Friday, 30 June 2017

2017 Season: Week 9 - 4-3-3...standard!

Four days.
Three countries.
Three race meetings.

Whacking in a football (soccer) reference because I can.

Thursday 22nd June at Corbiewood featured the opening leg of the Oakwood Stud Mares Pacing Series, something I don't think I've mentioned much.  JK, it's all I talk about.  Seven of the eleven nominated turned up on the night to run in the final race of the evening which was as thrilling a race as I could have hoped for.

It followed on from a tremendous high grade preferred race immediately before in which Bayrigg Millionayr made it back-to-back wins at the track.  I'm just not getting the reluctance from people to have preferred racing.  But that's for another time.

I've written a brief report for Harnesslink, which you can read here.  My reports are probably (read: definitely) the least prompt at being published because my time management skills are rapidly dwindling (aka 'stale').  It's now a case of telling people things will get done, but I can't say when.  'Better late than never' is now my life motto.  As long as Corbiewood is still being represented on the world stage, even in some small part, then that's the main thing!

I was pleased to see GDs Hazzard (aka 'Harry') winning for owners Dave & Gerry Thomson in the first race of the evening.  It was a good start for driver Andrew Cairns who went on to notch up a driving double when getting the catch drive on Camden Rocco for the 'Big Eck' Taylor stable.  The multi-talented Jasper Hill returned to winning ways and American Gigolo ran gallantly in defeat behind Bayrigg Millionayr in the top grade race after a big win at Carlisle less than a week earlier.

As for the mares was the English raider Porcelain Seelster who landed the spoils; yet as the field turned for home in front of me at the paddock bend the race could have gone any one of six different ways.  Long-time leader GDs Baby put in a strong run, Dontstoptheparty finished like a train, San Diego ran on for third.  Only 0.7 seconds covered the first six over the line.  And me, like a numpty, stood on the paddock bend trying to take photos and missed out on the shot of them storming down the stretch spread across the full width of the track.  Lesson learnt.  Still managed this photo all the same, in fading light and in the excitement of trying to watch the race and take photos simultaneously.

Rounding the final turn for home
Porcelain Seelster post-race
The SHRC website has been updated with the current standings after leg 1.  Fairly straight forward as we've only had the one race so far!  There are only five entries for the second leg this Thursday which means we may have a bumper entry for the third leg with the mares who won't have raced in either of the first two legs needing to run in the third in order to be eligible for the remaining three.  We shall wait and see!

From Corbiewood on Thursday we headed to York on Saturday 24th June for Championship Day.  I've always known this fixture to be Championship Day for as long as I've been in the sport, yet it seemed to have a number of monikers over the course of the weekend, my least favourite being 'festival' which for me suggests a meeting of more than one day (i.e. the four major handicap festivals at Aberystwyth, Appleby, Musselburgh and Tregaron).  Nonetheless, it was billed as a fantastic day of racing with 14 races on the card including a 2YO race, heats and finals of both the 3YO fillies and 3YO colts & geldings, a world record attempt for pacers under saddle over a mile and two Le Trot Series races for 3YOs and aged trotters.

I knew I was going to be busy as track photographer trying to get action photos of the winners (which nobody can inform me of before the race!) and presentation photos, and I also planned to get the GoPro on Alexis Laidler and Evenwood Sonofagun for the saddle race after the failed attempt at Appleby (where the camera was mounted on the body harness and captured a cracking view of the front of the saddle and some of the horse's neck).

I hadn't considered the extra workload which came my way in the shape of handing out rosettes and prize money to the first three across the line in each race, tasks which were unceremoniously dumped on me with little gratitude.  Not only do I take photos of the horses in races and in the winner's circle for purchase by connections and use as promotional material by the track and governing body, I also like to take photos of the aftermath of racing; the side of our sport which encapsulates everything that is so enjoyable about racing horses.  These are the type of candid photos which connections love, the ones which capture the raw emotion of success.  They also make great photos for use in promotional material for the sport as a whole as it shows the 'softer' side of racing; the side that people not involved in the sport tend not to think about when you say the words 'harness racing'.  Unfortunately, with the additional tasks that I was given, I had little opportunity to take such photos.

My Acey Baby (Crosshill Ace) landed in the first of the two fillies heats, beside champion 2YO and already prominent 3YO, Rhyds Mystique.  As my luck would have it, we'd drawn 4 on the gate with the ante-post favourite drawn in pole position.  I always say I'd be happy with a rosette of any colour (to my American readers, this must seem crazy to you, but place prize money only goes down to third and it barely covers the entry fee for the race so people like me really do get excited about some coloured ribbon - and I'm not ashamed to admit it!).  She finished third behind Mystique and Coalford Honey, meaning she'd landed a place in the final.

The second heat was a slightly more open affair and it was Lee Rix's Olivia Camden, bred by the owner of York Harness Raceway and Camden Stud, Mick Welling, who came out on top over Greenhilldebateable and Teatime Preacher.  SHRC 3YO Derby winner Victoria Camden was seemingly jostled at the start and broke stride however she still secured a place in the final later in the afternoon.

In the colts & geldings divisions, Springhill Glory and Benny Camden drew in separate heats and subsequently won their respective races impressively, setting things up for an exciting showdown in the final. Frankie Camden also ran credibly behind Springhill Glory, and Father Ted put in a huge performance to finish second behind Benny Camden and ahead of multiple winner this season, Rhyds Rockstar.

Then came the saddle race and the world record attempt to lower the existing record of 1.59.3 for a mile with a pacer.  Marcia Thompson from Equine Products UK Ltd was on hand to sponsor and judge the Best Turned Out award, which went to Rhyds Design and Lauren Moran.  But the race itself truly belonged to Evenwood Sonofagun and Alexis Laidler.  I'm going to be doing a whole separate post on this over the course of the next few days once I've gathered in all of the available media but in the meantime, just watch this:

This is the raw footage so apologies for the abrupt start and end, no editing has been done whatsoever!

