Sunday, December 31, 2017

Old Year's Night

It’s New Year’s Eve, almost Old Year’s Night as my Scottish friends would say, and whether you like partying through the night or, like my husband, aim to be tucked up in bed well before 10pm, it’s hard not to be in a reflective mood as we flit from 2017 into 2018.

The real world of Brexit and Trump is just too ghastly even to contemplate, so I'm going to stick to my small world of horses and run back through a year which, typically in racing, had some jolly old highs and a few depressing lows. And, when I say small world, I'm restricting the reflections specifically to this stable as I spend much of the year writing about the racing and breeding world beyond the gates of Beverley House Stables.

Two stable favourites, Hope Is High and Roy Rocket
On this day last year I asked John what he thought about the coming season for Hope Is High and he said he would be disappointed if she didn’t win three races. Well he wasn’t disappointed at all, and neither was I, as she won four and was arguably unlucky not to win five as she stumbled out of the stalls on one of her starts at Yarmouth and, despite trailing the field in the early stages, fought her way right back into contention to be beaten only a head. Hope was only a small part in Silvestre de Sousa's personal record of 206 wins in 2017, which saw him crowned champion jockey, but it was a pleasure to be involved, even on the fringes, with such a professional and hard-working jockey.

Ah, Hope Is High. If only all racehorses were as consistent and as straightforward as she is. She’s given us nothing but pleasure since we bought her in February 2016 and of course we hope she can continue on her upward climb, without wishing to be too greedy. She’ll return from her winter holidays next week and I’ll be counting down the days until the start of the Flat turf season and seeing her back on a racecourse.

Delatite and Will Kennedy win by nine lengths at Sedgefield
But, if this year has taught me anything at all, or rather reminded me, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to horses. I’ve had an unbelievably lucky year as an owner, with Delatite becoming my first homebred winner when romping home in a Sedgefield bumper in October. I’d been at his three previous races, including driving home as fast as I could from Deauville to Towcester to see him in action in May, but I couldn’t be at Sedgefield as it was the first day of the October Yearling Sales and I was on duty for TDN. I watched the race with my friend Liam in the back bar at Tatts and seeing him pull clear of a fairly decent field to win by nine lengths will live long in the memory. When I returned to my desk I struggled to write anything as I was shaking so much and by the time Delatite, John and Abbie returned late that night from the north, Liam, Conor, Peter and I had rolled back from the sales a little the worse for wear to greet the returning hero.

Little did I know then that I’d used up all my luck for 2017. Three weeks later Delatite’s life hung in the balance after the onset of an aggressive infection that came out of the blue and caused severe damage to his off-hind fetlock joint and suspensory ligament. We went from dreaming about what looked to be a bright future to praying that he’d survive. Thanks to the skills of the brilliant team at Newmarket Equine Hospital he did survive surgery and looks almost back to his old self nine weeks on, though it will take a lot longer than that for us to be able to ascertain whether or not he can return to training. The likelihood is that his ligament has been damaged too badly for that to be possible, but just occasionally horses can make miraculous recoveries and I’ve set my mind on giving Delatite every chance of that being the case. He’s being allowed off box rest at the end of January and will return to Hilborough Stud, where he spent plenty of time in his formative years, to continue to recuperate.

Delatite wasn’t the only one of our horses to see the inside of the NEH operating theatre this year. In early February, Kryptos returned from exercise safe and sound only to be thrashing about in agony within minutes of going back to his stable. A twisted gut was swiftly diagnosed and he went under the knife of Mark Hillyer to be put right. Thankfully both horses were model patients and though Kryptos made a later debut for this stable than originally intended, he paid us back many times over.

Three winners together: Kryptos, Sussex Girl and Kilim
In five starts for Tony Fordham, he won three and was second and third, his rating rising to 100 in the process. He’s a very talented horse and we’re lucky still to have him in the stable still as he caught the eye of a number of parties through his glorious summer. He had his season curtailed abruptly when some heat was detected in a leg but he is coming to the end of his semi-box rest and will resume training in the coming weeks. Fingers are tightly crossed that there is plenty more to come from him in 2018.

Our season wouldn’t feel quite right if Roy Rocket didn’t win at Brighton and that he did – for the sixth time – on his seasonal debut on 25 April. He went up 6lbs for that and has struggled a little since then but he’s dropped down the handicap a little again and, turning eight tomorrow, he’ll be back for more before too long.

Our new Brighton specialist towards the end of the season was Kilim, whose final three runs of her career came at the course. She won there on 22 August under a very canny ride from Nicola Currie and was then second twice, beaten half a length and a short-head respectively. Kilim has now retired to the paddocks and we wish her new owner Jenny Norris the best of luck in breeding plenty of winners from her.

And not to be outdone, of course, was the horse who is more entitled than most to be a winner at Brighton – Sussex Girl. She is following in the footsteps of her half-sister, our Brighton Cup winner Ethics Girl, so it was highly appropriate that she should record her first victory there on 19 October. Proving that she can cope with faster flat tracks just as well as the undulations of the South Downs, she followed up five days later with a second win at Yarmouth.

Sussex Girl will also be back in training in the coming weeks and in the meantime we’ve welcomed Ethics Girl’s first foal, Ethics Boy, to the stable. He’s just been broken in and ridden away and will be racing in the colours of his part-owner-breeder Lawrence Wadey.

After a successful summer for the stable it was disappointing not to have any yearlings come in from the sales. It’s definitely getting harder for small stables as the big yards continue to attract record numbers. I’ll never see the appeal of being an owner of one of 200+ horses in a big yard but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Future hope: Dereham with Steve Barry
We will have one other two-year-old this coming season and he’s one who will give me a huge amount of pleasure to watch on a daily basis as he’s a Sir Percy half-brother to Delatite, named Dereham. I am immensely proud to have bred him as he’s a super little horse who has recently been broken in and is in pre-training with Katy Lyons and Steve Barry of L&B Equine Services who have done a fantastic job with him.

There are also a few unraced horses in the yard who will be making their debuts in the coming weeks and months, including Irene Wilde, a lovely, strong staying filly owned by Charles Wentworth, and Das Kapital, a strapping son of Cityscape, owned by Jonathan Wilson, Jocelyn Targett and Simon Sweeting, aka The Geezers.

We’ve had snow, wind, mud and high water aplenty over the Christmas week but, grim weather aside, there’s plenty to look forward to in Newmarket. After all, it's only 15 weeks to the Craven Meeting.

A happy and peaceful new year to you all.

No comments: