Sunday, October 21, 2012

Say hello, wave goodbye

Sales time is a funny time of year. On the one hand it's exciting to welcome new young faces to the stable but on the other it's always awful to have to lose old favourites.

Yesterday we took delivery of a yearling half-sister to Rhythm Stick. She's a lovely strong chesnut filly (pictured settling in to Kadouchski's old stable, right) and if she's anywhere near as genuine as her brother then she'll be a smashing racehorse.

Rhythm Stick (seen below with Aussie jockey Clare Lindop) won four races in a row for us in 2011-2012 and was then consigned to the horses-in-training sale this time last year. He sold for 35,000gns and was sent to race in Saudi Arabia. It was definitely the right time for his owner/breeder to sell him – she had put four years of time and money into him and once he'd shown a decent level of form he had become a valuable prospect, as his sale price showed. For breeders especially the last few years have been tough and the horses who have retained their value, or increased it by racing well, must be sold to pay for others coming through.

That said, when you live and work with horses every day they become very much a part of the family. I left Tattersalls with a tear in my eye after saying goodbye to 'Whippy', as we called him, and I'm pretty sure it was the same story for his breeder Louise, for Hugh and for John.

It will be equally hard to bid farewell to Batgirl in just less than a fortnight. She has raced successfully for Tony for three years and now it's time for her to head to the sales, too. We're all extremely fond of her and I've a knot in my stomach thinking about her departure even as I type this.

Before she leaves us she is set to run on Tuesday with Hannah booked to ride. Hannah is now working for Robert Cowell but we're pleased to be able still to use her for our horses and she will also ride John's homebred Roy Rocket on his debut at Newmarket on Wednesday. Let's hope Hannah can guide Batgirl, whom she rode regularly at home for us over the years, to one last win for Tony at her favourite track, Yarmouth. After that I pray she finds a good home with people who will love her. She deserves that.

It's very much part of the racing game that horses come and go and it's something we have to accept. But I'm not used to it even after living here for eight years and I know I'll never get used to it. My comments are not in any way a criticism of these horses' owners – racehorses have relatively short careers and, whether they are sold in training or retired, they will all leave here one day. I just feel that it's worth remembering every time we read about a good horse being sold that there's a lad or lass back at the yard who had put hours of care into that horse who will doubtless find it hard to to let them go.

David Elsworth summed it up best when catching me looking a little sad at Tattersalls after Rhythm Stick was sold. "I hate this sale," he said. "It's saying goodbye to old friends."

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