It's absolutely magical to watch, not only the flying mile in 1.57.5 but the aftermath of the race with the crowd cheering, Alexis praising her horse and the emotions of all those connected with the stable.  I thought it was brilliant!
Evenwood Sonofagun & Alexis Laidler setting a new world record
In the 2YO race, I was most impressed with the first three home: Merrington Movinup, who has already won this season at Appleby; Ayr Empress, who was making her debut but who displayed a lot of talent in qualifiers at Corbiewood and ran tough with a two wide trip for much of the race; and Wellfield Witch, a grey filly I met back in January when visiting Roy Sheedy's stud near Newport, south Wales.  She ran well in a qualifier at Corbiewood a couple of weeks ago and showed plenty of scope at York when finishing third.

In the two trots, I was delighted (if a little surprised) to see Rhun Wilson guide both winners home.  The 3YO Eldivina D'Esge and the aged trotter Vireo De Regen are also both trained by Rhun, and were his first two winners under BHRC rules since joining from WBCRA at the start of the season.  I must add that the reason I was surprised is due to Rhun's lack of experience training trotters when racing with WBCRA - but he seems to have found a real strength in it and I did suggest he consider moving to France at this rate!

In the 3YO finals, Rhyds Mystique beat Greenhilldebateable in a pulsating finish, with Ace finishing once again in third with a solid performance.  The colts and geldings was a match between the 'big two' and Benny Camden tracked Springhill Glory throughout, looking at one stage to be in danger of getting boxed in but when the gap came driver Alan Richardson tipped out and the horse accelerated home in impressive fashion.

Benny Camden & Alan Richardson
I had a couple of other things to say regarding non-racing matters which put a bit of a dampener on the day for me personally however I have been advised by my media-savvy other half to not be controversial and in light of how that's gone for me in the past, he's probably right.  Social media policy - 1; Sarah Thomas - 0.

From York we travelled south for nearly 5 hours to stay with my parents in order for us to attend my former local trot, Cilmery.  Neither of us have missed this fixture since its inception in 2011.  It is arguably set in the most beautiful of locations, with the Epynt mountain range casting a spectacular backdrop to the stiff grass track at Cilmery Farm.  This was the first year that the meeting was held on a Sunday afternoon rather than a Wednesday evening and I felt there was a noticeable reduction in atmosphere both at the track and in the local pub after the racing, although this in no way detracted from the racing.  I'm unsure of the reasons behind moving the day/date, but I always felt the 'longest day' Wednesday was the perfect date for the meeting with 10 days to the big festival at Aberystwyth.

Stand out performances for me came from Crown Victoria, a 3YO filly by Crown Manhattan who will race against my own Ace at Aberystwyth.  She won comfortably at Cilmery after putting in a big performance at Pikehall a few weeks ago and I'm more than a little wary of her as competition (as much as I like her!).  Ring Of Fire from the Wye Stud stables was an eye-catching runner up also and will go on to win again this season after victory at Amman Valley a couple of weeks back.  Starstruck was another eye-catcher, trained and driven by Huw Thomas; she'll appreciate a slightly less testing track after putting in a strong run at Cilmery.  The 2YO Oakwood Playboy did not go unnoticed in the qualifiers, at a track that has not shown suitability for juveniles in the past.  Mahogany Oleg was another spotted in the qualifiers; we'll be keeping an eye on him as he's a Preacher Pan out of Mahogany Blaze, who is a full sister to our mare Vain In Spain (aka Rita) - the dam of Crosshill Ace.

The former winners of the Cilmery Final have been: Howards Contender, Wellfield Earl, Forest Gump, Wellfield Posh, Llwyns Delight and this year it was the turn of Mervyn Davies and Colin Bevan with Bucklands Foxtrot, or as I used to know him, 'Bongo'.  Coliin (and Shirley) are responsible for creating the meeting at Cilmery and it was great to see a success for the stable there after all of their years of hard work.  He was a popular winner and an impressive one too!

Bucklands Foxtrot & Colin Bevan
Winner winner!

And that's all from around the country!

Due to the fact that I am so behind with everything, this post goes live after Corbiewood's meeting for the current week but that has to feature in the next update because otherwise my weeks are all to pot!

I'm currently sat in traffic on the M56 heading to Aberystwyth for two days of exceptional racing including Acey Baby toughing it out in the 3YOs.  Hopefully I'll be reporting back next week with another rosette for the collection!  If only it could be a red one...

Over and out,

#1 Groom

Thursday, 22 June 2017

2017 Season: Week 8 - SHRC 3YO Derby

This is only going to be a brief one, for the obvious reason that of a weekend featuring five harness race meetings across the UK, I was only at one of them.

Corbiewood on Friday 16th June played host to the SHRC 3YO Derby.  Well, Derbies.  Or Derbys.  Hmm....I don't like having to make a call on the correct plural of Derby.  There was a fillies division and a colts & geldings division.  Let's just leave it at that.

This was particularly exciting for me as my 3YO filly, Crosshill Ace (aka Acey Baby) was entered to run.  Before the start of the season I had hopes of adding the trophy to the 2YO Futurity one that currently sits by my fireplace waiting to be inscribed, however after her very lacklustre performance at Appleby in the 3YOs where she finished fourth of four, quite frankly a yellow rosette might have been too much to hope for.

That's not taking into consideration of course that had I put my foot down after that race and insisted she be sent away to a professional trainer.  No point having the bullets if the gun isn't working right, after all.  Acey has therefore been the responsibility of Andrew and Joanne Cairns since the end of May.

What a difference that made.

