Come Racing! Now! – Turf Talk: 18 September 2017
COME and enjoy a dramatic day on the racecourse! The fact that it happened a week ago doesn’t stop you enjoying it here if you don’t object to the self-interest of the writer that makes it possible to give you all the details.
There are 10 car parks at Ascot. Car Park No.2 – with “Park” the operative word – manicured turf under the cars and ancient trees dotted around – has special meaning. It is the Owners & Trainers Car Park on ordinary Ascot race days, if there are such things, but it is also the scene of dozens of informal industry parties spilling out from gazebos at the back of well-stocked cars, SUVs and vans, carrying on way into the bright nights after racing at The Royal Meeting.
After the detailed process that Racing Managers and Racecourses go through to authorise arriving connections, a dozen people including five owning partners entered No.2 on 9th September from various locations around the South of England to attend upon the 5 year old grey ICE LORD, whom we bought as a yearling, syndicated and manage in the colours of HINTLESHAM RACING (UK).
The new Owners & Trainers entrance building at Ascot is quite swish, with a walkway taking arriving people directly to the Owners & Trainers exclusive facilities without having to walk half a mile up and down steps in Ascot’s acres.
Knowing that, for many owners, “one of the best bits” of ownership is being with their horse when being tacked up before making the walk from pre-parade ring to main Parade Ring, Ascot puts its Owners & Trainers rooms above the saddling boxes.
It works less well for trainers and managers who need to go to the weighing room and back to collect the tack and chat to the jockey, particularly when Berkshire has several seasons in one day, one of them on 9th September delivering a downpour at the wrong moment.
We didn’t mind getting wet. Provided not Soft ground like Newbury (gluey soil), but Soft like Ascot, ICE LORD loves it and powers through it.
ICE LORD was in a good frame of mind, jig-jogging as he does while looking about and taking it all in. His trainer Chris Wall in Newmar-ket does not overwork him because he keeps himself busy when out and could be over-cooked.
The grey hardly noticed his rider being legged up, she being diminutive but an un-doubted star of the future. Hollie Doyle is the same sort of size as Willie Carson who could ride at 7 stone 7 pounds (48kg) as lightweights often did until not many years ago. Apprenticed to the powerful Richard Hannon operation, Hollie’s claim is down to 3 lbs with only 10 wins to go for the 95 she needs in senior jockey company to ride out her claim.
In so doing, she will join an elite but nowadays expanding group. Alex Greaves did it – mostly on her hubby’s horses. But she did it. Emma O’Gorman had mostly her father’s horses but she did it. Hayley Turner was the first to be champion apprentice then graduate to being a jockey in demand regardless of gender, while Josephine Gordon and others now fly the female flag in greater numbers than ever before.
Down at the 6 furlong start, the sun shone after the rain had put the finishing touches to “Soft” as the ground description. ICE LORD wants a strong pace whether running over 6 or 7 with something to catch and beat in the last furlong. Plan A was to be just behind the pace in the testing ground. And that uphill 6 was going to feel like 7 in the conditions.
That was the Plan.
Plans A, B etc went out of the window when the blinkered beast next to him came out of his stall and more or less turned right. Under the new Plan (Z), ICE LORD was sideswiped off balance, swinging away behind the field and hanging badly as a result. Soon he was 10 lengths adrift. End of story, right? Watching, I was thinking “What on earth am I going to say to them?”. Chris, not far away on the terraces in front of Ascot’s Terminal 5-sized grandstand, had similar thoughts.
Hollie sat on him like a curled up cat. The antithesis of some longer-legged apprentice’s sacks of potatoes who swing about when pulling their whips through and give weird messages to a horse. ICE LORD got the message, got his balance and got down to work. Within a couple of furlongs he only had two ahead of him. One was wandering all over Berkshire tiring in the ground. Looking through the bins, I saw the other shortening his stride and muttered “Hey. We win this!”. And we did.
ICE LORD ranged up alongside the wanderer who tried hard to hold us off, but Hollie gave a couple of left-handed flicks whilst not disturbing balance one bit and off went ICE LORD to win a length and a quarter going away. Chris Wall, with whom I have trained for 30 years and dozens of horses, nearly broke my spine with his slap on the back. Both of our voices had more or less gone in the space of a couple of furlongs.
The commentator referred to him winning from “a hopeless position”. The Racing Post (and others’) results pages immediately publish a brief pen-picture of the race run by every runner from first to last in every race. For ICE LORD it read “Awkward start, hanging badly right first furlong and well be-hind in last, progress from halfway, passed tiring rivals from 2f out to chase leader final furlong, stayed on to lead last 75yds, remarkable.”
It was. Much Ascot champagne was glugged down with no attempt amongst the owning partners to come down from a high that can only come from the rare experience of having a winner at Ascot.
The old adage about London Buses goes “You can wait for ages then three come along at once”.
The above Ascot event was followed a week later by a nice winner for AllanBloodlines at Turffontein care of Lucky Houdalakis and Striker Strydom when SERENDIPITY won after three 2nds, owned and bred by this writer. With our HINTLESHAM RACING (SA) team of two winners and a promis-ing youngster with Vaughan Marshall in Cape Town about to be bolstered by a filly joining us and (all going well) running in a Feature on Durbanville’s re-opening day, we are hoping for the third London Bus to come along immediately!
Come Racing! – tt