Thursday, 22 September 2016

2016 Season: Weeks 18 &19

With August behind us I thought things may begin to slow down a little; alas that has not been the case.

The first weekend of September saw us heading down the M74 and M6 to Tir Prince to compete in the BHRC 2YO Futurity Fillies division with Crosshill Ace.  This was due to be her penultimate run and I was praying for a decent draw, bearing in mind we were up against Rhyds Mystique (7 wins from 8 starts, her only defeat coming in the VDM Fillies Final when finishing sixth) and Greenhilldebateable, the Well Said filly who denied us victory in the Breeders Crown All American Fillies back at the beginning of August.

Of course, in light of my recent run of bad luck, and the fact that no horse owned by me ever gets a decent draw (Shes Some Deal had to wait until she was SEVEN to be drawn 1 on the gate, having begun racing aged 3), Ace was drawn 4 of 4.  The track had suffered from torrential rain earlier in the day which made it very sloppy, and despite driver Steve Lees' best efforts we came away third.  Having settled at the back early, Ace passed Rhyds Voodoo at the half; looking tired at the six furlong marker I thought she was going to fade to the rear of the field, however she rallied and finished stronger than expected.  Once again, it was not to be for us this time, with Mystique & Greenhilldebateable lengths clear ahead.  Nonetheless, as a team we were not too disappointed and definitely not deterred going back up the road.

The following day we were for Haugh Field, the grass track a stone's throw from Corbiewood, owned by owner/trainer Hamish Muirhead.  With Stevie taking a week off to prepare for Musselburgh the following Saturday, we went without any horses.  Smarty was bookying and for the first time I was being subbed out to clerk for Bernard McGovern (BMG), aka CW Regular.  Aside from the fact that I had to tell him off for littering and clear up after him at the end of the meeting, we seemed to get by alright.  A few inexplicable technical difficulties were overcome with relative ease and eventually the rain eased off (after the start of the day had seemed so promising, with me hiding under the umbrella for shade from the sun).

George Carson, whose name you will have noted before in my blog (provided this isn't your first time here) had a tremendous start to the day, with Country Major winning the first of the low grade heats in the hands of Willie Drysdale, followed straight away by a win in the second heat with Valentine Camden, driven by Grant Cullen.  Our good friend Gregg Dunbar then went on to win later in the day with his homebred, GDs Warrior, making it a successful day for the North Lanarkshire brigade who had ventured across to Stirling.

Shortly after Val's [Valentine Camden] heat, George's mother Annie came to me and told me she hadn't known that they owned the horse.  After the epic trip down the country and back up during which we collected Val and my old mare Smokey, George told Annie that he was simply training the horse for Emma Langford, so as not to annoy her with the truth that he'd bought another horse.  When she challenged me about it, it came back to me that George had said 'don't tell my mum about this' during the journey home.  In my tired state, I think I got confused as to how he was going to hide a 16hh gelding from his mother, considering his stables are opposite his house and his jog track encircles the whole site...but never thought to question it!

After Val had won at Bells Field, I'd tried to call Emma to let her know but ended up having to text as there was no answer.  I'd told Annie I was trying to contact her, and Annie had assumed I was simply ringing the owner who hadn't been able to make it to watch her horse race.  Annie was far from impressed that George, his father Gilmour and I had chosen not to tell her that she was in fact a part owner in the horse!

Just before the low grade final the commentary was lost due to a technical fault, however the finish to the race was still exciting as four horses crossed the line within a length of each other.  Val just managed to hold off Mega Star by a neck, who in turn was half a length clear of Yoka Lady and ATM who dead-heated for third.  I was supposed to be clerking for BMG and hadn't put the runners for the high grade final into the computer, but completely neglected my duties to run onto the track for the winner's photo.  The rain after race two had thwarted my plans to photobomb the heat winning photo, so I wasn't going to be denied this opportunity!  I now have printed copies of every winning action photo and presentation photo of Val to give to former owner Emma next time I see her, as I know the sale was a sad one.

