Thursday, September 27, 2012

Here and there

The autumn is building up in its traditionally manic way. For me that means sales, sales and more sales, though nowhere near as many as most bloodstock agents and when the Tattersalls marathon starts at least it's only a ten-minute walk from home.

To my shame I didn't get to my favourite sale of the year, Tattersalls Ireland's September Sale, and there's really no excuse for it other than a stupid amount of writing work to get done here. If ever we needed a reason to go back to Fairyhouse, it's Ethics Girl. She came from there five years ago, costing, I think, €20,000 and she's given us a huge amount of fun over those years, most recently when winning the Brighton Challenge Cup for her delighted Brighton-bred co-owner Lawrence Wadey.

While we were running around early on Sunday morning getting things ready for the open day, Lawrence's friend Paul arrived with her trophy, which is enormous. We're extremely proud to have it here, except I have no idea where to put it. It wouldn't look out of place in a castle. We showed it to Ethics Girl, who is not much taller than the cup itself, and an awful lot of snorting ensued before she carried on picking grass in her unassuming away.

The open day came hard on the heels of a trip to the SGA Select Yearling Sale in Milan, where I was reporting for the American publication, Thoroughbred Daily News. I've only recently started contributing to the TDN on the 'retirement' of Ed Prosser, who has to all intents and purposes given up bloodstock sales reporting for a much more sensible job as Keeneland's European representative. Anyway, I'm fortunate to have benefited from Ed's good fortune as the guys at the TDN are brilliant to work for and I'm really pleased to have been asked to step into Ed's shoes, even though I have zero chance of ever doing as good a job as he did.

I travelled to Milan with two great friends, Dawn Laidlaw and Lucie Botti, who were there representing Darley. Dawn, along with Anna Ridges (then Keen) was the first friend I made when I arrived in Newmarket and she has been a constant and consistent partner in crime ever since. Miraculously, whenever I need someone to assist in the drinking of rosé, she's around. That's the kind of friend we all need. Shortly after I arrived in this town, Hadrian's Wall was breached and one of the Borders' finest also descended on Newmarket. That was Carolynn Anderson, who is still a great pal and came to the rescue on Sunday by cooking her brilliant brownies for the open day. Dawn, Lucie and Carolynn are pictured above at the wedding of Camilla Milbank and Jamie Trotter a few years ago, which leads me on to the best piece of news that we've had for a long time, that Camilla is expecting a baby in March. She and Jamie are sorely missed in Newmarket, as are Lorna and Harry, Dean and Kelli, and Kevin and Katrina - all of whom escaped at the end of last year.

We were very spoilt in Milan, taken to the famous Ribot restaurant on the first night by the SGA and then included in the Italian breeders' awards on Friday night, which were held at the stunning San Siro racecourse and sponsored by Darley. Rather surprisingly, it transpired that, during Shadwell's sponsorship of these awards, the stud's director Richard Lancaster, now TBA Chairman, was a regular after-dinner singer, his particular favourite being 'Hey Jude'.

Sadly Richard wasn't there this year to serenade us so into the breach stepped four horsemen - Con Marnane, Enda Stanley, Julian Ince and Mick Buckley - who sang (yeah, let's call it singing) Richard's favourite Beatles track in his absence. It's pretty safe to say they won't be making it through to the X Factor bootcamp but if enthusiasm counts for anything, then perhaps they'll go far.

The open day was great fun and the general consensus from visitors to our yard was that they'd like to see it repeated annually, as it was in the 'old days'. We'll certainly be a part of it.

This weekend we have the great excitement of the Horseracing Museum quiz. This is always fiercely contested. We've won it a few times but I'm ashamed to say that last year we were beaten by Harry Fowler's team. Can you imagine the humiliation?

This year I'm on Gemma's team and it's her birthday so surely that's worth at least ten bonus points? We're dragging Ed Prosser up from London though sadly our secret weapon, John, will be at Haydock. Mind you, that won't be sad if Grand Liasion can add another win to her fantastic ten-length victory last Friday.

It's an apprentice race and she'll be ridden by Hannah (seen here on Batgirl recently), who is leaving us this weekend to join Robert Cowell's stable. She's likely to have more opportunities for rides with Robert but we will miss her terribly. We've known Hannah since she was 14, when she used to come to ride out and help out at weekends and in the school holidays. She joined this yard full-time the day after her 16th birthday and we've been thrilled to watch her make such a positive start to her career as a jockey, with her first ever win coming aboard our beloved Kadouchski.

Things will seem a little off-kilter here for a while with Hannah gone but we wish her well and will follow her career with interest and pride. Let's hope she can sign off with a winner.

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