Monday, 26 October 2015

An interview with...Tony Allan.

Following on from my first interview with Scott Murray, I am now pleased to introduce the other heat and final winner from Friday 29th May, Tony Allan.  Tony is one of the 'young guns' of Corbiewood; at 21 he definitely falls into that bracket, but more importantly it's young people like Tony, and indeed Scott (amongst many others) who are the future of this sport not only in Scotland but across the whole of the UK.  Tony has  had some success this summer with Lyons Pass, a purchase from Ireland, and other horses including Pantihistamine and the newly-acquired American Gigolo.  Following his purchase of Brywins Mayhem at Builth Sale last Monday, Tony found himself at the centre of one of the most embarassing debacles seen at Corbiewood when he was singled out by a BHRC official for breaching a rule whereby a horse that was allegedly under his care and entered to race with him as a trainer was not, in fact, located at his premises.  I am sure that Tony would have accepted the punishment of not being allowed to race had he been the only person in breach of this rule; however a further four horses entered to race on the same day were also identified to not be under the care of the individuals licensed as their trainers.  Unfortunately fairness and integrity did not win on the day and Tony found himself the victim of an inability by a representative of the governing body to apply the rules across the board, as per the Chairman's express views.

Here's the Q&A from the driver known affectionately as 'more panic than Yannick'...

For anybody who doesn’t know you, how long have you been involved in the sport and where did it all start? 

My family have owned and trained horses for as long as I know, also with my grandad's family owning and training the great 'Gay Gordon'.

Which is the best horse you’ve driven in your career?

When I was over in America I had the pleasure of sitting behind 'Dudes The Man' a fair few times.  He's shown top form this year by winning The Adios Pace. Over here it has to be Pantihistamine; the handicap system and his age are catching up with him but he was a star for us a couple years ago.  (Note: Pantihistamine, aka 'Shane', won a heat of the Matt Turner Memorial on Friday 24th July this year after 40 luckless runs).

Which horse, past or present that you haven’t driven, would you like to drive and why?

Stoneriggs Mystery. Hands down, I just think it would be great to drive him, to feel first hand what a true champion feels like to drive!

Who did, or do, you admire as a driver?

Rocker Laidler. I admire how him and Alexis can be so successful both training and driving so many horses year after year.

Which is your favourite track in the UK and Ireland?

Aberystwyth. Perfect time of year, perfect track, perfect location.

Have you driven outside of the UK and Ireland? If not, where in the world would you choose to drive?

Would love to be able to drive in America in the future, just a different ball game over there!

Have you ever considered moving abroad to become a professional driver?

Hopefully in the future I can eventually move to America and work with horses over there.

Do you any plans to return to America this coming winter to work?

Hopefully, as long as I can get things sorted for it.

If you could change one thing about the sport in the UK, what would it be?

The outside perspective of harness racing of those not involved in the sport, I think it puts off many from coming to even spectate.

Name one thing that you would NOT change.

The atmosphere that's generated in a good finish to a race in a few tracks in the UK, the crowd getting involved, which isn't really that common in the U.S. and Canada.

Which is your favourite meeting in the UK racing calendar?

The Aberystwyth weekend in July.

How much do you consider information from a trainer when you drive?

On horses you haven't sat on before, I feel it's best to at least take into consideration what information you're told about the horse, before you make your own decisions.

Out of all the races you have won, which has been the most memorable? Which race would you like to win that you haven’t already?

Probably winning heat and final on Naughty Nellie (Friday 24th July), I had never driven the horse and had never won a final before so I was really happy to win the final both for myself and the owners Caroline and Plute Kennedy. I would love to win a race at Musselburgh if the meeting races again.

How would you describe your driving style? i.e. pace setter, strong closer, rail hugger? 

Not entirely sure to be honest, got a few horses who prefer different driving styles. If I'm honest I'd probably say I'm more of a pacesetter.

Where do you see yourself in the sport 10 years from now?

Hopefully as an A Class driver.

What do you do for a living, seeing as driving isn’t your full time occupation?

I was working in retail until I went on a working trip to America over the winter. I'm currently training a few horses and occasionally working doing landscaping.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of racing?

