It is rare now in my days at the races out of the saddle that I become nervous about the races we are involved in.
Of course, I am eagerly anticipating horses running on lots of occasions, but nerves now aren’t something I feel that much as I have total faith in Sam or whoever is riding for us and can simply just look forward to the race in question. However, during the week just past I found myself nervous twice. As you know we headed to Exeter on Tuesday with hopes high we would have a good day but what followed was absolute magic with Dynamite Dollars once again confirming his status as a smart novice hurdler and Politologue helped by San Benedeto producing a memorable one-two in the Haldon Gold Cup. We were so proud of San Ben who, despite the ground being not to his liking, got on great with his new partner Bryony (more on her later) and tried his heart out to keep on incredibly well for second, filling his wonderful owners Mr and Mrs Vogt with pride.
The reason for my nerves at Exeter was pretty simple, as everyone is aware we are slightly short of top class horses at the moment, but there is a feeling Politologue could just be a genuine Grade One contender so without beating around the bush if he was that level of horse then he should have been winning, and win he did. Sam gave him a typically high-class ride always having him in the right place and, bar getting a little lonely up the run-in, they didn’t put a foot wrong. It was fantastic to win a big race like that for the Hales Family and the whole team so well done to everyone, from Lucy who rides him every day to Sophie who looks after him.
Chilled Harry ready to take his Cue
With a manic week of racing around the country, and I mean that in terms of going racing all over the place not speeding (don’t worry Mum) this week has given me chance to spend a lot of time in the car with a certain Mr Cobden who received some pretty exciting news this week involving a horse called Cue Card. We went to Ludlow and Warwick together this week and although we have known each other for some time now, I always enjoy having a chance at one-to-one conversations with these guys to see how they are getting on, what is on their mind and any other business.
It’s clear that Harry is right in the public eye at the moment and the racing world requires that little bit more from him and in the next two weeks pressure will of course build. However, spending those two days with him I couldn’t help but be impressed with his level-headed approach to the steady stream of telephone interviews and phone calls from anyone and everyone that only wanted to talk about one thing. He appreciates greatly the chance he has been given and I have no doubt he will ride Cue Card with the same skill he does all his other rides.
Magnificent Modus a muddy marvel
After putting on every single item of waterproof clothing I owned on Saturday, Paul and I headed to Wincanton hoping at some stage the rain would stop. It did at times but frankly it wouldn’t have mattered if there was a monsoon because days like Saturday don’t come around too often. It started with disappointment when Mont Des Avaloirs made a novicey mistake at the last before falling victim to gravity. Sam believed he had the race in safe keeping but luckily our day just got better and better and it wasn’t a bad omen.
Although I bang on about Modus all the time in this blog I’m going to again, because I absolutely love him. He has the most wonderful character in and around the yard that makes him a total joy to have about and I was completely thrilled to see him win his second chase in the fashion he did. Modus seems to have taken to fences with ease and his potent turn off foot is going to make him a formidable opponent in the coming months. Although when I complimented our rider he just laughed at me and said it was a steering job, I genuinely thought Sam did seriously well, having not ridden him on the track before, he put Modus to sleep and was ice cool over the last three fences. The best part about the Modus story for me was Aodhagan, his regular rider, who was at a wedding in Ireland for the weekend. As normal after Modus races he was the first person I rang to congratulate him: “You having a good day man?” I asked, “Great thanks, they’re just in the church now so I best go,” was his reply. I got the feeling an Irish wedding isn’t ever an early night and with the added incentive to celebrate I should imagine Aodhagan had a decent weekend. I loved how he’d stepped out of the church to check how his main man had got on, priorities unquestionably in the right place.
Bryony Present and correct with her new Man
Saturday though was all about the Badger Ales trophy despite Modus making it two Grade Two’s inside a week for the team. It was about 18 months ago when Paul rang Mark and Tessa Woodhouse telling them he had the perfect horse for them and that if they gave Paul chance to nurture him a little further then he would win them the Badger Ales Trophy. Their good friends Steve and Caroline got onboard as well excited at the long term ambition and the story began.
Mark Woodhouse’s company is called Hall and Woodhouse and along with making what I’m told is excellent beer they also own some of the finest pubs in the land so the Badger Beer Chase, for obvious reasons, is their pride and joy or their Gold Cup if you like. You can imagine the cheers that were going up when Present Man turned for home in front.
Present Man’s performance was special for so many people but perhaps most importantly he was special because of one person. The person on his back who guided him round a tricky course in ground softer than he wanted eking out every last ounce of energy at exactly the right time in order to win the race. Of course that person was Bryony who I’m sure hasn’t stopped smiling and rightly so as, in a competitive race with one of the finest horsemen around chasing her up the run-in, she kept her cool and executed her plan to the letter.
Present Man winning meant so much to so many people and it was summed up perfectly in the paddock with Harriet, who looks after him, in floods of tears such was her joy. When things like that happen it wouldn’t matter how much rain there was falling or how cold it was, Saturday was a magical day and I won’t forget it for a very long time.
The clock has just ticked past six thirty and Paul has arrived at the office, another week is beginning and it has a hard act to follow but as this cold day dawns I look forward to seeing what another week has in store.