We got lucky with the draw, landing two on the gate with the betting favourite, Greenhilldebateable, drawn 8 of 8 (outside on the second line).  Things improved (for us) when the filly drawn 1, Theladieslovejim, took a flakey at the start and landed in the middle of the track.  Once everyone was back on the track where they were supposed to be, Theladieslovejim was moved to the outside of the front line and we shimmied in to the one-hole.  That's right Michael, the one-hole.  I don't care what country we're in, if I wanna call it the one-hole I'm calling it the one-hole.  Or as some people insist on referring to it, 'drawn 1 on the gate'.  The fact still remains that we got really lucky.  And then Andrew capitalised on it, by holding the inside line and taking up the running for the first 3/4 of the race.  It was at this point that Victoria Camden, the filly who finished second to Ace in the Futurity but who won the Breeders Crown and remains the Corbiewood track record holder for 2YO fillies, came with a strong challenge.  I was encouraged to see Ace dig in and it took the eventual winner longer than expected to clear Acey but clear her she did and she went on to be a convincing winner.  Ace looked to tire down the back straight as the Gilvear's She Be Rockin detached herself from the field to move up into third, however again I was encouraged to see Ace run on down the stretch, chasing the winner home and maintaining a clear second place.  We have progress.

Ace parading before the race with driver Andrew Cairns
Post-race walk to collect the blue rosette with Abbie Cairns
The brief report from the racing is now on Harnesslink and can be read here.

My congratulations goes to all of the winning connections - we saw some great racing last Friday night.  Ayr Bird gave a no-nonsense performance for my friends the O'Neil family when winning the first race of the night (Michael was stood next to me and was remarkably calm throughout; I actually looked away momentarily when Bird was in third - haha -  and when I looked back she was in front.  Not sure how she got there in such a short space of time but she did, and she went on to win very easily).

Three O'Neils for the price of one!
Brothers Michael & Hughie head to the winner's circle with Ayr Bird

I watched the second race with Noreen Bennett, owner of the long-time leader Tarawood Kiki; although saying we watched the race is stretching the truth somewhat.  We spent most of the first lap trying to sort out the privacy settings on Noreen's phone so we could go Facebook Live for her family members who weren't there.  I then ditched that to take photos as they passed me. Caroline Kennedy then tried to go live and we had the same problem, and again I ditched that as they passed me a second time.  Kiki was eventually 'caught' by Springhill Catch in the home straight.  From that moment on Noreen kept telling me my husband was robbing her. a) I don't have a husband, and b) she backed some decent-priced winners later on in the evening so she's fooling nobody!!

Tarawood Kiki & Andrew Cairns
The Terrible Two - Noreen Bennett (L) & Caroline Kennedy giving me hell!
Wellfield Alfie ran a stormer in the third race to win for the first time since 2014 and Vyrnwy Smoke returned to winning ways when partnered again by Lauren Moran.  Lauren and I were both kicking ourselves that we missed to get the GoPro on both Hughie and her for two winning spins around the track - we'll just have to keep trying (and remember to take the actual cameras with us!!).

The high grade OPH was as good a race as I've seen in a long time at Corbiewood, but then I said that the previous week about the STAGBI Future Broodmares Race, which coincidentally was also an OPH.  And then the best races last season also seemed to be OPH me crazy, but I'm sure I can see a pattern forming.  Nevertheless, some people still don't like preferred style racing.  Back to the ballot on alternate weeks it is (I didn't just decide that, it was decided by the club members at the beginning of this week).

Anyway, the top race was won impressively by Robhall who has been such a faithful servant to owner 'Big Bob' Craw ('s'appenin?'), but I must mention Coalford Chief.  Aside from the fact that I love a grey, I have also loved this horse for some time.  He faltered badly at the start (not sure what caused it, initially I thought he had been squeezed but watching the replays I must only assume that he made a mistake).  This resulted in him being left a good 50 yards behind the remainder of the field.  I kid you not, he was chasing down Robhall at the finish; the ground that he made up and the race that he ran was phenomenal.  He'll get his turn for sure.

Coalford Chief
All eight runners heading for home
Owner Bob Craw & driver Stuart MacKenzie heading to the winner's circle

And of course, aside from the 3YO fillies division of the Derby, there was also the colts and geldings.  I missed the start of the race as I was too busy chatting to Abbie and Ace at the lorry, but when I did make my way to the track side, the race was pretty much sewn up.  No Brakes dominated and although All Good Hanover tried his best, the winner wasn't for catching.  It was an impressive time too - 2.03.45.  I was also pleased to see GDs Hazzard finishing third - he's a stablemate for Ace and his owners Dave and Gerry Thomson are lovely people.  Plus 'Harry' is out of the mare Jambo Cam who I supported with great gusto during her racing career as she took on Rhyds Topaz in the top stakes races back at the beginning of my relationship with Smarty.

And before I knew it, the racing was over (in my defence I thought there were 8 races, not 7, which explained my look of bewilderment as the track rapidly emptied).  As I've mentioned, I missed the remainder of the weekend's racing but I have to give a small shout out to the following horses:

Billy Wilk - heat and final winner @ Carlisle - well done Cattigans!
Miraculous - winner of the first heat of the Crock of Gold @ Tir Prince - word is it was a really impressive performance.  Get with the script people, this horse has been a superstar since forever.
Rhyds Star Quality & Matticulous - royally bred, the pair of them (RSQ being a full brother to Rhyds Fivestar, Rhyds Hallstar, multiple race winner already this season Rhyds Rock Star amongst others, and Matticulous a full brother to 3YO British record holder Titanium and half brother to Miraculous himself) - the duo went head to head in the NWHOA 2YOs with Rhyds Star Quality the victor on this occasion.  I think these two could be interesting to watch all summer!
Rhyds Sapphire - my family's filly finished fourth in her first start from a terrible draw - onwards and upwards hopefully!

And that folks, is that.  This post goes out with only a few hours until Corbiewood's return (7.30pm tonight).

Over and out,

#1 Groom

P.s. the hen weekend was awesome.  For the first time in a long time, I basically did very little and didn't feel remotely guilty about it.  Plus I managed to even out some of the terrible tan lines from Appleby in anticipation of the wedding in August.  I'm a bridesmaid people.  A bridesmaid.  Turkey in a dress.