Football. I try to play as much as I can but I don't have much time with doing all the horses!

If you could visit one place in the world, where would it be and why?

Probably Rome, not sure why but it's been somewhere I'd like to visit for a while.

You’re stranded on a desert island – what five things can’t you live without?

Internet, cheese, orange juice, probably my horses, and my friends. (Note: cheese?!)

You’re holding a dinner party for five famous guests (alive or dead) – who would they be and why?

Frank Sinatra, Stanley Dancer, Kevin Hart, Steve Carell , Jennifer Aniston . A mix of of beauty, humour, class and knowledge.

If you were invisible for a day, what would you do?

Probably tapping people on the shoulder to get a laugh!

If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would spend your winnings on?

Can't lie, probably move to America and buy a load of yearlings.

Which actor would play you in a film about your life?

Jim Carrey.

When was the last time you got into trouble?

Probably the other day from my sister, for leaving the house in a mess. Common occurrence. (Note: since this interview took place, Tony has fallen foul of an inconsistently-applied rule as mentioned above.  Which cannot be said for numerous others who were also breaking the same rule).

Describe yourself in three words.

Sarcastic ,accident-prone, determined(Note: technically that's four words, but I'll let you off with it Tony!)

Tony Allan at Corbiewood

Tony driving Naughty Nellie in her low grade final win at Corbiewood, 29th May 2015.

Thank you to Tony Allan for spending his time answering the questions above.  I'd like to wish him all the best for the last meeting of the season and for next season, both with his own horses and the drives he picks up along the way.  We really need to practice our duet ready for the next karaoke session at Corbiewood young man!

Over and out,

#1 Groom

Sunday, 25 October 2015

A rule for one...

Less than 24 hours ago I was contacted by the raceday secretary at Corbiewood to advise that Brywins Mayhem was not being allowed to race today (Sunday 25th October).  Having purchased the horse at Builth Wells on Monday 19th October, Tony Allan had arranged for the horse to be transported back to Scotland by Rocker Laidler.  However, this involved the horse stopping over in Co Durham before being delivered this morning prior to racing.  In the interim, Tony entered the horse to race at Corbiewood today, with himself as the horse's trainer.

The story, as told to me initially, was that the BHRC had been tipped off that Rocker Laidler did not have the correct horses at the correct premises, following the ban imposed on Alexis' trainer's licence.  As a result of this tip off, Roy Sheedy (BHRC Chairman) and Kirsty Lee (BHRC Secretary) visited Rocker's premises on Friday and scanned the microchips, whereby they came across Brywins Mayhem, who was supposed to be in the care of Tony Allan in Scotland.  Fred Hay, BHRC Steward, resides in the vicinity of Corbiewood and subsequently paid a visit to Tony's stables yesterday (Saturday) to request to see Brywins Mayhem.  Tony advised that the horse was due to be delivered by Rocker the following day.  He was advised by Fred Hay that this was a breach of the rules and that the horse would not be allowed to race as it was not currently under his care, despite him claiming to be the trainer of the horse.  Tony was requested to attend a meeting prior to racing to discuss the outcome of the matter.

It transpires that only elements of the above are true.  Firstly, it is CORRECT that the BHRC were tipped off that Rocker and Alexis did not have the correct horses at the correct premises.  It is CORRECT that Roy Sheedy visited the registered training premises of Brian Laidler and scanned the microchips of the horses there, and was satisfied that the correct horses were at the correct premises and had been for some time.  It is INCORRECT that Brywins Mayhem was located at these premises, as he was in fact elsewhere.  Based on this, I can only deduce that the BHRC were informed that Brywins Mayhem was not under the care of Tony Allan by somebody wishing to report Tony himself.

I agreed to attend the meeting with Tony in order to represent him, firstly as I had concerns over who would be present at the meeting (as this was a BHRC matter, only the Regional Steward and BHRC Steward would be entitled to be in the room; track stewards should not be concerned with the matter), and secondly because in the space of 20 minutes I was able to identify a further four cases of the exact same breach of the rules, for horses also entered to race at Corbiewood today.  Tony explained that when the Regional Steward and Fred Hay had met with him to discuss the horse's whereabouts, they had not been interested in the details of these other examples of the rule breach.

