That basically sums up racing across the UK and Ireland from the last fortnight, in terms of Scottish owned and trained horses. I've written about my trip to Ireland, and also about how our horses did on 6th August at Corbiewood.
If you read the report on Harnesslink before you continue reading the rest of this, then you will find out that on Thursday 13th August, Star finished second and Wild Bill won his race. There was a lot of drama preceding the meeting which was of a rather unsavoury nature. I made reference to this in previous posts and also warned others that this would happen. Regardless of the forewarning or knowledge that the whole thing would explode, it was still an incident that should not have happened. Those concerned should hopefully be aware that they brought themselves and the sport in Scotland into disrepute. Let that be the last that I mention it.
Back to Star to begin with, first up in race one. People fancied her; I had no idea why. I had a sneaky for Springfield Gem off the back of a win the week before (and the owner defiantly telling me in Potmarnock that she was going to win the following week and then at Appleby Brough meeting). The driver was somewhat less confident, as based on times this season Star was a good 2 seconds better than the rest. I must admit, before the race I didn't see the eventual winner as the winner, but at the bottom end of the handicap system a lot of horses go under the radar prior to runs like that. Star was drawn 4 on the gate, which means that we have still yet to obtain pole position which would suit her more than it would suit any other horse in the country (apart from maybe Astounding and Meadowbranch Josh). She led out, as usual, in a 30 first quarter after Just Look At Me pushed her on her inside; Greentree Shorty challenged her before the half and kept her under pressure before tucking back in. Down the back straight for the final time Greentree Shorty came again and had a lot more in the tank than Star, who stayed on well for second to beat Springfield Gem by a nose, thanks to her enormous bucket head that many people in my life have slagged over the years.
|Greentree Shorty puts Star under pressure at the half|
|Star has passed the finish line 8 times this season in front - just never at the actual finish|
|Not the 'red' rosette we wanted!|
|The horse that gives me her all|
I hadn't even finished washing her down when the owner of the third-placed horse came to the lorry. He is friends with the Jockey so I didn't think this was untoward. However, because he had admitted before the race that he 'doesn't like losing' and because I was clearly so delighted even though I'd been beat, he felt the need to tell me that had his horse been trying, it would have beaten mine.
That, folks, is what you call raining on someone's parade. Or being a killjoy, a spiteful, bitter, sore loser who doesn't like seeing other people happy when they're in the same position as you. Trier or not, you do not go around saying that to the owners and trainers of your competition. His card has been well and truly marked, that's for sure. There is little for me to say on the matter, or to him.
Wild Bill then raced in the penultimate race off 10 yards drawn 3. The Jockey was given strict instructions to go forward and be competitive from an early stage, as the last few weeks he'd found himself boxed in, much to his and the horse's discomfort. So that's what he did - he went forward with quite an aggressive drive and landed second on the rail for much of the race. He challenged the leader down the back straight and failed to pass him, and as they rolled off the last bend he looked to be letting the horse amble home for second, but then something triggered in his mind and he went about the horse in a manner that I have never seen him do in all the years I have known him. It worked, because Bill got up by a nose literally on the line to win his novice and make it two wins and three seconds this season. The Gaffer was walking his horse down the track to collect his rosette and meet me in the winner's circle patting him and saying 'well done Bill, good boy Bill' and it just made me laugh because he's not a man of many words, nor is he a man for open displays of affection to his horses (he refers to them as 'the little horse', 'the big horse' and 'the black horse' - that's Bill, Star and Stevie respectively). It seems that my enthusiasm and enjoyment of weekly racing with a straight forward horse is rubbing off on him as well.
I have to take this opportunity to say that for all the stick our driver gets for being a one-trick pony, or not very good, or too old, he drove two exceptional races last Thursday night. We gave loose instructions which he followed, and the rest he did because he is actually good at the job.
