Doh! As Homer Simpson so succinctly put it, dear reader, I rather cocked it up over the weekend. It all started when the Geegeez geegee, Khajaaly, ran for the first time in 73 days, in an innocuous enough event at Wolverhampton...
To remind you, we bought Khajaaly in early Summer, and had high hopes for him. Alas, in his first three runs he seemed to be alarmingly regressive. Hindsight, being the wonderful thing that it is, clearly shows that poor old Khajaaly was feeling the effects of a hard season having had six races this year prior to our acquisition.
Three subsequent runs made nine in total and one knackered beastie. Step forward Julia 'The Judge' Feilden. Training horses is a game I will never know more than scraps about, and I am always happy to leave my affairs in the hands of people better qualified than me.
So, when Julia suggested some time off, I immediately agreed. Firstly, as I say, she knows infinitely more than me about the nuances and foibles of nags, and secondly, to be frank, I was at my wit's end in terms of what the hell to do with him!
Seventy-three days later and Khajaaly was ready to roll again. Julia, John and the team were all making positive noises about how he was looking, much fresher apparently. They said he was working well and, when I spoke to Julia on Friday morning, she said something she very rarely says.
Julia said to me, "I think he'll win today". In all the time I've known her (ten years), I can remember her saying that maybe four times. Once was when Spruce was backed off the boards (16's into 5/2) on UK debut and was beaten a fast diminishing head, prior to running up a sequence of four straight wins. Once was when Love's Design won a seller by FIVE lengths, and once was last Friday.
I told the members and backed him accordingly. All morning he'd been 10/1 and 12/1 with the bookies so I thought 18/1 on Betfair was great value. When he went 28/1 on Betfair I went in again. When he went out to 46 (!!) on Betfair I couldn't justify any further depth to my wager, so I let it ride.
He opened up 33/1 on course, before some of the Geegeez Racing Club members punted him into 25/1. To render an even longer story ever so slightly shorter, he cruised through the race and - though only winning by an official margin of half a length - he bolted up. The jockey had no need to resort to more than hand urging.
If you have Racing Post membership, you can watch the race here:
If you have attheraces membership (free), you can watch the race here:
When I spoke to Julia afterwards, using what very little remained of my voice, I must have sounded like Barry White with laryngitis. I was hoarse from yelling at our horse!
Anyway, Julia told me that Khajaaly had been working as well as Spirit of Sharjah, another horse in her yard, rated 97. Given that Khajaaly was rated 60, I wondered if this meant Spirit was no good or Khajaaly was flying. As luck would have it, I was able to find out on Saturday, when Spirit of Sharjah ran in a very competitive Class 2 handicap at Lingfield.
He had an ugly 'car park' draw in 13 of the 14 runners, and I had a very small bet just out of interest. He cruised through the race in the same way that Khajaaly had done around 24 hours earlier and, although only winning by a short head, he too was value for more as the jockey only got serious in the last 100 yards after Spirit had trouble getting a clear run. He returned 10/1.
So, Spirit of Sharjah will now be rated 100 or so.... and our boy Khajaaly has been working alongside him! And he's going to be rated 65 or so! Of course, life is never as simple as first appearances suggest, so our ostensible handicap snip may well end up getting rolled over. But I have to say, in 0-65 company, I'd REALLY fancy him to double up. 🙂
[STOP PRESS: I've just heard that Khajaaly went up four pounds to a rating of 64. His next run is currently mooted to be Wolverhampton on 11th December, but that may change.]
As if that wasn't enough, Julia had one more - extremely unlikely - ace up her sleeve. Rated just 48 on the flat, and having her third run over hurdles, Baggsy had recorded eighth and tenth places in her previous two attempts at distance and obstacles. But one thing this daughter of Statue of Liberty adores is soft ground.
She'd run by far her best recent race on the soft at Yarmouth and it had come up soft again at a notoriously testing track, Towcester. This was a selling hurdle, and to call it moderate is to overstate the quality of beast on display. Baggsy opened up 40/1 and was backed into 28's at the off. I had two quid win and place, much more in token hope than any kind of expectation.
As the race progressed, Mattie Bachelor kept her out the back. For the first mile, it was hard to tell whether this was the jockey's choice or a necessity for the horse! But they went off too quickly for the grade and ground, and they came back. Oh boy, did they come back.
Baggsy never threatened to win until the last furlong but she still had five in front of her. Five yards from the line, she was still second, four yards from the line, she had prevailed. Amazing, and hope now springs eternal that in bad ground juvenile selling hurdles, perhaps over slightly further than two miles, Baggsy might actually win again!
Undoubtedly it was a red letter weekend for Julia, John and the team at Harraton Stables and, whilst I managed to back all three - to wildly disparate stakes - the 8,007/1 treble alluded me (and, I'm guessing, every other punter in the country)!
Onwards, and upwards!
On a completely separate subject, my sincere thanks go out to all of the 36 people who applied for my 'apprentice' position. In actual fact, it's more of a 'right hand man' role than an apprentice.
I'm not being flippant when I say the quality of the applications surprised me. I'd expected to have a couple of standout emails, from no more than a handful of missives in total
Wrong! It's fair to say that around two-thirds of the applicants would have been able to help me, and picking amongst them was tough and required an objective head.
Eventually, I managed to whittle down to five super candidates: three currently run websites that you may very well frequent; one ran a football forum for five years; and the fifth was a senior IT manager before a recent lifestyle / career change freed up much of his time.
I spoke with all five yesterday, and that did little to make my task easier! Today, I'm ruminating and will be in touch with the quintet tomorrow. It's been really inspiring to learn that so many people want to be involved in a more hands on capacity in the Geegeez community and, without sounding like too much of a 'happy clapper', I'm humbled yet again by what a fantastic mob you are. THANK YOU!
I'll be back later in the week with an ante-post view on the Gold Cup. Without spoiling the surprise too much, I'll say this. The last horse older than ten to win the Gold Cup was... What A Myth in 1969.Ten year olds do okay, but you have to go back to the Cool's, Dawn and Ground in the nineties to find the last winning horse with a double digit age.
Given that Denman and Kauto Star are both to be eleven on January 1st, and that Imperial Commander (currently sidelined with a minor injury) will be ten, and that the fourth favourite, Big Buck's is an odds on shot for the World Hurdle (and can't jump fences anyway), I make the race absolutely wide open!
Whether I can find the winner is a moot point for sure, but taking out the first four in the betting will certainly assist in the quest for value!!
More on Friday.