Tuesday, 16 August 2016

2016 Season: Week 14 - Breeders Crown & Golden Anniversary

Finally I am beginning to get myself back on an even keel. Once again the chaos of my life means that I am totally out of sync when posting on here as I'm now several race meetings behind.  Again.

If I could ask you to rewind and cast your minds back to the beginning of this month (a mere fortnight ago) then we'll start from there....

First up we had the 10th Breeders Crown UK and Ireland, staged at Tir Prince on Tuesday 2nd August.  For us personally this had been the first target for our two-year-old filly, Crosshill Ace, who was eligible to run despite not being British-bred thanks to the inaugural (and I suspect, only) All American Fillies event.  My observations there that it may be the only time this is staged, due to a disappointing turnout from the original 11 who were staked, raise the interesting question as to whether there will be a 3YO event next year for us.  All we can do is wait and wonder.

We had some minor complications during the week leading up to the race, although the horse travelled to the meeting in close to full health and without turning a hair on the four and a half hour journey.  Unfortunately, we were drawn 3 of 3 and as they went under starter's orders it was clear that the two horses inside her were capable of matching her for gate speed.  Steve Lees settled her at the rear of the field and she came with a late, and slightly green, challenge down the home straight to finish second behind the odds-on favourite Greenhilldebateable.  I was slighty disappointed as I thought this may be her best chance of winning a juvenile event, what with the competition amongst the fillies very strong heading to Ireland for the Vincent Delaney Memorial next weekend.  Nonetheless, my horse ran well and most importantly came out of the race in good nick.  It would appear we are all systems go for Ireland, having secured a lift over with Bob Craw and the Hamish Muirhead-trained 2YO gelding, Share A Smile, who was a winner on the night at Tir Prince.

Crosshill Ace & Steve Lees (Nadina Ironia photo)
Share A Smile was Margaret Fern's second consecutive successful 2YO, following on from last year's success with Gabriella Camden in the Vincent Delaney Prep races at Corbiewood and Tir Prince.  Driven by Hugh Menzies, this was one of two Scottish trained winners on the night, with Bobby Rowan's Victoria Camden taking a division of the 2YO Fillies with Grant Cullen at the reins.  This filly has already smashed the 2YO fillies record at Corbiewood, taking the best part of a second off Rhyds Topaz's previous record, and looked in command from start to finish on Tuesday night.  Sources state that the filly won't be making the journey across the Irish Sea for the VDM in a week, meaning that my Ace will be taking the spare spot in the box heading over on the ferry next Friday to fly the Scottish flag in the richest juvenile event in the UK and Ireland.

Share A Smile & Hugh Menzies (Graham Rees photo)

Victoria Camden & Grant Cullen (Graham Rees photo)
I have to say that all winners on the night were impressive, but none more so than Miraculous, last year's VDM winner and a half-brother to the 2014 winner, Titanium, who sadly passed away last year in the middle of his successful 3YO campaign.  Miraculous posted a 1.55.9 mile in Portmarnock a couple of weeks ago when winning the Barney Joyce Memorial for 3YO pacers, and came to Tir Prince in pursuit of the title for top 3YO colt in the Breeders Crown event.  Not only did he take the title convincingly, he also broke the track record for his age category when winning in 1.56.9.  No mean feat at the best of times, but as noted by several respected commentators, Tuesday night was not the night for breaking records, with a stiff wind facing the horses down the back straight.  Nevertheless, Miraculous romped home from an impressive Ayr Trooper, himself breaking the 2 minute mark.  Breeder Gareth Price can only be delighted with the offspring of his mare Another Mattie, who has a Hasty Hall colt yearling going to the sales in the autumn, a full brother to the ill-fated but successful Titanium.

Miraculous & Patrick Kane Jnr (Graham Rees photo)
It was also great to catch up with Steve and Stephanie Wolf who are currently over enjoying the sights of the UK before they head to Dublin next weekend.  We spent some time with them both when we were in Florida back in February and I regularly keep in touch with Steve through my articles for Harnesslink, so it was lovely to see them again.  It won't be the last time on their trip, as I will see them again at Portmarnock.

After a late night home (I don't know why I say 'night', it was in fact 4am on the Wednesday morning...hello broken body clock!), thoughts turned to Corbiewood's Golden Anniversary meeting on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th August.

It had been our intention for a couple of weeks to run Stevie in the FFA on the Saturday, an odd choice to some perhaps considering he's only a Grade 2, but someone wise once taught Smarty that it's better to race in FFAs when the horse is at its best, rather than spend its life racing it up through the grades to being automatically eligible for FFAs, only to find that the best years are behind it.  Upon consideration of the prize money difference between the SHRC FFA on the Saturday and the Battle of the Big Guns on the Sunday, it was decided to enter Stevie for the Sunday's race.  I had double checked with Huw Evans, who administers the series on behalf of the sponsors, The Standardbred Sales Company, that it was acceptable for us to pay in to the series to run in a one-off race, which he confirmed, and I also asked what the minimum number of runners would be.  He described the event as being like a stakes race, therefore there would be no minimum.  So with three runners, the race was on.