P.s. again, I'm thinking of starting a new feature in my weekly posts, called 'Caroline's Corkers'.  Caroline Kennedy gives me hell.  She's brutal.  Last week it was the following which knocked me for six:

"You do look younger now you're not as chubby.  You had a fat face and fat shoulders before".

She means it, too.

P.s again, I lied.  This wasn't brief at all.  Soz not soz.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Oakwood Stud Mares Pacing Series 2017 - Meet the runners!

As with everything, I'm chasing my tail. I had planned to have this published well before the first leg of the series was due to be staged.  Well, the first leg is tomorrow night.  That's right: TOMORROW NIGHT.  Thursday 22nd June.

The series was originally planned on the basis of twelve mares entering.  Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I only managed to get eleven entries.  However, the shortfall was accounted for by our generous sponsors and some foresight on my part.  Therefore, we go with eleven.

The entire purpose of this post is simply to introduce you to the eleven top quality mares entered for the series.  Just so you're aware of them when I start banging on in each weekly post about whoever the winner of the previous leg has been!

To quote Ernie K. Doe (or The Sugababes, for those with limited musical tastes), 'here come the girls'...


Bill Cardno photo
Dontstoptheparty (2011, Dreamfair Vogel-Party West-Western Hanover).  Owned and trained by John Gilvear and driven on 25 of her 26 lifetime starts by Brian Gilvear (pictured winning the Joe Murdock Memorial Final in September 2016, when setting her lifetime mark of 2.04.6).  A grass specialist, 4 from 5 of her career wins have come on the turf, having won her maiden at Musselburgh in 2014 and notching up three victories at Haugh Field in 2014 and 2015.  Despite not scoring in the early part of 2016, she was rarely out of the frame and picked up six 2nds and two 3rds including second in a heat and third in the final of the Welsh Classic at Tregaron.  She rounded off the season with an impressive win in the Joe Murdock Final at Corbiewood's biggest weekend of racing.  She has been placed on both of her starts so far this season and enters the series as a Grade 5.


Bill Cardno photo
G Ds Baby (2011, Daylon Alert-G Ds Twin-Cover Up).  Owned by Gilmour Carson and trained by George Carson.  A winner of 3 from 33 starts, partnered by a different driver on each occasion (William Drysdale, Grant Cullen and William Greenhorn).  Pictured setting her lifetime mark of 2.05.6 when winning her novice in July 2016.  From six starts this season, she has been placed twice (York & Appleby) and comes into this series as a Grade 1, giving her a preferential draw in the early legs.


Bill Cardno photo
Lady Mary (2011, Playwithafulldeck-Marys Solitaire-Solitude).  Owned by George Murdoch & Catherine Shields, trained by Catherine Shields, driven since joining new connections in 2016 by William Drysdale (pictured setting her lifetime mark of 2.05.2 when winning her novice in September 2016).  A winner of 2 races from 26 starts; however, since arriving in Scotland last year, Lady Mary was never out of the first three on all 12 starts in 2016 which included runs on both hard and grass.  From 12 starts under the care of Cathy Shields, the mare recorded 1-6-5, earning money each time she raced.  Lady Mary enters the series as a Grade 1, which also gives her a preferential gate draw in the early legs.


Bill Cardno photo
Loriznitestar (2009, Dreamfair Vogel-Starry Nite-D M Dillinger).  Owned by Thomas Sneddon, trained by Paul Cullen and primarily driven by Grant Cullen (pictured winning the 2017 STAGBI Future Broodmares race at Corbiewood, June 2017).  A winner of 11 from 78 starts, with a record of 2.04.7 at Corbiewood, Loriznitestar won her most recent start after a lacklustre beginning to the season.  She did however nearly equal her PB at the end of the 2016 season when winning the RC Taylor Final in October and ended the year on a high when returning a week later to win on her final start of the season.  Loriznitestar enters the series as a Grade 4.

Bill Cardno photo
Porcelain Seelster (2013, Camluck-Pantecostal-No Pan Intended).  Owned by Claire Fletcher, trained by Teresa Haythornthwaite and regularly partnered by James Haythornthwaite.  A winner of 7 races from 30 starts, this mare was regularly placed in stakes races at 2 and 3, winning a heat of the 2YO Rising Starzzz at York and the SHRC 3YO Derby.  With a record of 2.03 at Tir Prince, 'Rosie's mark at Corbiewood is 2.04.54 recorded when winning a heat of the Victor Carson Memorial at the Murdock Weekend in 2016 before going on to win the final impressively.  Five of her seven victories have come at Corbiewood and she enters the series as a Grade 5.

Janet Cockburn photo
Rhyds Rainbow (2011, Hasty Hall-Kentucky Sunshine-Real Desire).  Owned by John Howard, trained by Sam Howard and primarily driven by Richard Haythornthwaite.  Current British 3YO Filly record holder and York 3YO Filly record holder with a lifetime mark of 1.57.3, winner of 5 from 8 starts and placed in the remaining three.  However, this mare is unraced since her 3YO season.  Enters the series as a Grade 7 (subject to BHRC confirmation).

Bill Cardno photo
San Diego (2012, Pro Bono Best-San Carra-Coalford Art).  Owned and trained by William Kyle and driven by John Allan on recent starts this year.  Winner of 2 from 18, with back to back victories at Corbiewood in 2016, following on from multiple placed runs as a juvenile in stakes races.  Out of the mare San Carra, a Corbiewood stalwart who raced and won in top company at the track in years gone by.  San Diego has a personal best of 2.05.94 and was placed on her most recent start at Corbiewood this year.  Enters the series as a Grade 1.

Bill Cardno photo
Starzapan (2010,Genghis Pan-Starry Nite-D M Dillinger).  Owned by Trackside Racing Stables, trained by Ally MacKenzie and driven by Stuart MacKenzie.  SHRC Horse of the Year 2016 after five 1sts, four 2nds and a 3rd during the season.  Took her lifetime mark of 2.04.06 in July last year on her third win in as many weeks at the track, during a purple patch in which she only finished outside the first two once in 6 weeks of racing.  Enters the series as a Grade 5.