Last night, once I had digested this information, I was furious.  Once again this summer, I was about to witness the victimisation of a young licence holder and this time I was not going to allow it to happen without putting up a fight.  I emailed Roy Sheedy, Jim McInally and the BHRC detailing the four other examples of the exact same rule breach, with the evidence that I had suggesting that they were not under the care of the individuals listed as their trainers.

This morning at 08:30, I received a call from Jim McInally to discuss the contents of my email.  I was assured that this would be dealt with.  At 10:30 I received notification from the raceday secretary that one of the four had been withdrawn from racing by the owner as a direct result of the investigation being carried out by the BHRC.  I arrived at Corbiewood at 12:30 fully expecting to be attending a meeting with Tony Allan, Charles Inglis and Fred Hay.  Naturally, the rumour mill was rife and the opinions of numerous non-licence holders were being broadcast, as well as some of the guilty parties trying to justify their dishonesty.  I called Jim McInally and requested an update.  I was advised that one of the four horses had been withdrawn from racing by the owner, and that the other three were under investigation by the BHRC and such investigations would be carried out by Fred Hay this afternoon at Corbiewood.  When I asked if the remaining three horses would be allowed to race, I was advised that there is a 'grey area' whereby horses are allowed to run once in the previous owner's name once the BHRC are made aware that a horse has been sold.  Arguably, two of the three horses would be in breach of this rule in racing today as they raced last week in the previous owners' names, and no transfers of ownership had been received by STAGBI as of Friday afternoon.  I then received a call from Roy Sheedy who was in Ireland, and upon explaining the content of my email and the conversations with Jim, was advised that I 100% had the backing of Roy and his agreement that the rules MUST be applied across the board.  He agreed that in stopping Brywins Mayhem from racing but allowing three other horses to race was tantamount to victimisation and would not reflect on the BHRC very well when they had been made aware of the other examples.  He advised that should I need his support during the meeting, I was to contact him.

At 13:35, after the ballot for positions had been delayed, I asked Charles Inglis if Fred Hay was going to be in attendance and if we were indeed having a meeting.  He advised that he would contact Fred immediately as I felt that racing could not proceed until the meeting had been held.  That was the last that I saw of Charles Inglis until five minutes before I left the paddock office following the 'meeting'.

At 13:45 I was forced to speak to Ian Dawson, chief steward, to advise of my serious concerns.  In the absence of the BHRC Steward and with the Regional Steward now MIA, I was left with no other option but to explain fully the circumstances to the chief steward, who was in agreement with me.  A meeting was called in the office, to which I was not initially invited.  I was cordially invited in to the meeting by another committee member, who had very little knowledge of the issue.  Fred Hay finally arrived at approximately 13:55.  During the meeting, at which there were 3 SHRC committee members, a BHRC Steward, the chief steward, 2 track stewards and a trainee track steward, I put forward the exact same case I had made in my email to the BHRC office, Jim and Roy.

Three horses were due to race at Corbiewood that were being trained by individuals that were not their listed trainers.  In the event that one of those horses failed a dope test, who would be liable for the costs of a hearing and to serve any ban imposed?  Fred Hay as a BHRC representative was unable to answer my questions.  He advised me that the first that he had heard of this issue was at 10:00 this morning, which was not sufficient time for any action or investigation to take place.  It was, however, enough time for Jim to look into one of the four which had resulted in a withdrawal.  I was then asked why I had not brought this to the BHRC's attention sooner than at 'half one in the morning' (it was in fact just after midnight, and I do not appreciate the insinuation that I deliberately withheld information until an ungodly hour).  I replied that we had ALL turned a blind eye to this endemic rule breach and would have continued to do so until the end of the season had someone not decided to grass on Tony Allan.  I then asked him why he had chosen not to do anything about one of the examples considering he had walked past its stable every week that he attended Corbiewood to race, and had chosen to ignore its presence when investigating Tony the day before.  He was unable to answer.

