Friday, July 20, 2018
When I look at Golden Wolf's name and see five seconds against it I feel very frustrated. It would be fabulous if his long run of seconditis came to an end at Haydock this afternoon in the Bet365 Old Newton Cup (1.45).
There is absolutely nothing quirky or ungenuine about Golden Wolf. He is as solid and consistent a horse as you could find. The poor lad has simply been unlucky to come across one horse too good - or too well handicapped - on his last five starts.
At Epsom on Derby day he was beaten six lengths into second by Dash Of Spice, who we then saw run away with the fiercely competitive Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot off an 11lb higher mark.
Then at Newmarket last ,in what proved to be a messy race, we met another tartar in the shape of Amazing Red, having started the season by chasing home Royal Line, a horse trained by John Gosden who holds an entry in the Group 2 Princess of Wales's Stakes.
I could have won a 0-90 handicap with Golden Wolf any day of the week but we have been targeting prize-money - and he has been winning it. He has picked up not far short of £25,000 this season, which is excellent, but it would be lovely, and entirely merited, if he could get his head in front in one of the major handicaps. The Old Newton Cup gives him another chance to do that.
He is drawn 11 in the 17-runner field, which is higher than I would have liked, but it is what it is and we can't change it. By using Nicola Currie's 3lb claim we have him back running on the same mark as when he finished second to Dash Of Spice. We're also going back in trip to 1m4f, having run last time at Newmarket over 1m6f. I have no doubt he'll actually stay 2m but this looks the right race for him and a winnable one as well.
He is wonderfully straightforward to ride and will be fairly prominent as usual, so there hopefully shouldn't be any hard-luck stories. He is also holding his weight very well this year, which he wasn't as a three-year-old, at which stage a run would leave a mark on him. Here's hoping his day in the sun has finally come.
While Golden Wolf is our major runner on Saturday, we're also represented elsewhere, including at Chelmsford, where Sunsprite seeks to complete a hat-trick in a £35,000 nursery (2.05).
The horse who finished third to him at Salisbury went out and won by six lengths next time, so the form looks decent. We feel he needs a little cut in the ground, yet got away with it last time, but this now looks an ideal opportunity to run him on the all-weather.
We've reached the start of the nursery season and my view is these juveniles are never put in by the handicapper off too low a rating. I also always say you should back number one during the first six weeks of nurseries. Sunsprite starts with number one on his saddlecloth, which I hope is a lucky omen.
This is a two-year-old we've always liked, so much so I was thinking of running him in the Listed Dragon Stakes at Sandown on Friday. However, that has a prize of £30,000, whereas the Chelmsford nursery offers £35,000. The prize-money difference is the reason we've decided to pick Chelmsford over Sandown and is hopefully a reminder to racecourses that prize-money matters and influences where horses run.
Also in action at Chelmsford is Mr Minerals, who returns after a 66-day break in the 7f handicap (5.25). His next journey after this race is set to be to the sales in Newmarket next week.
We obviously want him to run a big race at Chelmsford to increase his value in the ring, although the predicament you're always in is do you keep him or do you let him go. Ultimately, what the owner has to decide, generally based on the trainer's recommendation, is could the horse earn more in prize-money than what he can earn in the ring?
Our day ends at Nottingham, where More Than Likely lines up in the opening novice event (5.40) with Stephen Cummins taking off 7lb or the 8lb she has accumulated for her two wins. She has a rating of 86 and is clearly smart but I would be afraid of Red Balloons, given Richard Fahey ran her in the Queen Mary. Our filly was so quick the last twice over 6f at Brighton that I'm happy to now bring her back to 5f.
This week one of the yard's finest older servants, Barye, left for pastures new.
I thought that after a long and honourable career the time had come to retire him, so he has gone to join Grace Muir's wonderful racehorse rehoming charity, Heroes. I couldn't have wished for him to go to a better place. I know Barye will be extremely well looked after there and they will make sure he then goes to the right long-term home.