Bill Cardno photo
Sureamhasty (2012, Hasty Hall-Suream Smart-Sure Cam).  Owned and trained by Alex Hay and primarily driven by William Greenhorn.  A winner of her first start of the season at Appleby in May, and a winner of 5 from 21 starts lifetime, three of which have come at Corbiewood (where she set her lifetime mark of 2.07.13 in September 2016).  Second in the STAGBI Future Broodmares Race a couple of weeks ago behind Loriznitestar, she comes into the series as a Grade 3.

Bill Cardno photo
Sureamsomething (2008, Wolfdancer Mindale-Suream Smart-Sure Cam).  Owned by Jackie Campbell and trained by Gregor Paterson.  Raced under saddle (Alana Hay, Melissa Osgood) and driven by a variety of top drivers (William Greenhorn, Hugh Menzies), she changed hands in the latter stages of the 2016 season having won a STAGBI Future Broodmares Race for her previous connections and finished second in another.  She then went on to win the third race in the series for new connections.  Winner of 14 races from 95 starts with a personal best of 2.04.12 (set in a STAGBI mares race).  Enters the series as a Grade 6.

Bill Cardno photo
Yokalady (2010, Daylon Alert-Yoko Hall-Cambest).  Owned and trained by Dougie McLean and regularly driven by Scott Murray (pictured winning at Corbiewood in August 2016).  A winner of three races from 29 starts, all at Corbiewood, with a lifetime mark of 2.07.67.  Trained around Musselburgh Racecourse, she was unplaced on her first start of the season at Carlisle and enters the series as a Grade 2.

The start sheet for tomorrow night's racing can be found here.  We have seven mares going to post in the feature race.  Watch this space!!
Over and out,
#1 Fan Of Mares

Thursday, 15 June 2017

2017 Season: Week 7 - Och aye we're racing in Scotland!


After two failed attempts at staging meetings on May 19th and June 2nd (due to a lack of entries), racing finally kicked off at Corbiewood on Friday 9th June with the STAGBI Broodmares Race the feature event.

I'm a big fan of these races, firstly because I'm a director on the board for STAGBI and secondly because I feel that mares have a bit of a tough time once they graduate from the stakes races because they aren't really catered for outwith these races.  They have to tough it in beside colts and geldings where they receive no concession for being the fairer sex.  That's why when mares like Greentree Serenity win major handicap finals I'm over the moon.  It's also why I came up with the concept of the Mares Pacing Series at Corbiewood.  We have mares in Scotland capable of beating the opposite sex in combined races, but when they race each other in the STAGBI races the quality of the racing is superb - it makes for a great spectacle for the crowd and a great betting race for the bookies and punters.  All the series does is extend that concept into legs and a final over the course of a 9 week period.

The 9th June happened to be the closing date for nominations for the Oakwood Stud Mares Pacing Series which is due to commence on Thursday 22nd June.  I'm delighted to announce that the series WILL be going ahead, however it will be with 11 mares and not the 12 originally sought.  Fear not mare owners, nothing will be altered in terms of prize money or entry fees due to the generosity of the sponsor, Oakwood Stud, and some clever book balancing (and more than a little foresight) by yours truly.

Of the 7 mares who raced in the STAGBI Future Broodmares race last Friday night, 6 are entered for the series.  You have no idea how much joy that fills me with, especially when you get a chance to watch the race from Friday in which Loriznitestar came out on top for mildly surprised owners Tam Sneddon and Lynne Elvin.  The mares OPH races are hard to win north of Hadrian's Wall, and even mares who have somewhat dominated other STAGBI mares races in other parts of the UK have travelled to Corbiewood to find that the preferred handicap method of racing on a tight track is as tough an opponent as the other good quality mares in the race.  These races have become really desirable on a mare's CV, which is partly the reason for their creation.  The added bonus is connections are invited to the annual BHRC & STAGBI awards to collect a trophy, something I didn't waste any time in advising the owners about!  Think I've sold my first table for the event next spring!

Loriznitestar & Grant Cullen (Bill Cardno photo)
Connections in the winner's circle (Bill Cardno photo)

Full results from the meeting can be found here on the SHRC website.  Note my efforts in linking all the races to the race replays (courtesy of Elizabeth O'Neil) and linking all of the horses to their BHRC race reports on the BHRC website.  Giving myself a pat on the back for that one.

You can also read a brief overview of the racing in my report published on the Harnesslink website.

I would just like to take a moment to give a special mention to one winning horse in particular, because aside from being borderline obsessed with mares, I am also borderline obsessed with multi-talented Standardbreds.  Step forward, Jasper Hill.

Jasper was bought last year by the MacKenzie family for their daughter, Carágh.  Since joining the family, he has continued to race in the sulky, but has also guided Carágh through her saddle test, tried his hoof at showing (ridden and in hand) and also showjumping.  Mum Nicky told me on Friday night after his heat win that only 2 weeks ago he was competing at showjumping.  Talk about a multi-purpose breed...and all at the tender age of 11!

Carágh & Jasper doing their saddle test at Corbiewood in 2016
Carágh & Jasper at the Standardbred Show at Corbiewood, May 2017

What a great family he has to keep his mind and body active with so many different disciplines - Jasper will never be bored!

I would also like to take a minute to thank Hugh O'Neil Jnr Jnr for agreeing to wear the GoPro when driving Killarney Howard.  We got some really good footage from a front runner who was just pipped on the line, which I have set to music.  Unfortunately the video doesn't appear to be working on all devices (primarily iPhones and iPads, although some have reported issues with Android phones also) however I have had no problem with various laptops and my own Android phone.  Hughie advises that he can watch the video on his iPhone when using the 'desktop version' (I don't know what that means but if you're an iPhone user and it makes sense to you then batter in).

