Thursday, August 10, 2017
With a name like Goodwood Crusader, you could argue this is the day of destiny for the horse who has already won five times for the yard this year. A sixth success in the Stewards' Cup consolation race (1.50) would be fantastic - and I wouldn't rule out it happening.
It's lovely the members of the Goodwood Racehorse Owners Group will be able to see their pride and joy run at the track's biggest meeting. Given his name, and given the enthusiasm of his owners, the horse will probably start at half the price he should.
He ran well last time at Newmarket, where the action happened away from him on the other side of the track. The likely strong pace this time will be to his advantage and I do think he has a chance of getting back to winning ways.
Although he won on firm ground at Bath he has also won on good to soft at Brighton, so there must be a chance he'll cope with the conditions. Perhaps more of a concern is his draw.
Finley Marsh will be starting on him out of stall seven. I would much rather they were coming out of stall 17.
I know he will be racing on the freshest ground up towards the far rail. However, fresher ground isn't always the quickest ground.
When soft ground starts to dry and become tacky, especially at Goodwood, the quickest ground is normally where the horses have been racing. That's because the turf has been opened up and exposed to the wind and drying elements much more so than the more virgin turf. The fresh ground holds moisture to a greater extent than sods that have been turned over. It's something that becomes apparent every year in backend races on the Rowley Mile, where they tend to race up the centre of the track.
As there are fewer runners than you would normally expect in this handicap I'm hoping they'll all race middle to stands' side and we can track over. I can't guarantee that will happen but I can assure you our horse won't be racing in the first three in the early stages. He does his best work late.
We can dream about having a fantastic Saturday, as we're also represented in another of the ITV Goodwood races thanks to Getback In Paris, who goes in the 1m6f handicap (2.25).
After he was sent to us in the spring we set about trying to win over shorter trips than he ideally wants without exposing him.
In two visits to Windsor he was beaten a neck and a short head, both times over 1m2f. As soon as he went over what I believe to be his proper trip, he won over the course and distance he encounters again now.
That encourages me, as I always like horses with proven Goodwood form, especially when that form has come in races staged over the top bend.
Horses go round the bottom bend, used in races over 7f, 1m, 1m1f and 1m3f, like a piece of cake. It hardly rides downhill at all. The top bend rides completely differently, while they also tend to get racing very early down it.
This has been the plan since he got chinned last month at Ascot, where I thought we had found the perfect race for him. Unfortunately, Mount Moriah, who I reckon could be a serious animal and runs later on the card in the Gordon Stakes, went by him like he was stood still. I'm hoping there isn't a springer like that in this field. If there is not I believe we have a great honest chance on ground that should be extremely suitable.
In the 7f maiden (4.10) we give a second start to Rustang, a Holy Roman Emperor colt owned by a great bunch of guys. He will appreciate the trip, but I'm not sure he'll appreciate the slow ground.
From Goodwood we head to Lingfield, where King Of Swing runs in the opening handicap (5.15). In Finley, he has the services of one of the best apprentices in the race, which I hope will give us an edge
Zavikon, who takes in the 6f handicap (8.15), did everything wrong on the all-weather last time, missing the kick and therefore getting too far back. His sire, Compton Place, isn't associated with soft ground horses, but Zavikon's damside features Helvellyn, whose progeny seem to love soft ground.
We had a horrible time on Tuesday when our newcomer juvenile Hell Of A Band had to be put down after fracturing a shoulder.
He fell foul of an injury you rarely see on the Flat. It's the sort of thing that is more likely to happen to a horse who has a bad fall in a jumps race or one who does something silly in a field.
Shane Kelly said our lad was just about to come with his run when he seemed to put a leg down wrong. The shoulder went immediately. Shane reported he had been moving really well, so much so he was coming through to trouble the judge, which he wouldn't have been doing had there been a pre-existing problem.
Naturally, the first thing I did was run down to the horse. The vets who were with him did a great job. They must have had a painkiller inside him within about 30 seconds. He was then put to sleep inside a couple of minutes.
One consolation is I can say with certainty the horse showed no signs of distress. He wasn't blowing hard and was just standing there quietly. I actually remember when I broke my leg going into a state of shock that masked any pain. In some ways, a bang on the elbow can feel worse than a fracture, at least in the early stages.
My next job was to find Hell Of A Band's owner-breeder Peter Crane. For Peter, the sadness was heightened by the fact this horse was the last line of an old family he bred. Luckily Angus Loughran, who knows him, helped me out by spending time with Peter and his wife while I was with the horse.
I had recently been moaning to myself and others about the number of seconds we have been having. Hell Of A Band's death put all that into perspective.
We are operating at a strike rate of 12 per cent but when you add in our 57 seconds to the 36 winners (as I write this on Friday morning) you can see nearly one in three of our runners have been finishing in the first two.
But for what happened on Tuesday, I'm sure Hell Of A Band would have added to our winning tally before long.
I have never seen the ground as bad at Glorious Goodwood as it became this week. It has sometimes been similarly soft at the track's October meeting, as you might expect, but never at this time of year.
The ground conditions obviously impacted on the big race of the meeting, but what a fabulous shout it was from Andrew Balding, Fitri Hay and her racing manager, Alex Cole, to run Here Comes When in the Sussex Stakes.
This is a seven-year-old gelding who also had an entry in the valuable mile handicap on Friday but instead connections went the brave route. It turned out to be the wise route as well.
William Buick would probably ride the race a different way on Ribchester if he could. I'm not slagging him off as there were plenty of races I wish I could have had a second crack at, too. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I also remember when Reel Buddy won the Sussex in testing conditions five horses passed the line almost as one. It was a very similar finish to the one we saw on Wednesday. Soft ground can do that.
In the first race of Glorious Goodwood the stewards did something I have seen stewards do in the past. They laid their cards on the table by disqualifying Dark Red due to interference he caused in the closing stages.
It would have been lovely for Dark Red's owner, Ronnie Arculli, to have a winner at Goodwood - and even worse than losing is when they actually take a winner away from you.
However, due to the nature of the racecourse, it would always be a risky move for officials to turn a blind eye at Goodwood. Jockeys soon get a feeling for what they can and cannot get away with out on the track.
Had the stewards chosen not to amend the result we might have seen leaders squeezing up horses throughout the meeting, with jockeys simply getting bans of one or two days. The outcome would have been very messy races.
I say all this despite having had £20 on Dark Red at 20-1. As soon as they went past the post I said he would be thrown out. Maybe I was the one who put the mockers on him!
Mount Moriah made a big impression on me last time and I can see him taking a step up in class in his stride by winning Goodwood's Gordon Stakes (3.00).