Well, what a fantastic day that was, dear reader, as a small throng of us descended onto Newmarket with the express purpose of allowing ourselves to be entertained by horses. And so it transpired!
Our day took in several Newmarket staples: the National Stud, Julia Feiden's stable in Exning, Newmarket's Rowley Mile racecourse, and finally the Rutland Arms on the High St (not to mention Mrs Merry's magnificent boarding house at the top of town!)
We all convened in the cafe at the National Stud, prior to our 2pm appointment with Jane, our tour guide for the afternoon. A pedagogue for sure, Jane was also extremely knowledgeable about her subject and was excellent company - and value - for a full ninety minutes of commentary and interaction.
Our first stop was the stallion house, and 'the boudoir' as it's known (where the boys and girls go bunky-uppy!). We were treated to a parade by a National Stud stalwart in Pastoral Pursuits (winner of the July Cup in 2005, and daddy to ), and a newbie in Cockney Rebel (winner of both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas in 2007).
The latter was a good bit more feisty than the former, as he's not yet settled into his new job...
Now then, it's a tricky subject to cover is covering, so let's get it over with (a sentiment echoed by one of the boys here too!). Covering is the act of a stallion hopping on and doing the biz with a lovely young lady horse, with the intent of making a lovely (or at least athletic and therefore lucrative) baby horse.
There's a real science to it, and we were all in the thrall of Headmistress Jane as she shared the why's and wherefore's of the covering process.
Key stats are that Pastoral Pursuits broke a nine year old record just two days ago, by 'finishing up' in just 45 seconds. On the other hoof, Myboycharlie is clearly somewhat more leisurely as he regularly tops the ten minute barrier.
(The mind boggles at what effect this has on the covering crew whose task it is to oversee these amorous activities!)
Then it was time for 'here's one I prepared earlier', as we went and bade good day to a relatively new-born foal. I can't quite remember his breeding now - perhaps one of the attendees wrote it down? Leave a comment if you did, please - but he looked a skittish, happy camper. Mum seemed relatively unperturbed by the large gathering who'd convened too.
There was barely time for a swift toilet break before we hurtled headlong through Newmarket to the neighbouring village of Exning, home of Harraton Stables and John and Julia Feilden (and some furry friends of ours).
We got the full stable tour, including an introduction to a grey horse, Emma's Gift, who won on Wednesday night at Bath (you can see her in the video - she's pretty laid back); and a look at the new recruit who is waltzing by Emma on the gallops.
Whether she transfers that talent to the track remains to be seen, but the yard is pretty excited about that one.
Then, of course, we went to meet our ladies. Baggsy looked really well, and is entered on Monday at Wolverhampton. There is a number of horses in the race that need to absent from their declaration in order for Baggsy to get in, which is a shame because she needs some action. (Don't we all?!)
Always De One came out next, somewhat reluctantly, and she appears to be something of a madam. Physically, she's a beast. A big strong sort who looks like a four mile chaser, she needs to apply herself the job a bit better mentally. Whereas Baggsy welcomed all-comers for a stroke and a polo, it was for the brave and foolhardy only approaching Always with good intentions!
Night Orbit was also on parade, and he looks fantastic. He's going to race in the next fortnight, all being well, probably over two miles on the flat, prior to a tilt at novice chases over the summer.
After spending a fair amount of time with the Geegeez geegees, John did his party trick, by showing us the full on cordon bleu diet that the horses are indulged with each day. Everything from a multi-vitamin syrup that looked like it was being poured from a can of Castrol GTX to the famously healing (and infamously expensive) manuka honey makes its way into our four-legged racing machines, via molasses, cider vinegar, oats, and the Lord only knows what other natural goodness.
Seriously, if there is a better fed string of horses in Britain, I want to grow another pair of legs and live there!
After the stable trip, it was time to hit the track. And, ostensibly at least, the track hit back! Results were tough to predict. Luckily for us, though, we had a number of judges in our midst - including Gavin's big-price-tipping brother, Gary, who rolled in with 16/1 Follow The Flag (also put up by Kieran, well done men!), and Tom Folan at 8's in the last.
Sadly, I had my own ideas and, with beer fueling betting (a fatally potent cocktail), I threw much cash at the 'away' meetings, and sustained reasonably heavy losses.
No matter, for the weather had done its best all day to crack a smile, and we would now retire to the bar at the Rutland Arms. (Too) many glasses of the black stuff later, and I retired shortly after midnight to my very comfortable lodgings at Mrs Merry's on Birdcage Walk (highly recommended).
This morning was difficult, hangover fully resident in cranium, and again I have Mrs Merry's marvelous culinary skills to thank for absorbing as much of my drunkenness from the night before as could have been expected.
All in all, we had a wonderful time, and the video below gives a little window on the day for those who weren't with us. (I stopped filming before the races, in order to concentrate fully on drinking and losing money...)
p.s. Remember to keep an eye out on Tuesday, for a brilliant freebie I've got for you!
p.p.s. Have a great weekend! 🙂