Monday, 3 October 2016

2016 Season: Week 21 - A weekend of firsts and lasts

On Saturday 24th September, Smarty and I ventured south to Tir Prince in north Wales, for the BHRC Sire Stakes meeting.

In a weekend of firsts, it was the first time that I witnessed a walkover. As Itsmycheck was the sole remaining entrant in the 4YO colts & geldings event once all stakes fees were paid, he was the winner by walkover.  Rumour has it that prior to the fixture the horse had spent 2 weeks in the field and once word was out that there were no other entries, was pulled back in to make the appearance.  This consisted of 4 jogged laps of the track before returning to the winner's circle to be awarded the trophy.  Not wishing to detract from the winning connections, but where were the other horses?  Why were the fields so depleted for such a seemingly prestigious event?  One suggestion is that the fixture is too late in the season, when you consider that the 4 year olds are out for the first meeting of the year at the beginning of May to race in the Senior Welsh Dragon; not only is it a long season for the horses but by the end of September, if there has been a stand out horse in any category then many choose to shy away from racing it as the season progresses.

Writer's note:  The above is an observation garnished with opinion.  It is in no way intended to be a slur against any individual, promoter or organisation connected with any horse or venue mentioned above.  My constructive criticism has previously been forwarded to the relevant bodies with a view to improving situations such as these for the future.

The 2YO Fillies, 3YO Colts and 3YO Fillies all went the way of the horses which I believe will be award winners in their respective categories at the STAGBI & BHRC Awards Dinner (Rhyds Mystique, Miraculous & Jessies Conquest).  The 2YO Colts remained as open a category as ever, as Rhyds Decoy (Ceredigion 2YO & Tir Prince VDM Prep winner) overturned favourite Johnny Camden (Breeders Crown & BHRC Futurity Champion).  No Brakes was perhaps luckless in third after faltering late with a questionable run up the inside of the winner, but looks to show potential for the future.

The 4YO Fillies division featured the largest number of entrants, with 6 facing the starter.  Frisco Frisk, for sale in the annual Brightwells Sale on Monday 24th October, led out and made all but despite putting in a solid performance could only manage third as Irish contenders Kickass Katie and Meadowbranch Milli passed her on the run in.  Kickass Katie was an impressive winner on the night, and an eye-catcher at Tregaron when finishing third in the final behind Elysium Thunder and Meadowbranch Milli.

In the non-Stakes races, Thornton Bronte ran out a noteworthy winner in his career debut in the Maiden & Novice event, as owner Martin Platt possibly hopes the horse can go on to become his replacement for my favourite horse, Colonel Mustard who was retired this year.  Blytheview Peach notched up her first victory in the Open grades and recorded back-to-back wins after a win at Almeley the weekend before on the grass.  Lyons Eryl Hall was an impressive winner in the higher grade race after some solid performances of late.

In the first of the two Le Trot races, I was slightly distracted by Sultan Dautmoniere who unfortunately (and rather bizarrely, knowing his early season training) galloped for the full mile.  However, a couple of horses did catch my eye, particularly the winner Spot Du Mouchel and the runner up, Ubu Of Fairy (to be honest I just love HIS name!).  I am still a massive fan of the mare Salvado Bello though, I think she's a 'topper' (to quote Smarty).  In the second Le Trot, Sacha Of Carless made it four wins in a row when beating the BHRC Trotter of the Year 2015, Show Business.  However a Steward's Enquiry was called immediately after the race and the winner was subsequently disqualified for going through his mark at the start; he should have been a 20 yard trailer alongside Show Business, but started the race on the gate.  I'm a Show Business fan, and although he has been very lightly raced this year, he has notched up 3 wins from 4 starts.

