With so much good jump racing lost to the snow and ice I couldn't wait to watch racing from Cheltenham on new year's day but it was hard to bear the fatal injury to Joe Lively in the feature race. It was also hard to imagine what the Tizzards must have been feeling when Hell's Bay won the Dipper after such a tragedy. Racing takes with one hand and gives back with the other.
My usual feeling of dread when we have jumpers running followed me to Folkestone yesterday. I led up Kadouchski while Hugh was at Plumpton with Alcalde and John and Will Kennedy dashed between the two places to saddle and to ride. Neither horse troubled the respective judges but I am glad to say they are both back safe and sound in their boxes. Kadouchski gave his all, as usual, in the very heavy ground and blew very hard after the race.
His sister, Douchkette (pictured), who won a hurdles race for us last year but suffered an injury which pretty much ruled out the continuation of her racing career, was rehomed last week and we'll look forward to hearing about her progress as an eventer in the coming months. During the course of researching a feature on retrained racehorses for Horse & Hound, I was fortunate to meet Tanya Bridgeman, who has much experience in bringing on ex-racers in the eventing field. Douchkette is now starting her new career with Tanya in Lincolnshire and she's in the perfect hands to fulfil what I believe is her great potential as a sport horse. The next member of the family, Douchkirk, otherwise known as Frankie, should make his debut for this stable in a bumper in the spring.
Returning to yesterday, Alcalde was not quite unscathed after his mistake at the last hurdle on the first circuit at Plumpton and it's safe to say that the Tri-Zone Allsport boots he was wearing saved him from a very serious tendon injury which could have been career-ending, if not life-threatening, had he not been wearing them.
When it comes to boots, the argument of extra weight/over-heating the tendons is vastly out-weighed, in my opinion, by the need to protect horses, particularly jumpers, from striking into themselves, which is exactly what happened when Alcalde landed awkwardly after misjudging the hurdle. That he is just bruised and a little bit sorry for himself today is massively preferable to the unthinkable alternative. For anyone with eventers or National Hunt racehorses, I would strongly recommend the investment in a pair of the above-named boots. They are the lightest and most flexible tendon boots I have ever come across and they have a perforated surface which allows for airflow to the tendon area. Best of all, and what saved Alcalde, is the thin but very tough strip of titanium that runs down the back of the boot protecting the tendon. The force of the impact sliced right through the rubber, as you can see in the picture, but was halted by this strip, thus avoiding catastrophic injury. For more information, click on this link.
We're winding back up now after a mini-break for those horses not in strong work. Ethics Girl gave us a lovely end to the year with her victory at Wolverhampton on 30 December. The new two-year-olds are having a break after learning the ropes and will be back with us in the spring. The three fillies bought at the sales will be joined by Batgirl's Beat Hollow half-sister, who will be another very welcome addition from Pantycoed Stud.
First Pressing is back in work after an enforced absence for the second half of last season, and soon we'll have her partner in crime, Silken Thoughts, back from the farm to get going on their three-year-old campaigns. Silky has wintered well. She's always been a robust filly but she looks stronger than ever and I'm really looking forward to her return.
Away from horses, the highlight of the year so far has been the BBC's new series Zen, which is taken from the Italian-based crime novels of Michael Dibdin. I've only read one Aurelio Zen book, which was set in Venice, so I was surprised to find the TV version set in Rome. Perhaps I need to read the rest of the collection for clarification, but when Rufus Sewell is in the starring role looking like an extra from La Dolce Vita, who cares about attention to detail?
The only thing that could be better would be the lovely Rufus going on to play the lead in a televised version of Peter Temple's award-winning Jack Irish novels, as long as they don't decide to switch Jack to Sydney.