Oh and by the way, Annie wasn't shouting at me after the final when she was clutching her trophy!!

Valentine Camden winning the Jimmy 'Knocker' Rennie Final @ Haugh Field (Bill Cardno photo)
Before I leave the slightly soggy turf of Haugh Field and take you on the journey to the inaugural meeting at Newcastle Racecourse on the all-weather dirt track, I'd just like to give a mention to the Haugh Field Trophy Final winner, the plucky chestnut Dreamfair I Say.  Bred, owned and trained by John Gilvear and driven in all 13 lifetime starts by Brian Gilvear, the five year old son of Dreamfair Vogel, has (at the date of publication) won 6 races on all three available surfaces in the UK - sand (Wolverhampton), turf (Haugh Field & Musselburgh) and dirt (Tir Prince & Corbiewood), as well as on a variety of different-sized tracks including 3/8 (Corbiewood), 1/2 (Tir Prince), 1 mile (Wolverhampton) and 1m 2f (Musselburgh).

Dreamfair I Say winning the Haugh Field Trophy Final (Bill Cardno photo)
Less than a week later and we were heading to Newcastle Racecourse to the first ever harness racing fixture at Gosforth Park.

In the build up to the Friday night fixture, I'd probably had the week from hell.  On the Wednesday, Smarty rang me in work to tell me that Young Stephen (Stevie) had had an altercation with a fence which had injured his leg and would render him a non-runner for the meeting at Musselburgh on the Saturday (as well as potentially the remainder of the season), which was to include three televised harness races prior to the Thoroughbred card.  On the Thursday night, I finished work early in order for us to head south to Sedgefield to attend what we deemed to be 'the wedding of the year' between Watson Harrop Jr, a larger-than-life character who hails from one of the most well-known families of horsemen in the UK, and his beautiful bride Sherelle Wilson.  Unfortunately, we firstly suffered a flat tyre just over an hour into the journey.  After some difficulty changing the tyre in a dress and a suit (I was in the dress, not Smarty), we were forced to head back, at which point the car gave up altogether and we were left stranded on the hard shoulder of the M74 for over an hour as it got dark.

So on Friday we travelled to Newcastle with Gilmour (George's dad) and Gregg Dunbar, with GDs Warrior on board in the trailer.  Despite being tasked with selling York Sale catalogues (I still have a small number available for anybody wanting one), I was still able to enjoy the racing which was essentially 8 races with 8 great finishes.

The first race was a battle to the wire between father and son Alan and Richard Haythornthwaite on board My Left Foot and Tommy Camden respectively.  It was the latter who got up in the shadow of the post to win by a neck for owners Shane & Claire Fletcher.  Not to be outdone by the male members of the family, Alan's sister Pam Haythornthwaite took the next race, the Grade 5 to 9 pace, with her very own Charlie Pan ahead of William 'Rocker' Laidler and Rhyds Solution.

The sole trot race of the evening was won by the in-form Sacha Of Carless, making it four wins in six starts for the Dave Taff-trained Trotteur Francais.  At the date of the meeting, all of his wins had come on the hard tracks, with defeats at both Aberystwyth and Tregaron.  This time owner John Foy drove the horse himself in the absence of Steve Lees, with the intention to head to Mussleburgh the following day.  Taff followed this up with another win in the fourth, this time with his father's horse, Sams Teatime partnered by Grant Cullen.

The next race went the way of Ontop Shouder Cuda and Patrick Kane Jr, one of two winners on the night for the Kane/Teeboon driving and training duo.  They followed this up with a win the Grade 1 at the end of the evening when Soldier Stanley made it back to back wins after his victory at Tregaron a fortnight earlier.

