It is rare I don’t go racing on a Saturday during the season but, with a trip to my wonderful Fontwell on Friday, a journey to Ayr wasn’t on the cards for the next day so a Saturday afternoon on the sofa it was then.
While I wished I could have been in Scotland, it seemed like the type of afternoon that my pals and I should make an event of.
Kate, Ed, Ed, Aodhagan and I concluded we should have a Scottish National party (to celebrate the great race not drum up support for Nicola Sturgeon), optimistic we would have a good afternoon, but safe in the knowledge that if we didn’t we could call it a long overdue celebration of Vicente’s year win the year before.
Well, early signs weren’t great with not a huge amount to cheer about in the first couple of contests, but a quiet start to the day was clearly just a starter for what was to come. First, Zubayr produced an amazing run in the Scottish Champion Hurdle where he was foot perfect bar the last hurdle where landing hind legs first could well have cost him. He was followed by another solid effort from Romain De Senam and we were then ready for the big one.
Throughout the race we were pretty calm as Aodhagan, who is without doubt the brains of our bunch, called it half-way round assuring us Sam was in the perfect spot and Vicente would win and win he did and what fantastic performance it was. It was a ride from Sam that once again proved his brilliance in the saddle and reminded everyone of the abundance of his talent. He really is a fantastic rider and Vicente demonstrated his skill-set perfectly.
Since last season’s victory in Ayr, Vicente had been aimed all year at the Grand National, but after a fall at the first, a plan was re-drafted and he quite brilliantly did the rest. He possesses his jumping frailties but has a huge depth of stamina and a touch of class that on spring ground makes him a formidable stayer.
Of course Vicente has a big team around him from day to day, but Julie Fowler warrants a big well done in particular, she rides him, cares for him and loves him on a daily basis and was made up to see him repeat his victory.
Loss of a stable favourite a bitter pill to swallow
Winning a race like that is of course is as special as it gets and means everything, but as we cheered, we did so with Arpege D’Alene right in the forefront of our minds, hoping he would be ok.
Gut wrenchingly, Arpege had to be put to sleep after discovering that his injuries were too bad for him to be saved, a blow that has hit many in Ditcheat like a ton of bricks. Every horse has their own character in the yard with some more notable than others and of course different people love horses for different reasons, but Arpege was the apple of someone’s eye who epitomises why I believe people should own racehorses.
For the past two years Arpege has run in the colours of the lovely Mrs Barber, wife to Mr Barber our landlord, and maker of the finest bacon sandwich known to man. There wouldn’t be many days go by without Mrs Barber coming into the yard to provide ‘Pege’ with some finely sliced carrots or apples, he wouldn’t prick his ears for many people, but butter wouldn’t have melted when his mum was around.
The Barbers have been lucky enough to own some wonderful horses, they’ve won and lost in equal measure and gain huge enjoyment from their horses racing so for them along with Mr Mason and Sir Alex to lose ‘Pege’ was the bitterest of blows. Sadness is an emotion that will pass for sure, but I hope the memories that Arpege has given his owners and team will give everyone lots of reason to smile, in particular Mrs Barber who I was so very sad for.
The week, elsewhere away from our mixed fortunes in the Scottish National, has been an excellent one, Give Me A Copper left his mid-season blip long behind him and once again demonstrated his vast levels of staying power, Pilansberg and Capitaine gave the Broughton’s a marvellous week, Rouge Devils made it three this season while San Satiro not only had a walkover at Exeter but also put in a smooth display at Wincanton. He is a horse I believe will be well worth keeping on the right side of.
Fontwell foray never fails to deliver
The highlight away from Scotland though was easy though as I absolutely love going to Fontwell so I was thrilled to head off there on Friday in the company of Mum who I assured would love our destination way more than the big tracks she often finds herself at.
A drink and walk of the track behind us, we set about trying to win some races and our first victory came courtesy of Southfield Vic and perhaps more notably in the saddle from Lorcan Williams, a young man who has a big future riding. He is a nice young man, with a good seat and a relaxed temperament towards his work and I’m sure he will ride us plenty more winners in the future.
For me it’s scarcely believable but we are now in the final week of the season. The last week of my first year as assistant trainer and for me we are in the last week of a season I will never forget, for all the right reasons. There has been amazing days, forgettable days, hilarious moments, sad moments and just about everything else in between and, while the season is about to end, our quest for winners and good horses will not.
Nor will my love for my job or passion for racing. Sure there have been days through the year when things can get on your chest, but this game we are all involved in is an infectious little world and I am in love with it more now than I was at the start of the season. In my advancing years I just have one hope for the future which is that my love for this wonderful sport continues to grow.