The pinnacle of the evening's racing was the final leg of the Standardbred Sales Co. Battle of the Big Guns Series.  Lyons Mischief was a worthy winner, having only been out of the first three once in his last 8 runs in top company.  He really is a star for the future and one to watch in the FFA class next year, alongside runner up Ayr Majesty who finally looks to have stepped up to the plate.  Just a quick note on the third-placed horse Tarawood Messi; both he and Wellfield Ghost were embroiled in an alarming speed duel for the first half mile.  Ghost faded badly to last and looked distressed coming home, however Messi stayed on for third which considering he is probably a Junior FFA horse, was quite impressive.
Lyons Mischief (Hasty Hall-Lyons Montana-Davids Pass) & Mick Lord (Graham Rees photo)
Despite not being there on the night to race, last year's 'Big Gun' Champion Stoneriggs Mystery retained his title courtesy of wins in the series at Appleby and Corbiewood, and a fifth in his only other start (Tregaron).  I for one was delighted with his.  Year on year Mystery receives his share of negative criticism, and although his season hasn't been as successful as last year's, he has still won 4 of his 11 starts and £5,690 in prize money.  He's won everything there is for a FFA horse to win.  He's not unbeatable, but find me a horse that is?

Stoneriggs Mystery leading the field (blue & white bluff) in the Appleby Battle of the Big Guns
Having stayed near Chester on Saturday night, we drove up to Corbiewood on the Sunday morning and arrived half an hour before the first race.  That may seem like we were cutting it fine, but not as fine as Rachael Ayres and Annette Wilson who had been sunning it up in Magaluf for the past week and who both arrived after race 2.  Rachael's horse, Artbreaker, had already won the first race (although she was there to see her other horse Diamond O'Neil win later in the day).  Runner-up in the first race, Killarney Howard, also ran well without his owner there to cheer him on as Kareen New and best friend Alice O'Neil arrived shortly after the race.

Continuing the theme of 'firsts', Annette Wilson, having rocked up after the second race not long after landing back in the country, changed into her colours and went out onto the track for her sole drive of the day in the sixth race.  Smarty had said to me during the week, "do you know what I think will win on Sunday?  Dreamfair Dancer with Netty driving it".  Based on that statement alone, I had a small flutter.

Netty drove the race to perfection, and it can be viewed here.  This was Netty's first ever win, and the most popular victory at Corbiewood in a long time going by the number of people cheering her home from the stands!!  Well done Mrs!

Annette Wilson after her first driving win on Dreamfair Dancer
Now this wasn't just a weekend of firsts.  Sadly, this weekend also witnessed one particular horse's last ever race.  Ayr Escape, the 10-year-old son of Artiscape out of Unforgotten (No Nukes), retired following his 108th lifetime start.  In a career spanning 8 seasons, he notched up 7 wins including the Corbiewood 4YO Championship Final where he posted his lifetime mark of 2.02.5.  The victory came after defeat in his heat at the hands of none other than Stoneriggs Mystery, however when Mystery faltered on the final bend turning for home in the final, Escape took his chance and paced to victory.

Escape has already featured in my writing once this summer, when he won earlier in the season after five years and 60+ starts without a win.  The dedication of the team around him, headed by caretaker Michael O'Neil, paid off and it was a popular victory at Escape's home track.

On Sunday I sat down with Michael after Escape had run his final race, finishing sixth, and told him he should be proud of everything Escape has achieved.  He provided Michael's brother, Hugh, with his first ever driving win, he provided Michael with his first ever training win, and he provided the whole family with hours, even days, of fun and joy.  For him to race every season from the age of 3 through to 10, in 108 races, and retire sound having never spent a day lame, that in itself is an achievement.

Escape left the track on Sunday for the final time, but he has a home for life at Ayr Standardbreds.  His future showing career is already making headway as he is entered to compete in Standardbred-only classes before the end of the month.  I'm sure you will join me in wishing him all the very best in his future.

Ayr Escape winning at Corbiewood on 3rd June 2016 (Bill Cardno photo)

Lining up before his 7th lifetime win (Kareen New photo)

Michael & me celebrating Escape's most recent victory
I'm sure you'll agree he's a looker!
The video story of Escape's first victory in five years -

Ayr Escape's final day at the races -

Michael [O'Neil] turned to me on Sunday and said "I'm fed up of telling people that Escape is the best horse in the world".  What I said to him is what I will say to you all: the horse has no idea how lucky he is to have someone who thinks that about him.

The world is full of horses whose owners don't think half as much of them as he thinks of Escape.

I hope more horses can find their own Michael.

Over and out,

#1 Groom

No comments:

Post a Comment