Friday, July 17, 2015

Nothing to report but lots to say

My job dictates that I spend quite a bit of time talking to breeders who have enjoyed great success on the track and writing about their mares and families.

Oscar at Cheveral House
My own so-far-unsuccessful sideline as a small hobby breeder has given me very little to write about but I enjoy the reflected glory of 'my other mare' (John's mare) Minnie's Mystery, whose first three offspring have so far won 20 races between them, including Roy Rocket, who has won three for this stable this season.

Anyone who has read today's feature on John in the Racing Post, written by the excellent Nick Godfrey, will no doubt be surprised to hear that John would rather train Roy than Golden Horn but I know what he means when he says that. Of course we'd love to have a horse of the calibre of Golden Horn in this yard but recording a win, no matter how small, with a horse whose mating you've planned and whom you've known since the very first second he drew breath remains one of life's great thrills. Not that I'd know, of course, but I have lived vicariously through John's successes and consider that naughty monkey Roy to be my boy just as much as he is John's.

Of my own boys, there has been a fair bit of news of late. Nothing in the way of actually getting anywhere near a racecourse but the flame of hope has not yet been extinguished in my heart. Oscar's rehoming with Jade (who has looked after him so well over eight months) came to an end on Tuesday when I picked him up from Northamptonshire after she decided he was not going to go as far as she'd like him to in the world of eventing. So, in a rather sad echo of Oscar's one and only outing to the races, which ended in injury, we returned to Southwell (or very nearby) where he has joined Kate Turner's Cheveral House rehoming centre.

Kate is much more than just Hayley's mum. She's an extremely competent horsewoman and riding instructor, who clearly gave her daughter an excellent grounding in her early days, and she instantly put me at my ease when she so clearly warmed to Oscar and assured me she would do everything she could to find the right rider for him in due course. Most important was her assertion that she would not be in a rush to do anything with him. She plans to let him find his way and settle into his new home (which it sounds like he's already doing, turned out in a field of long grass with Hayley's old pony) before seeing what he's best suited to in his new career.

Delatite as a foal at a couple of weeks old
I remain convinced that a horse who moves as well as Oscar does certainly has the aptitude to do something else and I'm looking forward to hearing updates on his progress at Cheveral House, which, even on my short visit, was so clearly a haven of calm that it's hard to imagine horses not thriving there.

So that's Oscar. Next in line, Jack, was so small he didn't ever make it to the races. He now lives with an even smaller Shetland pony called Joey and is owned by our neighbour Natalie Dunn. An otherwise laidback character, Jack's one foible is a severe dislike of having his back feet touched so Natalie and I have been in discussion this week as to recent naughtiness with his new farrier. Step forward our excellent farrier Darren Rose, who does such a great job of keeping my flat-footed and soft-soled Panto sound, and has valiantly offered to tackle young Jack again.

Delatite's full-brother Alix, at roughly the same age in March
A completely different kettle of fish physically is the three-year-old Delatite. He's the little brother by age only as he's a big, strong horse and is just being broken in by John now. A little spooky through greenness rather than anything else, Del managed to cope well with being long-reined on the Severals this morning and I'm itching to see him with a rider on his back in due course.

The only filly Desiree has managed to produce so far is two-year-old Florence, by Archipenko. She may well join her brother at the yard before too long but so far has not left the farm. She's at Hilborough Stud with her mum and younger brother, who, like Delatite, is by Schiaparelli.

Delatite at two, leading a pack which includes yearling Florence at the back
Desiree and 'Alix', as we know him at home, have a fairly major outing looming as they are entered to appear at the TBA National Hunt Foal Show next Sunday at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse. How they'll cope with this excitement I'm not sure.

Des isn't actually being judged but she'll be plaited and preened, while Alix has been a natural poser ever since he was born so is likely to be less fazed by the attention than his mother. I'm hoping he's been bred to be a winner on the racecourse – and as the biggest and strongest of Desiree's foals so far he certainly looks the part – but if he can catch the eyes of the judges and win a rosette in the meantime I'll be more than delighted.

So that's it, really. Nothing much to report in the way of success for my family just yet but there's always plenty to say - and the thing that hooks all breeders and keeps them enchanted year after year is that there's always hope.

Meeting Oscar for the first time
With Oscar I've had to admit defeat regarding his racing career but my hope for any horse who passes through this yard is that they go on to have a happy life in retirement after racing, whether it's as a competition horse, a happy hacker or even as a companion. I know that the team at Cheveral House will be doing all they can to find him a good long-term home and if for some reason that doesn't come about he can always come back to us here. The day I first set eyes on him as a newborn foal at Batsford Stud remains one of the happiest of my life, and though he may not have succeeded as a racehorse, he'll always be very special.

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