The remaining two races on the card were wrapped up by Rocker Laidler.  No Stoppin broke his maiden tag when winning the Maiden & Novice combined event with a comfortable three length victory from Anna Wallace and Blue Au Revoir, a mare who has come back from injury to compete and had won the weekend previous at Wolsingham.

In the highlight of the night, and as subsequent events have unfolded, more poignant a moment than many could have imagined at the time, the Standardbred Sales Co Battle of the Big Guns race was won by Meadowbranch Josh.  Wellfield Ghost partnered by Grant Cullen took up the running early on, much to the grey gelding's delight as a noted front runner.  With less than a furlong to go, the field began to close in on the leader and as they hit the line, the first four home were split by less than a length.  Meadowbranch Josh got up by a head to win from the gutsy grey mare, Shades Of Grey, who in turn beat Crock of Gold runner up Lyons Mischief by a short head.  Wellfield Ghost was half a length away in fourth, gallant in defeat.

The fixture was well supported in terms of runners and indeed, spectators.  Constructive criticism has been passed to the committee, including the options of either beginning the meeting earlier in order to finish racing before nightfall, or beginning later to allow those working until 5pm to attend and using the floodlights which are in place on the course.  The crowd would also need to be coralled somewhat into a more central area so as to add to the atmosphere.  Otherwise, there was little to fault.

I sincerely look forward to going back next summer, and hopefully with a couple of runners as well!!

Before I sign off on this one, I would just like to mention the three races at Musselburgh which I had hoped to be a part of with Stevie, before he decided to destroy himself.  In the build up to the event we were advised that High Street bookmakers William Hill would be accepting bets online and in their betting shops as Racing UK were going to be live streaming the three races on their channel.  On the day, due to other commitments, Smarty and I were unable to attend the track so paid for a 24-hour subscription in order to be able to view the racing.  At post time for the first race, coverage on Racing UK was still being shown from Chester; the Gaffer rang me from our nearest town to double check when the first race was due to go off as he was in our local William Hill shop and there were no odds displayed nor was the race being shown on any of the screens.  He said he was going to Coral to have a look and I didn't have the heart to tell him that seeing as Hills were the ones taking online bets, they would be the only bookmakers likely to be showing the races live.

As the afternoon progressed, it transpired that Racing UK were not showing the races live (they did however show them around 6pm as replays on the channel, which we missed due to not knowing they would be on then and also because we had the horses to sort out for the evening).  Some William Hill shops were taking bets, others had no idea about the races at Musselburgh.  The whole thing descended into a mild level of chaos.

Nonetheless, thanks to the power of social media we were able to get the results relatively contemporaneously and eventually, through a friend of a friend of a friend (and the wonders of Facebook Live) we did see the third and final race, albeit the camera was honed in on the big screen throughout.

Not only did I not track down photos from Newcastle, but I've also been unable to track down photos from Musselburgh as well.  So I'm afraid you will all have to suffer line upon line of words with no photos to break up the monotony.  For what it's worth however, the winners from Musselburgh were Lyons Premier and Grant Cullen in the first, Sacha Of Carless and John Foy in the second and Wellfield Official and Andrew Cairns in the third.  Dave Taff trained the first two winners and the runner up in the third race [Lyons Eryl Hall], and one unlucky punter showed me his treble betting slip which would have come in had Eryl Hall and Official switched finishing places.  Such is the luck of racing!

I was at Corbiewood on the Sunday primarily selling York Sale catalogues so didn't really pay much attention to the racing, although I was acting groom for George Carson and was able to work with a filly we bred, Crosshill Azalea (aka Jenny) before the racing.  She qualified nicely and I must admit I felt quite proud seeing her on the track.  She looked like she might shape up to be a nice three year old.

Crosshill Azalea (Mypanmar-Saunders Beachgirl-Beach Towel)
Anyway, I'm going to let you go because you deserve a medal for getting to the end of this.

Next up will be the review of the two-day Murdock Weekend at Corbiewood...

Over and out,

#1 Groom

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