Here it is, good luck trying to view it!

Before we say goodbye to Corbiewood and jump head first into my first visit to Pikehall in the Peak District, I just want to share this photo with you all, particularly for the benefit of my overseas readers:

(Bill Cardno photo)
Can I get a round of applause for Corbiewood judge/iPad photo finish operator/video recording equipment fixer/occasional track steward Brett Goodwillie who rocked up after his sister's wedding (before the reception which was just down the road) dressed like this?!

THAT is how you dress for the opening meeting of the season!  Take note racegoers, I will be expecting this from you all in 2018!

P.s. Brett, when I say that I am going to get a photo of you and I am going to put it on my blog and share it with the world, don't ever think I'm kidding!


Sunday 11th June saw us heading (rather a long way) south, to Derbyshire, for my first visit to Pikehall races.  Smarty has been several times before, but for various reasons I've always had to miss it.  Not this time.

I didn't know what to expect from the ten-race card.  Even less so when we pulled into a field on top of a hill.  I had heard that Alan Crowhurst, an award-winning sports photographer who specialises in horse racing photography would be in attendance and had hoped to speak with him, however our paths never crossed on what turned out to be a windy and wet day atop that hill!  Fortunately for me Alan has been kind enough to send me some of the photos he took of the racing:

I also had my camera with me (please don't read that as me putting myself in the same category as Alan) which was going to be primarily for creative photos for my camera club (I've been asked to do a presentation in the autumn for the club members using photos/videos that I've taken myself).  It was a good job I did have it with me, as there was no official photographer at the I stepped in.  I didn't realise this until the connections of the first race winner were standing patiently in the winner's circle waiting for their photo to be taken.  Never one to miss an opportunity, there I was.  The photos I took of the race winners are now on my photo blog/site.

I'll be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the racing.  I wrote about it on Facebook during the journey home, however the post was hijacked to a small degree by a handful of bookmakers who felt it appropriate to bemoan the handicap system, uncompetitive racing and poor trade.  I did try to explain that there's a time and a place (and perhaps even an appropriate channel via the BHRC Council or Handicapping Panel) but this fell on deaf ears.  No doubt this will get them started again when I post a link on Facebook...that's a risk I have to run I guess.

Back to the racing.  Talk about a gruelling track.  A handful of races were over the standard mile, but the remainder were over 1 1/4 miles which is tough enough on a level, hard track.  It's even tougher on the turf, where sections of this particular track have an uphill pull.  I saw plenty of horses struggling to see out the extended distance on Sunday, and even some of the race winners appeared to finish with the fuel tanks almost empty.  The rain showers only hindered things as the track became tacky and clearly energy-sapping.

It was a good day for Wales & West, as steward Jeff Langford was keen to point out after the first winner, Lakeside Paddy from the David Bevan stables.  It improved by 100% when David partnered the winner of the very next race, last year's heat and final winner John Barley, which he also trains.  David is currently training my dad's two year old filly, Rhyds Sapphire, so seeing his stable in form certainly calmed the nerves before the major stakes races begin next week!

Shades Of Grey was 'doing it for the girls' when winning the high grade pace in the company of the opposite sex, having won at the track 12 months ago also.  And also a shoutout for the chestnut trotting mare Une Pebe, who reminds me of Stoneriggs Mystery with the way she races - head down and gets to work.  She finished third behind the John Foy owned and trained duo Ugolin Viking and Sulky Du Blequin, although Johnny missed out on driving the winner having opted to partner last year's BHRC Trotter of the Year, Sulky.  Phil O'Neill once again took the honours on the new import who made it two from two after his initial victory at Tir Prince last month.

Ugolin Viking (Phil O'Neill) leading the field at Pikehall

The final saw David [Bevan] stick with last year's winner, John Barley, with the spare drive on Lakeside Paddy going to Mike Evans, who trains another horse for owner Alan Davies.  As the race developed I could see John Barley sitting handy two wide in midfield, with backmarker Soldier Stanley tailing him in scenes reminiscent of Evenwood Ruthless and Master Plan at Appleby.  Lakeside Paddy, during the course of things, had found himself shuffled right to the back of the field.  As the runners rounded onto the back staight for the final time, the backmarker seemed to take off at the exact moment every other horse was flat to the boards and going nowhere fast.  He took up a comfortable lead heading into the stretch with his stablemate trying to catch him; however the race was already over and he crossed the line six lengths clear of last year's winner.  A big shoutout must go to Rhyds Merlin who was partnered by Andrew Cairns for the first time (with regular driver Alan Haythornthwaite committed to heat winner Majs Lad), finishing third and putting in a really gutsy performance in the conditions.

Winning driver Mike Evans being interviewed by Darren Owen
Winning trainer (and runner up driver) David Bevan being interviewed
Both John Barley and Lakeside Paddy are sired by 'the pocket rocket', world record holder and O'Brien award winner, Doonbeg.  They continued where Triplicate, the four-year-old daughter of Doonbeg, had left off the day before when winning the €8,000 Robert Grendon Memorial Final at Portmarnock.  The stallion's progeny kept things up later on Sunday when his six-year-old son Porterstown Chris paced in 1.56.8 to victory at Portmarnock also.  Some weekend for the little horse!  Where do I sign up my mares for next year...?!

John Barley with David Bevan (L) & Lakeside Paddy with Mike Evans (R) give David a training 1-2 in the Pikehall Final

Speaking of racing at Portmarnock on the same weekend, it did not go unnoticed that the Murphy Stables from Co Cork had two winners in the shape of Tenor Meslois and Alineka Darche, both whom I had the pleasure of meeting when I visited in January.  I'm pleased to see the stable enjoying success, because (as I'm sure everyone else does, granted) they work really hard and they're really nice people.

And that pretty much sums it all up.  I would have loved to have been at Portmarnock on the Saturday (an idea Smarty and I put some serious effort into trying to organise at the eleventh hour) but in hindsight, I was tired enough come Monday morning so it was probably for the best that we didn't go on that short adventure.

