Wednesday, 25 May 2016

2016 Season: Week 3

Now we're really getting into the swing of things!  Last weekend saw Smarty and I travel down to Haydock on Saturday for the first full flat meeting of the summer at the course.  As is always the case, we pick up 'return punters' who come back to bet with us race after race, and as we packed up during the penultimate race in order to get on the road for Tir Prince in plenty of time, I got chatting to one of these punters.  He started telling me about a friend of his who used to be a bookie (I thought, 'here we go') so I politely asked where his ex-bookie friend, who I'd never heard of, was from.


Not exactly a run-of-the-mill kinda name for a village.

And who do we know who lives in Barnoldswick?!

That's right folks:  the Haythornthwaites.

Not exactly a run-of-the-mill kinda name for a family.

I totally love creeping people out when I say 'oh right, so do you know X and Y?  They live in Z as well'.  Their faces when you actually name someone they know, even though you've just told them you live in central Scotland.  Especially as in this instance, the guy admitted Barnoldswick is about as big as the inside of the track at Haydock.

That led us nicely onto a conversation about how I was going to be seeing some of the Haythornthwaites at Tir Prince that evening because we were heading to a harness racing meeting there.  And they were hard to miss, considering they won 3 of the 6 races (Itsmycheck, Porcelain Seelster and Party At The Spa, and had an impressive third with Shades of Grey in the 1.5 mile FFA).

The second meeting at Tir Prince was slightly more enjoyable than the first, although the crowd was definitely reduced.  My highlights were Porcelain Seelster, the 3 year old grey filly of Shane and Claire Fletcher's, who won comfortably with James Haythornthwaite driving, and also Stoneriggs Mystery equalling the track record for the extended 1.5 mile distance after really having to work for it behind a rejuvenated Saunders Mach 3.  As much as the connections of Mystery would like an easy campaign this summer, and as great as it is to see a machine in action, there is a part of me that was desperately hoping for some stiff competition to make the races more exciting and Mach 3 appears to be the best chance of this.  I do also have to mention Miraculous, who proved that he has come on from his 2 year old season to beat seasoned handicap horses from a poor draw in two minutes.  VERY impressive and one to keep a close eye on this summer.  It was foolish of me not to pick him for my 10 to follow selection and with the loss of Robec from my team, I may struggle as the season continues.

Talking of which, my first article of 2016 was published last week on Harnesslink -

I'll admit, I'd have rathered not written it at all and been able to see the horse racing for another season at least but I suppose that's racing.  Robec was for many the horse that made them sit up and take trotting races seriously.  He was a delight to watch and I don't think I'm speaking out of turn when I describe him as the trotting equivalent of Stoneriggs Mystery.  He was a real champion.  I wish him all the best in his retirement and a speedy recovery from his injury.

And so that leads us on to Sunday, which was spent at the Mecca of harness racing; the citadel, Corbiewood Stadium.  Smarty and I had spend the morning jogging Ace, mucking out, exercising the dogs, watching pigeons returning from a race (Smarty) and getting Stevie groomed and bandaged (me) for the trip to Bannockburn.  The Gaffer (Smarty's dad) also took his horse, Cassius Clay, to requalify, which he duly did in 2.12.3.  I didn't realise quite how big Cassius was until he was out on the track warming up and he simply towered over all the other horses...this one's definitely NOT 15.1hh.

Young Stephen (Stevie) was one of 7 Grade 1 horses to enter at Corbiewood on the weekend.  However, because Eastern Terrer was being driven by a Class C driver claiming 20 yards under the new handicap system, he was lifted from a Grade 3 to a Grade 1, which left 8 Grade 1s and only 4 Grade 2 - 4 horses.  Due to the club rule that no horse can go off the gate by itself, 2 horses from the Grade 1 band had to be moved up to the next race which gave a split of 6 and 6; due to the club rule whereby races would be split alphabetically if horses were on the same prize money within a grade (which all horses are as the new handicap system has moved horses to the bottom of their respective grade), Young Stephen was the genuine Grade 1 to be moved up alongside Eastern Terrer.  The plus side of this was that he was automatically drawn 1 on the gate, as the horse claiming 20 yards had to take the worst draw within his grade, which was 2 on the gate.

Stevie bolted in.  He led out, settled after an eighth of a mile, went through the quarter in 30.4, through the half in 1.02.1 (at which point my friend Scott who was stood next to me said 'I think he's gone too fast') and came home in 2.03.63.  Despite Smarty's assurances that the horse could do a 2.04, I was still surprised at the time.  The two subsequent races for Grades 5,6,7,8 and 9 both went 2.04, which meant Stevie posted the fastest time of the day, and even though I am biased, in the most impressive fashion.
One of Karen Kennedy's lovely creations - and it's mine!
Stevie and the Jockey
Stevie leading the field - from start to finish

So all in all, a great start to the season for Team Smart (Team Crosshill really only applies to Smarty & I, whereas Team Smart includes his old man and his horses too).

Here's a link to the write up of the meeting by yours truly -

From here we head to Appleby on Sunday and Monday after a day in Haydock on the Saturday.  The next outing for the horses will be Stevie on Friday 3rd June at Corbiewood;  to anyone reading this who might be in the area that night and looking for something to do, come along and meet my boy.  We don't have the biggest supporter's club (although I may convince the Smart clan to come in full on that Friday night for a swally!) so the more the merrier.

On Sunday night, Smarty headed down to Carlisle to take Saunders Beachgirl and her foal, Cliff, to their new home.  Beachgirl has been sold to our good friend Sam Harrison, who also bought a Hasty Hall yearling colt off us last summer (Crosshill Aurora), and he will be looking after Cliff until he is ready to be weaned and returned to us.  The reason she had to go Sunday night was because she was back in season this week and Sam has also purchased himself a stallion so was keen to get her down to his place.  As if Smarty hadn't done enough miles over the weekend...

And there you have it.  Our weekend packed full of racing, and when not racing, just horses in general.  Before I sign off, back to my new feature about my poor goat which has once again been gotten.

Things that have got my goat this week:

- The ever-increasing craze sweeping social media whereby stallion owners post photos and videos of their stallions serving mares.  It started out on sites such as Dragon Driving when advertising a stallion for stud; then it migrated onto Facebook and expanded to include owners of coloured Standardbred stallions, usually in Ireland (these are generally the majority of what I have unfortunately seen).  It appears now to have spread to the owners of bay Standardbred stallions, albeit serving coloured mares.  Is it just me who finds this weird and a tad unsavoury?  I had news this week that my Artsplace mare has been served by Hasty Hall and scanned in foal.  I didn't need John and Grethe Wright to send me photos of the deed being done; nor did I need to have it plastered all over social media.  We get it - you own a stallion.  Whoop-dee-doo.  Although I wouldn't get too excited about some of them when you consider the way they're bred...

Over and out,

#1 Groom

Photo courtesy of Bill Cardno

No comments:

Post a Comment