Willie Drysdale was unavailable for the drive in the days leading up to the race, so we asked Scott Murray to take the reins.  An unforseeable change of events meant that 24 hours before the race, Willie became available again however as people of principle we stuck by our initial decision to ask Scott due to Willie's other commitments.  I won't dwell on the race too much but the horse wasn't himself, he was somewhat unmanageable and slipped back into his old ways.  He broke badly at one stage which is something he hasn't done since Aberystwyth last year when the event went to his head, but I can confirm that he came off the track unscathed and subsequently worked out well at the track with the Gaffer back in the bike.  There is little point in being disappointed; in our short season there are ample opportunities to race and as long as my horses remain healthy and sound, then race they shall.  We now look ahead to Bells Field on Sunday 21st August with Stevie.  We'll try our luck and see what happens!

Now I'll provide you with the link for the Harnesslink report here, but I would like to elaborate slightly to expand on some of my favourite performances from the weekend.  First up it has to be Coalford Mystery, a horse who finally lost his maiden tag on his 22nd lifetime start.  His connections have been able to take his defeats in good humour, which is probably for the best as Corbiewood can be a brutal arena at times.  I stood and watched the race with owner/trainer Linda Cassells' daughter, Hayley, who has spent time working for trainer John Gill this summer in York.  As the horse passed those of us on the steps sitting handy in the lead at the bell, someone behind me said 'it'll take a bullet for that horse in front not to win''.  Not realising Hayley was stood beside me, she then turned in the direction of the voice and shouted back 'if he doesn't win from there he'll be getting the bullet!' (DISCLAIMER: She was joking).  The horse came home to rapturous applause, and as Hayley headed to the winner's circle I shouted over 'let me guess, the big gamble happened about five minutes ago?!', to which she replied, 'No!  That was about 16 races ago...!'.  She's a real character!

Robhall's FFA victory against reigning Crock of Gold Champion Stoneriggs Mystery was a real highlight as well, as owner Bob Craw and driver Grant Cullen had both agreed the horse was in great form going into the race, clocking a succession of fast times from bad trails in previous weeks.  Grant had decided to put the race to the favourite, and a downpour of biblical proportions which left me stranded in a stable with Karen Kennedy and Styx Locomotive shortly before the race went to post meant that conditions on the track were less than ideal.  They all had to race in the same conditions though and it was Robhall who took to it like a duck to water (almost literally).  He also shaved a second off the fastest time of the season at the track previously posted by my very own Young Stephen, which was potentially going to be my claim to fame at the end of the year!

On the Sunday, I very much enjoyed the back-to-back wins for Mr Gregg Dunbar, of the GDs breed fame.  A close friend of Smarty's, he is a man full of character and I told those around me after Whirlwind won her race that if Warrior went out in the next and won, I would have to describe Gregg in my Harnesslink report as 'the flamboyant Gregg Dunbar'.  I convinced myself I'd be safe from his wrath as he'd never see the report.  Well I've just remembered that Karen prints them in the racecard each week following their publication so...sorry GD, but 'flamboyant' was my word of the day that day!

Naturally, seeing Stoneriggs Mystery set a new track record for 1m3f was a highlight, but quite frankly seeing him win anywhere over any distance by any margin is a highlight.  He is one of my all-time favourite horses and I will defend him and his record for eternity.  He's a superstar and a future Hall of Famer if I can find the time to make the application to the BHRC!  After his race I went to see him at the lorry, the first time that I've actually ever been close to the horse.  He looks completely different without harness; his signature look on the track makes him instantly recognisable, but standing in a rug having his face towel dried he looks completely different.  I told him I was rooting for him in the Crock of Gold Final later in the month, and I will be.  If Carlsberg did racehorses...

The Australian tour group, led by Bill Hutchison and Michael Gallenti, assured us as they left the track that they had had a wonderful time; witnessing a track record, photobombing in the winner's circle with a champion racehorse, backing a few winners, and meeting the ever-charming Dougie McLean...what more could anyone want from a race meeting?!  We were as hospitable as we could be and they seemed to enjoy themselves.  That's what it's all about, right?

Now before I go, because you're all wondering what's gotten my goat this week, it's one simple thing:


Noun (uncountable)
  1. judgmental behaviour or attitude

Be more accepting people.  Don't judge a book by its cover; open it up, read it, use it to prop open rattling windows in hotel rooms because there's no air con and it's the middle of July.  Just don't judge it.

Over and out,

#1 Groom

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