Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Rosettes - but no red ones!

Alas it was not meant to be.

Three horses, three solid chances, a second, a third and a fourth.

That's racing!  Wild Bill Hickok fared best with his second place by 3/4L to Western Gift (Andrew Cairns). Drawn on the inside second line, he was boxed in for much of the race and nearly came a cropper when trying to move out ahead of the erratic Come By down the back straight, clipping the wheel of the cart in front.  When he found racing room, the race was all but over and in all honesty the winner had the legs of him so second was the best we could have done there.

Star...well, Star ran her heart out all things considered.  It dawned on me that there are three types of C Class driver - those who are up and coming young drivers that will work their way up through the ranks (Grant Cullen was a C Class driver once remember),  those who hold a licence in the event they may pick up a catch drive from their stable and therefore seldom drive so haven't had the chance of winning races, and those who are stuck at that level and can't/won't progress.  As such, when the two drivers drawn 1 and 2 were instructed by their camps to lead out, it resulted in a speed duel and an unconfirmed record for the fastest ever quarter in Corbiewood's 49-year history.  Guess whose horse ran that 28.6 second quarter?  Yeah, you guessed right.  There was simply no way on this earth my horse was going to maintain any level of stamina after that, having travelled 1.55 speed on a track whose mile record is 3 or 4 seconds slower than that.  Needless to say, she was well beat when finishing third, although in hindsight with the winner going 2.05, she was never going to win.  We could have at least run for second, but then I wouldn't have witnessed that burst of speed that I knew was in there somewhere.

Young Stephen was the most unlucky - his driver, the Jockey, seemingly lost all ability to drive and considering the horse had drawn third out on the second line, gunned it and found himself parked.  The race was won in 2.04, and as much of a 2.04 horse as Stevie may or may not be, the pace was too quick and being made to run two wide was too much for an inexperienced horse.

As disappointing as all of the above may seem, WE WERE FINE. All three horses came off the track uninjured, as did the two drivers.  That remains the most important thing.  A little bit of prize money was collected, which softens the blow of defeat somewhat.  However, having foolishly made the decision to stay after racing for the entertainment, I found myself subjected to an alarming level of negative comments and apparent gratification that we had been beat, and so convincingly.  In fact, I was asked what my 'big, fat, useless thing' was doing going 28 to the quarter.  Following a number of comments about my 'useless' horse that evening, that tipped me over the edge and I must admit I had to take time out for a little bit of a cry.  There was criticism about both of the drivers, and although elements of this criticism were correct, people are very quick to criticise people who can or will do something that they won't.  I can see a bad drive; two of the three drives were in fact that, however there is a constant undertone of nastiness about the comments made at Corbiewood.

I have seen friends lose races this season for many reasons.  I have either consoled them, or remained silent on the matter.  I myself am gracious in defeat - after all, in 8 runs last season Missile only won once, however others cannot be gracious in your defeat.  It's alarming.

I spoke at length with a good friend of Smarty's, his clerk at Corbiewood who is associated strongly with the Gilvear family from Stirling.  They have had a lot of success over the years and currently have a number of good, or exceptional, racehorses (Rewrite History, Master Plan, Bestinthewest).  Ron has always been good to me since I moved to Scotland, and although honest, never speaks out of turn or with the intent to upset.  His attitude is to ignore it, because it will never change.  In Smarty's words, 'that's the way it's always been'.  I hate that phrase, I really do, because at one point in history women weren't allowed to vote, or work, or wear trousers, because 'that's the way it's always been'.  If we carried on doing things the way they've always been done, there would be no such thing as progress.

In history, there must have been individuals who were willing to stand up and try to break the mould.  I have to decide if I have it in me to try to do that.  I am aware that this post is very similar to the last one, but for those of you who have never been a part of the harness racing scene, you cannot begin to imagine how overwhelming it is, like a dark cloud hovering over you at all times.  I'm an optimistic, upbeat person.  I won't be beat!

Anyway, the racing over the weekend was fantastic.  The track was the busiest I have ever seen it and was well-supported by owners, trainers, drivers and of course the fantastic sponsors who allowed us to stage finals with such good prize money.  I was pleased to see Bob Craw's Robhall win the Matt Turner Memorial Final - after having received the horse as a 21st birthday present off Hamish Muirhead, he has had some tremendous success with him, including a heat at Appleby and the York 4YO Championship this season alone.  I was also delighted for Gary and Tony Allan's Pantihistamine winning a heat, after 40 runs without a win.  If ever there was a horse that would benefit under the proposed new handicap system, that would be it.  Well done to the Allan family for never giving up on 'Shane', because it would have been cheaper and easier to sell him or leave him in a field.  Also I have to get in a bit about Grant Cullen, who won the Alex Thomson Snr Memorial Rosebowl Final with the recent purchase for Bobby Rowan, Reverend Run (half brother to Corbiewood specialist Funtime Frankie).  I LOVE to see Grant winning, having defended him in a BHRC meeting when certain members of the Council were trying to block his application for a Class A licence to drive.  He's been clearing up at Corbiewood, but has also won at Appleby, Aberystwyth and Tir Prince this season.  He's 21 years old and is good at what he does, and he'll know better than most youngsters what jealousy from others feels like.  Plus we get on like a house on fire and he's a really good friend!

Next stop for our horses is Thursday 30th July at Corbiewood, if we can get a card.  Star and Wild Bill are entered so it's a waiting game now.  Stevie is currently on his way to Tir Prince with Hamish Muirhead to be collected by Michael O'Mahony, the young Irish lad who learnt his trade under John Richardson at Meadowbranch Stables in Dublin.  Having trained a horse for my father for the last 3 seasons, Smarty recommended him to a friend for a horse that needed a change of stable and has now decided that Michael is the man to teach Stevie how to race.  Wales has the benefit of half mile grass and hard tracks, plus Michael isn't afraid to travel up to York with horses.  He's a master of a late finish in a race, and ALWAYS looks cool, calm and collected when driving.  His style of driving will suit Stevie, who is too keen to hit the front right now.  Stevie will benefit from the type of racing on offer in Wales, and will get a good education while he's there.

I'm about to hit the road too to head for Tir Prince for the Breeders Crown UK and Ireland meeting.  I'm hoping to meet Steve Wolf, the gentleman who invited me to write for Harnesslink back last year, as he's over on a working holiday leading up to the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend in Portmarnock.

Over and out,

#1 Scottish groom

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