable reason: that subject has already upset and depressed me too much this year. Much better to focus on the positives and all that ever really matters is the horses who make the sport of racing so great. Here's to them and to every one of us who lives in hope that a truly great one will one day touch our lives.

Happy Christmas.

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