Racegoers at Lingfield last Saturday saw another horse who did me plenty of favours when Monsieur Chevalier paraded as part of the latest Retraining of Racehorses Awareness Day series, which the Arena Racing Company, to its credit, does plenty to support.
After he left racing in 2016 he was gifted to Danielle Graham, who takes him hacking and hunting. She says he is the most enjoyable horse she has ever had to ride and adds that nothing phases him and he often has children on his back.
I remember the first day I ever rode him.
It was in a spring maiden at Folkestone. He was the favourite, mainly because he was trained by Richard Hannon senior, but I call still recall being distinctly unimpressed with him on the going to the start. His action was so bad the fillings nearly came out of my teeth. He really didn't move at all well on the way down but on the way back he went like a bullet.
That wasn't the first time he galloped from start to finish very quickly, as I rode him to win a total of six races that year, including the Molecomb Stakes, Weatherbys Super Sprint and Sandown's National Stakes.
Some might think a sprinter would be harder to retrain but the rehoming centres are brilliant at what they do, plus when you stop giving the horses the strong high-protein feed they receive when in training it is bound to change them.
Monsieur Chevalier has certainly changed but he also clearly remains a horse who is well cared for and extremely well loved. So are many others, as anyone at Lingfield will have seen. In fact, one of the horses there failed to beat a single rival in three starts but has still gone to have a great second life - which is what our racehorses deserve.
If you get to 96 you've had a good innings but it was still sad to hear Joe Stevens, a lover of racing to the end, has passed away.
Joe was an amazing man. He fought in the war and then rode before training both racehorses and greyhounds. He basically did everything.
When he was training from Epsom in the 1960s he had a pair of owners who were very famous, although not for the right reasons, in the shape of gangster-murderers Ronnie and Reggie Kray. As a trainer you get worried about keeping your owners happy - quite how Joe managed with the Krays on his books I've no idea!
Long after he retired Joe continued turning up at every Epsom and Lingfield meeting. He was part of the furniture at the two tracks for years, so much so that anyone who goes to either place regularly will probably know of Joe, even if they didn't know his name.
I got to know him when I first came over from Ireland. By that point he was already a good friend and supporter of the Hannon family and would often saddle a horse or collect a prize for Richard senior. I went to visit him at his home in Epsom not so long ago. By that stage he wasn't in the best of health but he was still in great form as a person, just as you would expect of someone who went out dancing into his 90s!
Joe was the sort of person who would cheer you up if you were having a bad day. He had a way of saying the right thing at the right time and putting a smile on your face. You never saw him at the races anything other than immaculately turned out and you would often find him in conversation with jockeys and trainers as Joe seemed to know everyone.
All those people he talked to will be sorry to hear he has died.
This has been Racing Staff Week and what wonderful staff we have, not least here at Weathercock House.
We have regular barbecues for the members of our team and held another one on Thursday evening. Racing Welfare also popped over on Wednesday with a delivery of ice lollies, which given the weather we've been having was appreciated.
The job gets harder and harder for the staff we have, mainly because of the staff we do not have but badly need.
I dearly wish I had four more people working here, so that I could the ease the workload, especially at the weekends. I'd say almost every other trainer in Lambourn and elsewhere would say the same about their own yard.
We absolutely are at crisis point. Due to the lack of staff in racing yards there is an awfully big strain on racing staff and my real fear is at some point the bubble will burst. When that happens the people we do have will walk away. They will decide enough is enough.
Sadly, nobody could blame them for doing that.
It's a good job jump jockeys aren't like footballers.
Imagine if, after a fall, one of the jumps riders writhed around on the floor in pretend agony in the way players like Neymar. It's disgusting.
It must be so embarrassing for hardy, genuine ex-footballers to see some of the rotten cheats who have been embarrassing themselves and the sport in Russia.
How referees have allowed it happen without sending people off left, right and centre is beyond me.