Tonight we're going for another crack at a win with both Star and Wild Bill, although if I thought we were up against it last week, we're even more up against it this week.
There doesn't appear to be such a thing as an 'easy' race anymore...last season Eternal Flame picked up three wins at Corbiewood early doors despite being no more than 85% fit (she beat Rhyds Rainbow at the start of the season before Rainbow went on to win numerous 3YO stakes races and set a new record for 3YOs at York). An injury put her out for the remainder of the season before she had a chance to hit peak fitness.
In hindsight, it says more about how good she was than how 'easy' those races were. Fortunately the injury wasn't career-threatening, however the time off wouldn't have made it viable for her to return to training (Smarty & me could have trained her through October and November as the season was extended, but as she is the Gaffer's horse and his interest wanes around September due to work commitments and his racing pigeons, it wasn't our place to take over training her).
Tonight Star will find herself in a heat alongside Camden Casper (winner of his maiden at Tir Prince and his novice at Appleby), Ayr Prestige and the always-improving Evenwood Ruthless. Quite frankly, the chances of her even picking up a rosette are slim. Casper has the potential to gallop; Evenwood Ruthless has galloped in the past, although only the once and has never looked like it since. If we draw the one hole, we lead out but she's not to get gunned like she did last week. Even if the Jockey could hold his position and jack the pace, the race is full of drivers who want to head for tops. However, I am not bothered by defeat. To get beaten by better horses than yours is what racing is about. Some of those horses aren't 'true' grade 1 horses, in that they haven't found their level within the handicap system. As the system is based on prize money won as opposed to an independen handicapper's opinion of horses' ability, there will be a number of horses that whilst working their way through the handicap system, find themselves too good for the class they're in. My horse is not one of those horses, but the horses that she must race against now will gradually move up the system and she will no longer need to race them. New horses may come through, but as the season progresses, less and less new horses come out. We may sneak a race some day.
As for Wild Bill, off the back of two second-placed runs (at Aberystwyth and Corbiewood last week), he is slightly fancied. However, he is in beside Mayrita, a maiden that went 2.06 last week and still got beat. Wild Bill has yet to go that fast, if he can, and although times are deceptive he will be up against it if the mare keeps improving. If we get rosettes with either of them, I'll be happy.
Stevie is away; he travelled down with Hamish Muirhead to Tir Prince and was collected to go to his new training establishment for the next couple of months. His trainer jogged him yesterday and says he's a good mover. Whenever we sell horses or send them away to be trained, we pride ourselves on their behaviour. It is testament to the way that they are broken in and handled (and disciplined) that they go away from home and we receive good reports back. I would hate for someone to come back to me saying that a horse we had had was ill-mannered or badly behaved. I know Stevie is a bit hot-headed and doesn't like jogging in company, and had I not been in full-time work this summer then we could have jogged him and Star together which would have helped him settle. However, he is a gentleman to catch, tack up, jog, wash down. He doesn't kick, bite or fidget. He is good to shoe, clip and load, and travels well. He's well behaved in the stable too and quiet to handle. I am proud of the way he's turned out. Even Missile, who hates me and is an absolute sod to handle in the cross ties, is well-behaved when he's on a lead rope, even stood in a field with horses galloping around him. He knows that when he's being held, he's not to mess around. And this from a horse that wanted to take chunks out of me when I first got him and was described by all as 'handy with his back legs'!
Tuesday night at Tir Prince in terms of the racing was excellent; in terms of the bookmaking wasn't so good. That's the nature of the beast. I was fortunate enough to meet Steve Wolf, the man who encouraged me to write after reading my old blog when I was down in Wales. I think it was him that said I had a 'flair for writing', or if that statement came from somebody else reading this then please correct me! We chatted briefly about the racing here, the racing where he's from (Florida) and his trip to Scotland to hopefully visit Corbiewood tonight. I did warn him that Corbiewood wasn't the same as Tir Prince, because as much as I am proud of our little track, it's probably quite underwhelming to the general public and most definitely to one of harness racing's most prominent international journalists. Steve reassured me that when he first found racing, it was at the fairs where maybe six owners would each pay in $50 and then race for the $300 pot, so he had seen the sport from the bottom to the top. It made me think about my time in the sport, and how I have seen it from the bottom to the top - from Wales & Borders racing up and down the steep hills at Hundred House Show, to Crock of Gold night at Tir Prince when Laneside Lexus beat the boys from the outside hole (she was subsequently exported to Canada to race). When you have witnessed the sheer desire to race that the people who compete with Wales & Borders possess, it never leaves you. To race for £20 or £30 simply to be able to say that you won; there are so many more trophies on offer with them as well because the incentive isn't really money. Of course there's the gamblers, and the people who 'keep' their horses for the big meetings (Caersws, Penybont) but the rest is made up of people who just want to race. I seem to carry that attitude with me as well.
So it's Corbiewood tonight, then Elizabeth O'Neil's 50th birthday party tomorrow night (basically just a party for racing people), York on Saturday and a day off on Sunday. I won't be at Bells Field (@ Haugh Field) as I had made other plans. Sometimes a day off from it once in a while does you the world of good.
Wish us luck tonight, goodness knows we'll need it!
Over and out,
#1 Scottish Groom