Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Time to get back behind the keyboard...

Hello dear readers,

Please accept my sincere apologies for not writing sooner. Despite my greatest intentions of keeping a racing diary this summer during my first year as a trainer (albeit a very amateur one), all the aspects of my new life in Scotland conspired against me and resulted in me having very little time, or energy, to write.

I am however here now, and with the Scottish winter well and truly upon us (and with a total lack of heating or hot water in my new home), I find myself sat on my sofa, with a cup of tea and a small fan heater at my feet, wanting to tell you all about my adventures this summer, and my plans for the 2015 breeding and racing seasons.

I moved to Scotland at the beginning of May this year, just as the racing season kicked off with the first meeting at Tregaron in Wales. From the first weekend in May to the third weekend in November I hardly missed a meeting, and alongside my partner in crime Smarty, we travelled to meetings in Scotland, England and deepest, darkest mid Wales. The highlights for me included the Aberystwyth weekend, where I managed to photobomb both Saturday and Sunday final winners' photos (Camden Castellano with the Dunnes from Ireland and Wellfield Ghost, owned and trained by my good friend Roy Sheedy and his groom and one of my best friends, Rachel Sydenham); the last grass meeting of the 2014 season at Wolsingham, Co Durham, where one of my all-time favourite horses, Colonel Mustard, overcame a whopping 60 yard trail in the final to win with ease; and a bog standard Thursday night meeting at Haugh Field in July, where my very own training project, Merrington Missile, won the final after being beaten a short neck in his heat. It turned out to be our one and only victory as a partnership, however the goal was only ever to win one race and we achieved that on his first outing.

I shan't dwell on the experience of training Missile here, however the journey from purchasing him as a worn out, sour, over-raced four year old gelding at public auction to selling him, at a profit, as a safe and sensible riding horse to a 16 year old girl less than 12 months later, is something that will stay with me forever. What better way to learn about training a horse than jumping right in at the deep end and just doing it? I know I couldn't have done it without the time, patience, skill, knowledge and effort from the team around me, namely the Smarts - my boyfriend Smarty, his father (aka the Gaffer) and his uncle (aka the Jockey, or the Ponytail). As with all five of the horses we trained collectively this year, it was a team effort. Without the Gaffer, we wouldn't be able to get to the tracks to work out, or race, and he is a tremendous work out driver. If we gave him a time to work out in, he would do it to the second. Even with a horse like Missile, who initially had no brakes and would bolt, he perservered and suggested tack changes to make the horse more manageable. The finished product was a very responsive and sensible horse, for which I am grateful. Without the Jockey we'd have been trying to find a driver elsewhere, which isn't as easy as some would think. He may not be the next Stevie Lees, but he listens to instructions and he knows the tracks we race on well enough to very often dictate the races he's in. Predictable he may be, but in a sport known for its lack of predictability (and for being full of cowboys), predictable suits me just fine.

So after all the ups and downs of the 2014 season, I find myself over the short spell of being glad the season is over and already looking forward to the 2015 season. Our plans aren't set in stone yet, but as they become clearer I will keep you updated. I'll sign off for tonight, but rest assured I will be back soon to share my thoughts on a few matters which are currently affecting this sport that I hold so dear.

Stick with me folks, this could be a fun ride!