This coming weekend sees racing from Corbiewood (Friday 16th, featuring the SHRC Derby for colts and fillies, including our very own Crosshill Ace), Tir Prince (Saturday 17th, featuring the NWHOA 2YO colts and fillies races, including my dad's very own Rhyds Sapphire), Carlisle @ Cumberland Show (Saturday 17th, featuring a £4000 handicap final and including Smarty as a bookmaker), Hellifield (Sunday 18th, featuring a £1250 handicap final and including Smarty as a bookmaker) and Allensmore (Sunday 18th, featuring a 9-horse saddle pace and including one of my best friends, Emma Langford).

I'll be at Corbiewood on Friday but will be missing the remainder of the racing due to commitments outside of racing which see me jetting south to Eastbourne for two days.  I wish I hadn't tried to sell the product that is this weekend's racing as well as I just did.  Now I want to go to it all.  Physically impossible anyway.

Go racing.  You have no excuse.  There are meetings this weekend in Scotland, Wales, Welsh Borders/England, North West England and North East England.  Get out and watch the sport in the flesh.  Facebook Live doesn't compare.

Over and out,

#1 Groom

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

2017 Season: Weeks 4, 5 & 6 - I know I DRONE on...

Ok, so I know I'm massively behind schedule with these posts, which are supposed to be weekly.

Unfortunately I've been waiting on some drone footage from Tir Prince in order to make the title of this post a little bit less weird and to date, this hasn't found its way to me.  With three days of great racing at Appleby over the past two weekends since the Tir Prince fixture, I felt it was time I wrote something.  So this is a bumper edition, minus the drone footage for which the post shall remain titled.  Rest assured, if it does filter down to me from those above, it will be featured in some way in a future post.  And lesson learnt - time waits for no man, and neither must I.

Week Four - Tir Prince

Week four - one meeting.  Well, one meeting for Smarty and me.  We had intended to travel south from Tir Prince on the Saturday night to be at Presteigne on the Sunday, but common sense prevailed (in terms of me having a job to go back to early on Monday morning after getting home after midnight had we gone) and we headed back up north on the Saturday night.  I was still zonked on Sunday!


I spent much of the evening trying to obtain as much footage as possible from the two GoPro cameras - mine, which spent the entire time on the starting gate, and Lauren's, which took turns on different drivers.  The end result being that the 'Driver-Cam' lost its maiden tag when winning on board Indie Hanover (with Richard Haythornthwaite wearing it) and then went on to set a new track record over 1.5 miles when attached to Patrick Kane Jnr and Miraculous.  The camera isn't jinxed!

All of the footage is sitting in a vault waiting for me to put it together, hopefully with the drone footage and official race videos, as soon as it's all received.  I can't work to a deadline if I don't have the stuff!

As for the starting gate footage, the operator (not me) forgot to turn it on for the 10 horse Le Trot race at the start of the night, and somehow managed to set it to multi-shots (every 0.5 seconds) for the FFA.  Imagine my surprise when instead of trying to download 6 videos, I was downloading 4 videos and nearly 1500 photos, most of which were empty track!  Still, there must be something in there to work with.

As for the night's racing, I felt a little lacklustre about it before arriving and a little more so upon leaving.  This was the fifth meeting of the 2017 season across the country and the fourth to struggle for entries.  I'm not knocking the promoter here, if anything they did all they could to get a card together and should be commended for it, but one wondered during the course of the evening if it wouldn't have been better called off.  The highlight of the night certainly was the FFA over the extended distance and this was assisted by the build up, with talk of a potential new track record.  The race didn't disappoint, as the two young guns Miraculous and Coalford Tetrick went head-to-head in a thrilling finish, and the new track record was duly set.  But one swallow does not a summer make.

The long drive home gave time for much reflection, particularly once Smarty announced that he couldn't drive any further and then immediately fell asleep in the passenger seat once I took over the driving.  I am constantly wary of what I say in light of the new BHRC media policy, which essentially curtails my ability to speak honestly about the sport.  So with that in mind, all I can say is that during that drive home whilst at the wheel, I found myself fighting with my conscience about trying to promote a sport which was allowing certain things to take place both on and off the track which are not conducive to good racing.  How can I continue to create promotional material in order to attract new people through the gates of tracks when I know that they will be cheated in some way once they've parted with their money?  It does not sit well with me.  But it is a personal dilemma which I will have to come to terms with, until or unless things change.

Miraculous storming to victory
Week Five - Appleby Sping Festival

The first of the four 'crown jewel' meetings of the season; the two-day festival of racing at Holme Farm, Appleby kicked off on Sunday 28th May in glorious sunshine.  So glorious that by the end of the day I was as sunburnt as I may ever have been, having enjoyed good company, good racing and good gin without thinking about my poor shoulders slowly cooking in the sun!

Amongst all the fantastic racing were two performances which really stood out for me: Stoneriggs Mystery in the Battle of the Big Guns and Greentree Serenity in the final.

Mystery is the two-time Crock of Gold winner and two-time Big Guns champion and at 11, some perhaps thought his best racing days were behind him.  He is a horse who owes nobody anything, having had such a glittering career and fended off so many challengers for his crown as top FFA horse in the UK for the past few years.

Watch this video and tell me if you think his best racing days are behind him.  Because I think not.

There are few things in harness racing that bring me to the verge of tears like he can.  I simply LOVE to watch him in action.

As for Greentree Serenity, well after her impressive win at York a couple of weeks before, I fancied her in her heat.  So much so, when asked what my nap of the meeting was by a fellow bookmaker's partner ('and don't say Jack Swagger like everyone else') I said 'I really fancy Greentree Serenity'.  In form, with a win over the course 12 months previous...she let me down in her heat, finishing second but qualifying for the final.

Jack Swagger went into the final the favourite, with Rhyds Rockstar who had won his heat impressively off the back of two victories at York a comfortable second favourite.  Greentree Serenity went off a 12-1 shot.