Despite my serious concerns, which were echoed somewhat by the chief steward and track stewards, I was advised that no official complaint had been received by the BHRC and therefore the three horses due to race would be allowed to race.  Another individual in the room asked what all the fuss was about considering there was only a couple of weeks' racing left anyway.  Yeah, why not, let's all just chuck the rulebook on the bonfire and go crazy next weekend.  Who needs rules?

I had clearly advised that Roy Sheedy was in agreement with my proposed course of action.  I made it clear that the decision made today lay with Fred Hay, which he accepted.  As a BHRC Steward, he has willingly chosen to ignore an official complaint made to the BHRC by me and willingly failed to apply a rule to a number of individuals who are in breach of it after singling out one person to whom the rules apparently apply.  No investigations into the three horses appear to have been made during the course of the afternoon.

I walked out of that office in absolute disbelief as to what I had just seen and heard.  There is now, as clear as crystal, one rule for some and another rule for others.  I will not waste my time trying to establish what the motives for this inconsistency in the application of the rules are.  I have already seen first hand how offences and rule breaches are swept under the carpet if the face fits, whereas others are threatened with fines and licence suspensions for the same offences.  None of this actually comes as a surprise to me.  I cannot blame the track stewards for inconsistency in the application of the rules when the officials above them are equally as inconsistent.  This is the example that they have been set.

I am bitterly disappointed in the outcome of today's meeting.  I had no intention of throwing people under the bus; however, I was not going to allow Tony Allan to be made a scapegoat by certain individuals, when numerous others have been guilty of the exact same offence, and for much longer.  I do not know where our chairman goes from here, when those in official positions underneath him go against his wishes simply because they can.  The excuse that the BHRC office was not open today in order for investigations to be carried out is bullshit, because Brywins Mayhem was investigated yesterday.  Last time I checked, the BHRC office wasn't open on a Saturday.

I was not born yesterday.  I will not accept shoddy or incomplete answers, or downright dishonesty.  As a dual licence holder, I am entitled to expect that the rules to which I adhere are the same for every other licence holder.  Whilst this is not the case, I will not let this matter lie.  I have advised Kirsty, Jim and Roy that I will be discussing this matter with them in person next Saturday at Wetherby.  I was embarassed today when I left that office.  Embarassed for those who made and agreed with the decision to allow those three horses to race.

Well done.  For all the efforts I and others have made to get Scottish harness racing taken seriously on a national and international level, well done to those of you who have made us all a mockery.

Over and out,
#1 pretty pissed off groom

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

An interview with...Scott Murray.

A few months ago I was approached by Jim McInally, Vice Chairman of the BHRC, with regard to interviewing driver Richard Haythornthwaite for a feature article in the forthcoming BHRC Calendar.  Jim felt that in light of winning two of the four major handicap finals in the 2015 season (Appleby Monday on Rhyds Yankee and Aberystwyth Saturday with Imjustalittleguy), it would be good to find out a bit more about Richard, as a driver and as an individual.  Why Jim asked me to do this, I couldn't tell you.  It might be because I offered my assistance with anything that the BHRC requested, or because Richard and I have a very good relationship (I am his 'agent', tasked with getting him catch drives wherever possible - which has proven to be a very difficult job despite his clear talent as a driver).  Whatever the reason, my brief was to find out more about Richard, and ask interesting questions outwith the usual 'what's your favourite music?' or 'what's your favourite film?'.  With that in mind, I set about compiling a list of questions to get inside the mind of one of Britain's best drivers.  The interview has recently been published in the Calendar and I have already been tasked with my second interview, which will hopefully feature in the next edition.

So impressed with my own set of questions, I decided that it would be fun to put them to other drivers, as a feature to introduce the 'celebrities' within our sport; the people who showboat, who get involved in driving finishes to the line, the men and women who risk a lot to sit behind the horses that we own, train and gamble on a weekly basis.

Taking into consideration that I write primarily about harness racing in Scotland, I thought that Scottish drivers might be the best place to start.  So with all of that in mind, the first person I spoke to was the charming, polite and all-round top guy, Scott Murray.  At 27 years of age he is one of the younger drivers on the circuit. I have been more than impressed with his driving talent since I met him last year, so much so that when our stable jockey was unavailable to drive for us this summer, Scott was the person that was drafted in to drive Shes Some Deal and Wild Bill Hickok for us.  No doubt in the future he will be asked to drive for us again.

