Monday - well what?
Did you miss me? (writes Tony Stafford) I missed myself yesterday morning. Instead of staying semi awake half the night framing the words that have augmented the Sunday supplement these past years, I’ve been given the ultimatum from the powers that be to “do it on Monday”.
“There’ll be more to write about. Think of all those things that happen on Sunday that you have tried to predict the outcome of, only to fall flat on your face. Oh, and you might try to write a bit about racing now and then!”
So there I was, with a 6.45 a.m. alarm call which duly rang – I rarely lasted as long as the old 5.30’s – with no option but to go to the café after getting the Racing Post from the shop next door.
Normally I’d have written my bit and then seen in the Post that several things had already been countermanded. Now, I looked forward to a relaxed Set 1 – the everyday bargain of the year – while perusing the news, but needless to say the Post (I buy the only one), the Telegraph and one other hadn’t made it.
Of the usual, but apparently now taboo, stuff, I would have been making only a very short update on last week’s Icelandic theme. It should be noted, apart from saying the next two episodes of Trapped were pretty good too, I noticed in the credits that as well as all the ..ssons, there are nearly as many ..dottirs. Sensible system.
So with the FA Cup 6th round draw safely made, I’m up and running maybe 12 hours later than usual. But the big decision has to be, not who’ll win the Cup or even win at Cheltenham, but what to call this stuff.
It remains something of a supplement, but tacking Monday on to the front would be tedious. Google helps in that synonyms of the noun version of supplement include a few that have a decent ring. Appendage is promising as long as you can divest your thoughts from obvious sin-o-nims, as are tailpiece and codicil – note, codpiece does not mean the same thing. Coda would apply at a stretch, but I’m plumping for appendage. Any comment? The last thing I featured here that was at all comment-raising or thought-provoking from you was the confession of my counting syndrome, something that quite a number of you share apparently.
Naming horses is fun. Team Tooth has a master-namer in the owner himself and he’d probably approve of appendage if he ever got to see this. His skill is such that last week alone he outclassed all previous attempts, hopefully securing “Climax” for an Acclamation filly, “Catskill” for Dutch Art- Catfish and “Circuit” for a daughter of Lady Circe. Can’t believe any of them are available, even though the BHA site says so, but we have to wait and see for confirmation. Micky Quinn, who has been holidaying away from his post on the weekend show on Talksport, did try Sam Fox for the last-named, a daughter of Foxwedge, but the Fox mob were looking for a 'contribution'. Some chance!
Muddy ground continues to prevail on most tracks, and there really must be some sympathy for trainers who feel they have to get a ore-Cheltenham run into their horses whether the ground is too testing or not. So horses start short and trail home miles behind and while trainers and owners hope that the going at the Festival will be nearer the customary good or good to soft, they will need to have the entire horse to take advantage of it.
Many years ago, I think it was 1963, the year of the big freeze and virtually no racing in the UK, the Irish were expected to clean up as they had avoided the worst of the weather, but the home team did better than expected and that happened again in 1979 I think. I was at the Telegraph that year and the snow started around Christmas and didn’t leave the London streets for weeks, and it was obviously even worse around the country.
The news that Faugheen will not be lining up to collect the expected second Champion Hurdle shows the danger of ante-post betting as if it was ever anything else. The biggest certainties can go down for the slightest of reasons and the fact that the Ricci/Mullins/Walsh clan have several ready-made deputies is not much use to the man in the betting shop or on the 'net.
It’s not easy to win multiple Champion Hurdles, although Willie Mullins had the skill to bring back the 2011 winner Hurricane Fly for a second success two years later so the prospects for Faugheen in 2017 might be promising.
The previous multiple hero was Hardy Eustace, trained by the late Dessie Hughes in 2004 and 2005. He was in the field of 23 horses as a 12-year-old when Punjabi gave Ray Tooth his success in 2009. Brave Inca (2006), Sublimity (2007) and Katchit, successful the following year, made it the winners of the previous five championships behind Punjabi in that race, and Binocular, who scored the following year, was also there.
I hope when Punjabi turns up in the pre-racing parade on Champion Hurdle day, Tuesday March 15, to do his little dressage test under Rachael Kempster, the announcer will refer to that fact. We’re just delighted that at 13 he shows all the enthusiasm he did while racing and we’re still reminded how he was travelling coming down the hill in Binocular’s year before making a noise that convinced Barry Geraghty he couldn’t do it again.
If there’s anything to salvage from the paucity of acceptable ground, it’s the fact that most of the trainers can have a horse race-ready from the excellent facilities a large proportion of them have either in the major centres or in luckier, more privileged instances, at home. But the number of smaller trainers who manage to have horses primed after say 672 days – I always watch out for those – show “needing a run” may not be quite the condemning concept of old.
Even in the absence of such home comforts, trainers can send their horses for a work out on the all-weather tracks for a small fee. Not that this course of action is not in itself potentially dangerous. Just imagine how Emma Lavelle and owners the Hawksmoor Partnership felt the other day when they sent Claret Cloak to Lingfield for a 4yo and up Flat-race maiden, for which he started the 11-10 favourite.
Winner of six races and with a chase rating of 157, he was presumably having a pipe-opener prior to going back over fences for the first time since a good second back in September. Sadly, Timmy Murphy, now riding exclusively on the Flat, pulled him up and the nine-year-old, veteran of 22 races under National Hunt rules, had to be put down due to his injuries.
You might say that’s racing, as backers of Faugheen – those not having the run-guarantee insurance – probably would. But owning horses involves far more than just having something to take to the races. It goes deep into the emotions of the people that buy or breed and race them. Losing them can leave those involved almost inconsolable. Thankfully, despite everything, it is still a rare occurrence, at least relatively.