Only she didn't know that.

I was trying to take photos of the prominant horses in the earlier stages of the race in the hope that one of them would be the winner and I'd have a good photo for any articles or blog posts.  Then from nowhere the group next to me started screaming like banshees and I had to stop taking photos to watch the race.  The screaming banshees were the connections of Greentree Serenity, who was storming home up the stretch.

Now I love it when mares win against colts and geldings.  It's a real 'girlpower' thing.  And I'm all about that!  And I also love it when people who have bred the winning horse are still the owner.  There's a lot of long days and dark nights when you've bred a horse and you're trying to get it to the track.  It takes unbelieveable perseverance and belief in that horse, from the moment it enters the world all spindly legs and no coordination.  To commit yourself to rearing it, breaking it in, training  and racing's not something everyone chooses to do.  Hats off to those who do it, such as John Clark of Greentree Standardbreds!

Monday brought less sun, and slightly more stress for me personally.  I was able to be at the racing due to a flexible job whereby I didn't need to do my office work in the office...but I still needed to do it!  Which meant I was running between my horses and my laptop constantly until all my work was complete.  Bank Holidays don't exist for a company which operates 24/7/365!

As for the horses, they didn't help matters unfortunately.  Ace finished fourth of four in the 3YO fillies race, running rather flat behind a most impressive Rhyds Mystique and Greenhilldebateable.  By the end of the day she was loaded onto the Cairns wagon and heading back to the north east to be trained.  Our other horse, Frisco Jenna, slipped on a bend and fell, narrowly avoiding a major pile up which would have been really handy for our driver, The Jockey, who was back driving for the first time since an accident which resulted in the loss of a finger 12 months ago.  I don't think we've put him off yet...thankfully horse and driver were alright, as were the others caught up in the melee.

In terms of the rest of the racing, the day belonged to Team Laidler.  With 16 runners across the 2 days, they notched up 10 wins - 7 of them coming from the 13 race card on the Monday.  I spent some time hanging around their lorries (being a pest and trying to fit my GoPro to Alexis for the saddle race) and I can tell you this: it takes some amount of organisation to get so many horses out onto the track at the right time; especially when you have 3 runners in the final!  There is a wider team than just trainer and driver Alexis and Rocker, and everyone plays their part exceptionally well!  No wonder though, as Alexis runs a very tight ship.  That woman must have eyes in the back of her head to know what's been done with which horse and by whom.

My highlight of the day was the saddle race, mainly because I'm involved (in a small way) with RUS-UK (Racing Under Saddle - UK).  My GoPro didn't collect any useable footage from Alexis' winning ride on Evenwood Sonofagun due to me fitting it at completely the wrong angle, but Lauren Moran DID get footage from on-board Rhyds Design which we will hopefully use in a promo video with other saddle race footage during the course of the summer.  In the absence of video footage, here's a photo of the winning duo, Alexis & 'Gunner':

And also of Lauren and 'Dessie':

And before I sign off on the fifth week of racing, I just want to share this photo - a sprinkle of glitter on the Team Laidler horses, I quite like it!

What girl doesn't like a bit of sparkle?!

Week 6

And now we're finally getting up to present day recollections!

Sunday at the New Fair meeting at Appleby, in my opinion, belonged to the Scottish.  Evenwood Ruthless, Master Plan and Ayr Majesty gave standout performances, winning two of the five heats and finishing first, second and fourth in the final.

I took the opportunity to relax a little and found myself in good company not too far from the bar for most of the afternoon.  I hadn't intended for that to be the case, but as I walked towards the bar to get myself a drink I was asked to buy a round (a joke, I'm sure).  This is a modern world we live in and I'm happy to get the drinks in despite being a woman, so that's how it all came about!

In between enjoying the company, the racing and the drinks, I was taking entries for the Oakwood Stud Mares Pacing Series which is due to be staged at Corbiewood this year.  It's an idea I came up with during a long journey from Scotland to Wales last autumn, and having started from nothing it is on the verge of going ahead and potentially becoming something really great not only for the track, but for mares in Scotland and the north of England.  For anyone who is reading this and is interested in entering, nominations close on Friday 9th June (this Friday).

Back to the racing, I managed to get a few photos during the course of the day and then as the final loomed closer, I thought about putting the GoPro on one of the drivers.  I'd managed to whittle it down to the two horses I thought had the best chance of winning - Master Plan and Evenwood Ruthless.  The decision to ask Gordon Gilvear to wear it on Master Plan was due to him trailing 50 yards in the final and for the purposes of exciting footage, I thought we'd see more from one of the back markers.  I got it right.  Well, almost.  The finish came down to Evenwood Ruthless and Master Plan fighting it out down the stretch and here is the resulting footage.

I was delighted to see Team Kennedy in the winner's circle with Evenwood Ruthless (aka 'Rufus') as they have trained a couple of horses for us in the early part of the season for the last couple of years and aside from that, we just get along.  Karen Kennedy (KK) is the driving force behind the racing at Corbiewood and her hard work often goes unnoticed, so this was a great moment for her to enjoy the spotlight.  She's also a mean drinker of a Portbomb on a night out.  I'm not even kidding.  She's like the shots Queen!

Heading home unchallenged in the fastest heat of the day
Evenwood Ruthless holds off the challenge from Master Plan in the final
KK and big Rufus heading to the winner's circle
And that really, was that.  Once again it has been a case of the grass meetings reigniting my enthusiasm for the sport.  I don't know if it is due to there being more horses, in which case the premier hard track fixtures will also elicit the same feeling later in the season.  Still figuring it out myself.  What I do know is that all of the general public who attended the three days at Appleby over the past two weekends were treated to some fantastic racing.  And that was despite some of the questionable race framing ;)

Onwards to Corbiewood on Friday 9th June and Pikehall on Sunday 11th June.

Over and out,
#1 Groom