For anybody who doesn’t know you, how long have you been involved in the sport and where did it all start?

I have been involved in the sport from the age of 10. My dad got involved in harness racing at a young age and so I got the bug as well.

Which is the best horse you’ve driven in your career?

The best horse I have driven would have to be Alan Scot. I have had the most wins with him and love driving him.

Which horse, past or present that you haven’t driven, would you like to drive and why?

I would liked to have driven Dillys Decision, I loved watching that horse in my younger days.

Who did, or do, you admire as a driver?

I'd have to say Mick Lord, for me he's been amazing for all of his career.


Which is your favourite track in the UK and Ireland?

Best track for me is Tir Prince. I used to go there when on holiday in Wales with the family. Was amazing as a kid watching the racing there.

Have you driven outside of the UK and Ireland? If not, where in the world would you choose to have one drive?

No I haven't, but if I had one drive outside the UK and Ireland it would have to be the Little Brown Jug final.

Which is your favourite meeting in the UK racing calendar?

Aberystwyth is a fantastic meeting, that would be my favourite.

Which race would you like to win that you haven’t already?

I would love to win the Famous Musselburgh Pace final. But who doesn't?!


How would you describe your driving style? i.e. pace setter, strong closer, rail hugger? 

I would have to say pace setter; better being in front.

With the unfortunate loss of your training facilities this year, do you envisage that you will remain in the sport long term?

With us losing our training facility, I will just have to hope for some catch drives now and then. But I will always be at trots, it's just too good not to be a part of it.

Which do you prefer driving, trotters or pacers?

I prefer driving pacers but to be fair I have not driven a lot of trotters. I had a shot of Mr Leone for a month this season and he was a great little horse to drive.

What do you do for a living, seeing as driving isn’t your full time occupation?

I am a joiner by trade.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of racing?

Outside of racing I like a bit of football or anything active. I hate sitting about.


If you could visit one place in the world, where would it be and why?

I would love to go to Australia, it's always been somewhere I've wanted to go.

You’re holding a dinner party for five famous guests (alive or dead) – who would they be and why?

I'd have to invite Johnny Cash because I love the man's music. Elvis as well. Steven Gerrard, the man is my hero. Tom Cruise too, it would be nice to meet him. And Cheryl from Girls Aloud - she's a hottie!


If you were invisible for a day, what would you do?

If I was invisible for a day I'd rob a bank so I could buy a field and build a track and stables!

If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would spend your winnings on?

Same as the above! Buy some land and build a track and stables!


Which actor would play you in a film about your life?

Tom Cruise would play me, we are basically twins! (Note: Scott and Tom Cruise look NOTHING alike, and Scott has to be at least half a foot taller than him!  But I suppose if he invited him to the dinner party he could ask him to star in the film?!)

Describe yourself in three words.

Happy, fun, honest.

Scott driving Prince Lee Scot (aka Monty)

Scott driving heat and final winner Alan Scot (aka Barney), Friday 29th May 2015

Thank you to Scott for taking the time to answer my questions.  For any owners or trainers out there looking for a catch driver, keep this young man in mind.  On the occasions where he has driven horses outwith the ones trained by him and his father, he has had decent results.  I look forward to putting him on our own horses in the future, and hope that both him and his family are able to continue in the sport going forward.

Over and out,

#1 Groom

Monday, 19 October 2015

Builth Sale

A write up from the annual Brightwells Standardbred Sale at the Royal Welsh Showground, Monday 19th October.