The weekend saw us at York for the 2 day PACT charity meeting. I didn't see a huge amount of the racing because I was working the second pitch for Smart Bookmakers which required a great deal of concentration and thought. I did however find the time to chat to an absolute hero amongst equestrians, A P McCoy. I have always been in the Ruby camp, and I've had several encounters with the rather charming Barry Geraghty (one involved him flashing me, which went down a treat!), but nonetheless I have the utmost respect for an individual who has put themselves through so much physically AND mentally as Tony McCoy has (he was Tony when I was growing up, not A P). Bernard McGovern, bookmaker and professional talker, and I, didn't beat about the bush and when Frank Huschka and Willie Forrester brought A P up to speak to us, we got stuck in to it. We had a few photos and he stood up on the joint for a short spell and then I started talking to him about the lesser known skill for which he is mildly famous - his writing. I've read his biography, his autobiography and his first novel which I really enjoyed. I joked with him about how much of it he'd written and then asked when the next one was coming out. I was delighted to find out that the second one is complete and is a follow on from the first story, but it won't be out until he publishes his memoirs as his publishers have prioritised this. We agreed that the novel is far more important than his memoirs! For someone who has always come across so cold and without personality, he has such a sense of humour and is so humble. All that time during his career he was simply focussed on the job at hand, and not remotely interested in being a sports personality. That is what he is though, a true athlete and sporting hero but also a very down-to-earth and charming man. I tweeted the selfie of us and was more than a little surprised to receive a reply from the man himself, which rounded off quite a good day!
|An aspiring novelist with an established novelist - the legendary A P McCoy|
Whilst at York, word also got to me via Kayleigh Evans (the partner of Michael O'Mahony) that Young Stephen had won his novice race at Amman Valley. In the space of 4 days, our team had managed to pick up two firsts and a second. I had asked Paul Moon to keep an eye out for Stevie and this is the photo that his wife, Pam, took for me:
What an absolute sap that horse is! He is racing on Sunday at Boughrood which is where we will be heading after the Crock of Gold Final night at Tir Prince on Saturday night. Can't wait to see him.
But before then we have Corbiewood tonight and once again the two old faithfuls are on the card. Once again, Star finds herself in a race that, bar an act of God, she cannot win. Master Plan for the Gilvear stables requires a win to fall into the correct handicap band for Tregaron next weekend, therefore has entered for Corbiewood tonight with very little chance of getting beat (the horse recorded the fastest time of the day on the Saturday of Aberystwyth). Evenwood Coolsting for the Mackenzie clan also makes a return and will be hard to beat. As is always the case, I just want my horse off the track in one piece; a rosette would be a bonus but I'm not expecting the earth tonight, because one of these weeks I will actually find myself with the best horse in the race, and a decent draw, and Lady Luck on my side! I don't ask for much do I?!
Wild Bill is in a more open event in the race before us, so has chances. The same applies as with Star and there is no pressure on the little horse, but I would love to see him in the placings again to keep his brilliant record.
To round off this rather long post, I just want to say thank you to people for their support with all this writing. I have never declared myself to be good at anything, because I'm really not. I'm a Jack of all trades, master of none. I started writing because I found it to be 1) a good way of advertising the sport from an insider's perspective; and 2) a release for all of the stuff that goes on inside my head. Writing calms me down, it allows me to pour everything out. The intention was never to have people approaching me at the races and telling me how good my posts are, which has happened. So I am grateful and glad that the people who read this enjoy it. I want to try and remind people why we fell in love with this sport, simply through my experiences of it on a daily basis. I even received the following glowing reference from the bookmaker I worked with all weekend, the honorable Corbiewood regular himself, Mr Bernard McGovern:
"Anybody who is remotely interested in harness racing could do worse than read this young,vibrant gorgeous,energetic,punchingaboveherweightinthe lovestakes,Groom/owner/worker/doitall for the Smart stables, Her Blog is a tremendous walk through the life of a girl who attends more meets in a month than some folk cram into a season.
A breathe of fresh air in an otherwise pool of stagnicity"
I think he might have been angling for something over the weekend but he did NOT get any special treatment whilst in my company! He should have learnt by now that I am a tough nut to crack, although flattery will get people everywhere with me!
Happy racing folks!
Over and out,