Sunday, February 20, 2011

My family and other dogs

There was quite a lot of faffing about a certain runner from this stable this week but it wasn't one of our equine friends.

Stan, kennel name Salems Zidane, was entered in the Fakenham Greyhound & Lurcher Stakes before racing at the Norfolk course on Friday. Knowing that Stan had been expelled from racing some six years earlier when it was discovered early in his career that he was a non-chaser, the omens weren't good for his comeback, and his chances of shining decreased even further when I discovered we had drawn Max in the first round.

Now Max, who is owned by Camilla Milbank and Jamie Trotter, may be a year older than Stan and suffer from a slightly dodgy ticker, but his days of racing as The Furries, when he won something like 18 races at Walthamstow, have not been forgotten. He looked every bit the true professional when he locked onto the lure and ran straight and true towards the finish. Stan, on the other hand, not having been blessed with many braincells at birth, thought at first it was quite fun to chase Max but after a while got a little bored and veered off on the wrong course towards the steeplechase course.

Having been beaten by Max we naturally followed him through the remaining rounds to the final, in which he was comprehensively thrashed by the British Racing School ringer, known as Bitzer, who had been kidnapped from Sir Mark Prescott's pupil assistant James and entered in the competition by Gemma Waterhouse. Bitzer looks rather shame-faced in the accompanying photo as she collects her prize from Fakenham's excellent clerk of the course David Hunter, but Gemma doesn't seem to be too embarrassed about the incident, which will no doubt be remembered in the history books as being every bit as controversial as the story of Running Rein in the 1844 Derby.

It was a pretty good show from the Newmarket dogs, which included the winner and the runner-up plus Peaches Fowler, who attracted disparaging remarks from her uncle Mark Bradburne as he was jogging a lap of the track before racing but clearly just needs a staying trip, and Gillie and Ruby Negus from Racing Welfare. All tried their best and enjoyed a jolly good picnic. Next year I'll be entering the secret weapon, Bean Berry.

And so to horses. It was disappointing to see Ethics Girl travel so well on Friday night but end up only third. She does need to be produced quite late and sadly the slightly strange way the race panned out didn't help her. This week we look forward to the hurdlers Kadouchski at Sandown on Friday and Alcalde at Chepstow on Saturday.

I managed two lots in grim weather yesterday morning: the first was to watch Ben Bhraggie loose-schooling at the Links. Needs to try harder but he can jump. Ben is unusual for a thoroughbred in that he is incredibly slow to learn. He gets there in the end though and now that he actually looks like a racehorse, he's starting to show that deep down he does have the ability to be one. The trainer definitely deserves a medal for patience with this horse.

Silken Thoughts, Batgirl, Ruby In The Dust and Kadouchski scooted up Long Hill next lot. It's a pleasure to watch Silky as she does everything so easily and she's the horse I am most excited about in the stable this year. Batgirl's moving well and we're looking forward to the arrival of her two-year-old Beat Hollow half-sister any day now.

Our four-year-old Doyen filly Ruby continues to give us gradual encouragement that she will be competitive in bumpers and hurdles. We already have a few members of a syndicate together to race her but there are places available so do get in touch if you would like to become involved.

One other excitement of the week was Desirée being covered by Schiaparelli on only the second day of the breeding season. With no foal this year I had hoped she would be ready for an early visit but wasn't anticipating it to be quite that soon. As it transpired, she was the first mare officially to be covered by Schiaparelli at his new home, Overbury Stud. Here's hoping she gets in foal at the first attempt and we can look forward to a nice January foal in 2012 if all goes well. The small, muddy, hairy creature featured here is Des's yearling colt by Bertolini, named Jack Irish.

I'm afraid this week is going to be particularly hard as on Tuesday we say goodbye to Anis Etoile when she heads to the Ascot sales. I've tried very hard to sell her privately since her retirement from racing: she has the pedigree to be a promising National Hunt broodmare and the scope and the ability to be a nice eventer. I just hope that someone with one of those aims in mind buys her on Tuesday.

Anis came here as a yearling and eventually raced for the Tri-Nations Partnership. When she won on debut at Uttoxeter in 2009 she provided me with the happiest day of my life. Through my part-ownership of her, I have made new friends in fellow syndicate members and experienced at close hand the wonderful highs and cruel lows of racing. Being involved with horses is a good lesson for life in general on how to deal with hardships when they come. The hardest thing of all for me will be saying goodbye to a beautiful mare who has fulfilled so many dreams and given all of us who have been lucky enough to own her so much fun. Thank you, Anis.

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