#1 Ladyford Lizzie - Not Sold
#2 Ladyford Lucy £2,500
#3 Brywins Laagesse - £2,450
#4 Art N Soul - Not Sold

#11 Epynt Beachgirl - £900
#12 Hasty Art - £1,100
#13 Brywins Duckdown - Not Sold
#14 Brywins Beach Fun - Not Sold
#15 Brywins Viceroy - Not Sold
#16 Oakwood Dragoness - £15,000
#17 Oakwood Eternity - £3,000
#18 Rhyds Rockstar - Not Sold
#19 Rhyds Ideal - £48,000
#20 Rhyds Decoy - £9,000
#21 Rhyds Rival - £3,500
#22 No Trouble - Not Sold
#23 Red Rogue - Not Forward
#24 Red Crystal  - Not Forward
#25 Share A Smile - £3,100
#26 No Brakes - £5,100
#27 Teatime Preacher - £10,000
#28 Brywins Magic Beach - £800
#29 Brywins Venisbeach - Not Sold
#30 Brywins Joyce - £1,100
#31 Rhyds Cocoa - £4,000
#32 Rhyds Hokey Cokey - £6,500
#33 Rhyds Mystique - £3,000
#34 Rhyds Voodoo - £1,500
#35 Chinatown Katie - £4,000
#36 Chinatown Beauty - £2,700
#37 Oakwood Rocket - £3,500
#38 Oakwood Cisco - £13,000
#39 Brywins Jetlag - £1,100
#40 Brywins Beachlight - £550
#41 No Respect - £2,400
#42 Manhattan Inferno - £1,250
#43 Manhattans Hotshot - Not Sold
#44 Mahogany Rebel - £2,700

Two year olds
#51 Handoverthecheck - £600
#52 Smile Away - £3,100
#53 Brywins Beach Jam - £950
#54 Manhattan Princess - £1,000
#55 Ayr Hostess - £800

#61 Epona Star - £500
#62 Rebus - £1,200
#63 Brywins Mayhem - £1,800
#64 Mahogany Dreamaway - £1,000
#65 Laughing Buck - Not Sold 
#66 Checkmeover - £1,800
#67 Ontop Mans Head - £850
#68 Camden Callen - Not Forward
#69 Beacon Spellbound - Not Sold
#70 Ladyford John - £650
#71 Ayr Freedom - £700

Overall sale value = £166,700
Overall yearling value = £146,800
Top yearling colt price = £48,000
Top yearling filly price = £15,000
Average yearling value = £5,243 (£3,659 excluding #19)
Average sale value = £4,168 (£3,044 excluding #19)
Percentage of horses sold = 78% (40/51)
Percentage of yearlings sold = 82% (28/34)

Six horses confirmed as bought by Scottish owners:
RHYDS IDEAL - D & W Morton
NO BRAKES - R Thomson
RHYDS COCOA - J Campbell

Full results from Brightwells:

Write up on Harnesslink:

Monday, 5 October 2015

York Sale

A write up from the York Sale, Saturday October 3rd, York Harness Raceway.

#1 Unforgotten - £700, H Hardwick
#2 Very Fast Cass - £275, H Harker
#3 Poudine Du Pan - £1600, D Turnbull

#4 Dannys Gift - £1650, J Perks
#5 Olivia Camden - £2300, L Rix
#6 Panmar Desire - £2000, B Roche
#7 Cacey Camden - £2200, R Rowan
#8 Fools Delight - £1300, R D Thomson
#9 GDs Hazard - £2550, D & G Thomson
#10 Mikala Camden - £10,000, R D Thomson
#11 Dragons Den - £15,300, Meadowbranch Stud
#12 Ayr Voyage - £750, J Till
#13 Rodney Camden - £11,500, J Foody
#14 Johnny Camden - £3500, J Foy
#15 JMs Camden Lover - £3100, C McKenzie
#16 Ayr Muskateer - £2300, M Jones
#17 Robert Hall - £8800 N/S
#18 Jennifer Camden - £2100, C Kavanagh
#19 GDs Hurricane - £2050, J Wood
#20 Ayr We Go - £2000, R Hall
#21 Benny Camden - £5600, C Kavanagh
#22 Harrison Camden - £1700, J Roche
#23 Frankie Camden - £6600, R Hall
#24 Rustie Lee - £2000, N Holgate
#25 Victoria Camden - £3000, R Rowan
#26 Street Dancer - £1250, E Mather
#27 Luras Ruby - Not Forward

Two year olds
#28 Natalia Camden - Not Forward
#29 Mahogany Martini - £900, S & S Dixon/G Menzies
#30 Marys Lura - Not Forward

#31 Wellfield Lizzie - £400, J Allen
#32 Wellfield Annie - £340, S Harrison
#33 Rhyds Merlin - Not Forward
#34 Rhyds Firebird - Not Forward
#35 Betterthantherest - £850, P Stephenson
#36 Wellfield Rosie - £440, T Lee
#37 Wellfield Dancer - £650 N/S
#38 Astounding - £5100 N/S
#39 Mr Brightside - £2100 N/S
#40 Vyrnwy Marquis - £1700, S Collinson
#41 Camden Vito - Not Forward
#42 Rififi Toons - £650 N/S
#43 Roxy De Gournay - £280, J Wright
#44 Sultan Dautmoniere - Not Forward
#45 Solicitor - £1300, W Stewart

#46 Backnthesaddleapan - £1200 N/S
#47 Dans Dancer - £650 N/S

Late entries
#48 Cool Like Me - £550 N/S
#49 Camden Candyman - £1500, J Gill

Total for all horses sold = £95,035
Average sale price = £2795
Average yearling price = £3852
Highest yearling colt price = £15,300
Highest yearling filly price = £10,000
Percentage of yearlings sold = 92% (22/24)
Number of horses not forward = 7 (7/49 = 14%)
Number of horses not sold = 8 (8/42 = 19%)

#11 Dragons Den (Dragon Again-Herlings Angel-Artsplace)
 Over and out,

#1 Groom

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Going out on a high!

When I started training Star in April, my objective was simple: win one race.

When she ran her first race on 24th July, I thought it was achieveable.

As time has gone on, with her racing weekly, there have been times when I have thought it would never happen.  Being a high-end Grade 1 this season has been brutal when you reflect on the horses she has had to race against: Camden Casper, Master Plan, Evenwood Ruthless, Greentree Shorty, Wellfield Liam...all horses who have won numerous races in impressive times, including races outside of Scotland and heats and finals.  She has been beaten by some very good low grade horses.

On Sunday, we had two bites at the cherry.  The Jockey drove her in the first race, a straight Grade 1 race in which she led out in a fast first eighth, jacked the pace to a crawling 1.06 half and then couldn't sprint home, having let fast finishers like DKs Happy Dream and Donnas Dreamboy (who my father bred incidentally) catch up with the field having faltered in the early part of the race.  She finished 4th, and that familiar feeling of today not being the day settled in, although with Wales beating England in the Rugby World Cup group match the evening before, nothing could really dampen my spirits.  Plus, we had parked next to George Carson and opposite the O'Neils, which made for plenty of banter and conversation in the sun as the afternoon went on.

Wild Bill raced in the second, and after quickly washing Star down I managed to catch most of the race stood by the fence.  It was a straightforward victory for him: he led out, made all, and came home unchallenged to win comfortably by six lengths and in a new personal best time.  His race record now looks even more impressive than before:

Star wasn't up again until the eighth race, a C Class drivers race for drivers with no more than 7 lifetime wins.  George Carson, who previously trained her for six weeks for me earlier in the season, was to drive her, as Hugh O'Neil Jr Jr (who drove her in the last C Class race in July) had entered his own horse, Ayr Escape.  Hughie and George have been friends a long time and spent the break between the races winding each other up and trying to goad each other into silly tactics on the track.  I had to mildly threaten Hughie a couple of times because he was trying to encourage George to break his earlier record of a 28.6 first quarter with Star in July.  George's instructions from me had been simple - lead out, jack the pace and sprint home.  Aim for a half in 1.04 or 1.03 at a push and try to keep something in the tank to finish.  The Jockey's simple instructions were keep back from the start car as it begins to roll, then chase her up to the gate as she passes the 20 yard marker.

With Nicola (on Ayr Confusion), Hughie (on Ayr Escape), Tony (on Lyons Pass), Ross (on Miami Seelster) and Keir (on Another Man) all being friends of mine in the race, I didn't feel as stressed as usual once I put Star on the track.  It would be good to see any of them win.  I stood at the stable bend with Ally McKenzie and Raymond Stevenson who had fielded a runner in the race also, as well as Michael O'Neil, and we settled down to watch the madness unfold as it inevitably does when you put 7 young, and often inexperienced, drivers in a race together.  Star was drawn 2 on the gate outside Miami Seelster, with the rest of the field running lines as per their grade (as opposed to 10/20/30 yards).  The start car swung round the starting bend and caught Miami Seelster in the face which temporarily put him off stride, but that gave George and Star the chance they needed to lead out and not use too much fuel.  Hughie and Ayr Escape had a flying start as did Starzapan and Lauren Moran and at the quarter Hughie had taken up a position on Star's outside, pushing her to the quarter in 30.1.  Only when the gap opened up behind Star did he ease off and settle in second on the rail.  As they passed the half, Starzapan pulled out to mount a challenge and they went through the half in 1.02.1, with Lyons Pass having pulled up just after the start and Ayr Confusion and Another Man tailed off from the main four.

Starzapan was persistent as they headed into the back straight and I feared that in her usual style, Star was going to get passed in the last quarter.  George was at her with the whip and rocking in the sulky, but Starzapan failed to get her nose in front and Star began to pull ahead again.  Michael had run down to the gate onto the track to cheer on Hughie and Escape (sitting in third) and I then went after him (at this point I should issue a public apology as I apparently hit Michael quite hard - I have no recollection of this).  I vaguely remember shouting over the fence at George to 'keep hitting her', with a variety of expletives thrown in.  Stood behind them looking straight down the home stretch all I could see was George putting his whip hand in the air as he crossed the line and when Davie Douglas announced that she'd won, I *might* have screamed (I did scream), I then *might* have stood on the track and cried (I did cry) waiting for George and Star to come round another lap.  Thank you to my very good friend Michael O'Neil for being the first person to hug me, I just wish that it had been Escape that had finished second to Star.  I then *might* have kissed George (I did kiss George) before even thinking about letting Star's head down.  Then I couldn't stop crying, nor could I control my horse very well because she was sky high and I was probably the same which didn't help matters.

Walking Star to the winner's circle with George

Smarty, for the first time in 8 wins for our horses this season, came into the winner's photo (told me to get control of my horse) as did Hughie's girlfriend Kareen and cousin Alice as they are good friends of George's.  He bolted to get GDs Twist ready for the last race with the Jockey driving him and I think I *might* have shouted down the track that I loved him (I did shout that I loved him).

Shes Some Deal crossing the finishing line in front - AT LAST!
Several people spoke to me as I walked her back to the lorry, and I apologise if I didn't say anything back because I was on cloud nine.  A massive thanks to Scott Murray for helping me untack her (or in fact untacking her by himself, because I'd lost the ability to function) and instructing me to give her some water.  I managed to get her washed down in time to half-watch the Jockey finish second on GDs Twist, which was a minor improvement in form for the horse and that put an even bigger smile on George's face.

And then it was over.  I was on the phone to my parents and walking Star around as people filed out of the track and again, apologies if I didn't respond to some of the people who congratulated me.  This is now Thursday and I am still buzzing.  I have watched the race video back several times and it never gets old - George's victory wave as he crossed the line 1 1/2L ahead of Miami Seelster makes me laugh out loud.  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect victory.  George helped me out with Star when I initially bought Missile back and was struggling to manage my time in terms of work and personal commitmnts.  Not only did he train her to the best of his ability, including starting her workouts at Corbiewood, he looked after her as if she was his own.  He followed his instructions to perfection on Sunday and it paid off.  I was over the moon for him as well as the horse.

And with that victory, the one, elusive, win that we chased from 24th July to 27th September, our mission was accomplished.  After much thought and deliberation with Smarty, last night I made the decision to retire her from racing for the final time.  We are going out on a high, and there is no need for me to ask any more of my most faithful servant.  She will be able to enjoy the more relaxed pace of life until I decide what challenges we will take on together in the future, whether that be a return to hunting, improving our jumping or having a go at endurance.  I think there may be the distinct possibility of her having a foal one day, because I would love to keep a piece of her in the future.

Our journey together has ended in the most perfect way.  This won't be the last you hear of Shes Some Deal though, I can guarantee that.  She's some horse of a lifetime.

Over and out,

#1 Groom and her #1 horse