Monday, June 12, 2017
If you're a football fan in Ireland you tend to be a supporter of either Liverpool or Manchester United. For me, right from when I was a little boy, I was always mad about United. It should therefore come as no surprise that Tuesday at Chepstow was one I'll remember for good reasons.
As my riding career progressed and I started to become successful I was lucky enough to meet Sir Alex Ferguson. We struck up a good relationship and I had the privilege of riding some of his horses, including Magic City, who won a £100,000 Goodwood handicap for a partnership that included Sir Alex.
When I started training Sir Alex kindly supported me and on Tuesday we sent Twenty Times - who he shares with friends Peter Done, Ged Mason and Ron Wood - to Chepstow for her first outing out of maidens, upped in trip for a 1m2f handicap.
Sir Alex had showed great patience with the filly, who I explained to him last year was going to be nice but would need a trip. I asked him to bear with me, which he did.
On Tuesday morning I rang him and said, "Today is the day", on the basis rain had arrived and she was racing on ground I felt she would like over a trip that was going to suit. She hails from a good Aga Khan family and has Dream Ahead as her sire, which might throw some people, but there is plenty of stamina on her damside.
She is a lovely, genuine filly who didn't let us down, winning with a bit in hand. Alex rang me shortly after the race and was absolutely thrilled, which was great to hear. Earlier in the year he kindly organised for my son, Harvey, to meet David De Gea on the day of an FA Cup match. That was a huge privilege. It was fabulous to be able to repay him.
This proved to be another good week for the yard, as on Wednesday Believe It made all to win at Kempton under an excellent ride from Stephen Cummins, who I think will now really start to get going and pick up outside mounts.
Believe It has been a great servant to the yard. He joined us with a rating of 54 and on this occasion was winning off 77. That was his sixth win for the yard, so we really do owe him a lot.
He has done particularly well as he has a wind issue. However, when we can jump him off on the all-weather and get him into a good, even rhythm, he seems to get away with it.
You can't stop and start a horse who has a wind problem. When a horse like that gets checked, his head is thrown into the air there is a much greater chance the palate will flip. All-weather racing surfaces are so level that horses only really change their legs on the turns. To Believe It that's much more preferable than going up and down on turf and ending up stumbling, which would lead to him having to go for his breath.
We might, for those reasons, be a little limited in where we take him, but in the right race on the right surface he seldom lets us down.
Wings deserved his Derby triumph
The racing at Epsom last week was fantastic. For different reasons the two Classics were memorable.
The Derby was a great race to watch. From the two pole to the line it looked like so many different horses were going to win. The Oaks was a very different sort of contest but the home straight duel between Enable and Rhododendron was a tremendous spectacle.
It was such a pleasure to see the Oaks won by a filly who hails from a proper staying family. That is a great message to send out to the breeding industry and it was also a marvellous result for Enable's sire, Nathaniel, who I support with enthusiasm. I think he is a great stallion whose progeny has represented super value at the sales - although I probably won't be able to afford them any longer!
I had my doubts about whether Rhododendron would be at her very best over 1m4f and I do think in the closing stages she was outstayed. Had the ground stayed fast it's possible she might have got away with it, but the conditions were tough and the pace was strong.
In fact, the conditions were not only tough - they were potentially dangerous. Given there was thunder and lightning around, I was amazed the race was started from stalls. I can remember similar occasions in the past when weather like that has caused Flat contests to be started by tape. I know stalls move on tyres but I also know I would not want to be inside a set when lightning strikes.
Wings Of Eagles was the best horse on the day in the Derby, but I reckon Cliffs Of Moher may turn out to have been the best horse in the race.
I felt of all the strongly fancied horses, Cliffs Of Moher received the best ride. They went very hard up front but Ryan Moore had his mount racing at what he thought was the right gallop. That meant he conceded plenty of ground but he nevertheless brought the colt with what looked to be a perfectly-timed challenge.
The great advantage Padraig Beggy had on Wings Of Eagles is nobody expected him to win, which therefore meant he was under no pressure.
That was exactly how I felt when I won the Oaks on Talent. I'm sure that helped me and I'm sure it helped Padraig. It really can make a massive difference. I told Ralph Beckett I would jump off and make the running on Talent but when it was obvious she couldn't match the gallop I decided to drop her out and let her do things in her own time. They ended up going too quickly and we came through to win.
Wings Of Eagles was in the perfect place throughout the race. Having run nicely at Chester, which with hindsight was way too sharp for him, he found himself in a Derby in which they went like hell - and that proved to be right up his street.
This was another great Derby for Ballydoyle. All the stable's contenders will have been trained as though they were a red-hot favourite, with each having a lead horse of his own. Come the big day they all compete off a level playing field. Each jockey is given specific instruction to suit the horse he is riding. I know that because I have been involved in one of those pre-race huddles when part of an Aidan O'Brien team.
On this occasion Douglas Macarthur and The Anvil raced from the front but I've seen plenty of Aidan's ridden like that and not get caught. I don't know if either horse was specifically run as a pacemaker but if you're a jockey riding against Ballydoyle horses you simply cannot let their pacemakers go clear because even they are sons of Galileo.
With Ballydoyle, the ones who race from the front and the ones who come from behind are all very good indeed.
Peslier plight was frightening to watch
You won't see many more dramatic pieces of racing television than Olivier Peslier bailing out from the runaway Daddys Lil Darling before the Oaks.
A jockey in that sort of situation can be sure the outcome is not going to be pretty.
When a jockey knows he is going to fall he normally gets hurt. That's because instinct has time to take over and you try to save yourself. When you can see a fall coming you tend to put your hand out to save yourself, which in itself leads to broken collarbones. That's why jump jockeys suffer that sort of injury so regularly. With most Flat falls the first thing that hits the ground is your head.
I remember seeing a guy being run away with at Folkestone. His horse galloped past the stalls and then carried on another 100 yards towards the end rail. The jockeys who were watching felt sure he would jump off, but he decided to stay on board. When the horse got to the point where he could go no further he did a huge skid and crashed into the fence. Miraculously, both horse and rider were fine.
The problem with a tearaway horse is he will be pulling hard, which means his head will be raised, which in turn means he won't be able to see where he is going. To rectify that the jockey has to stop pulling back on the reins, but the obvious consequence of that is it allows the horse to go faster.
It's a bit like going at 100 miles per hour on the motorway and letting go of the steering wheel.
Unfortunately, you either do that or you jump off. It's an absolutely horrible feeling.
Epsom ground great but owners deserved better
First, some praise.
I thought ITV did a magnificent job at Epsom. I watched a fair bit of the Derby day coverage before heading to Lingfield's evening meeting. What I saw was brilliant. Also brilliant was the state of the racecourse. Epsom and Sandown have a superb clerk in Andrew Cooper, who once again produced the track in super condition.
Now a moan.
We had a runner on Friday at Epsom, where the owners' and trainers' area we were directed to was a temporary marquee just beyond the winning post. It had a sloping floor and high stools that proved extremely difficult to tackle. I found it easier getting on Tiggy Wiggy. I actually saw two people fall off the stools. Neither person looked to be under the influence.
On such an important day I couldn't believe there was no designated area for all owners in the main Queen's Stand.
It's often said, but it's true, that when owners come back from having a runner at Chester they tell trainers they would love to go back in the future. I'm not sure owners who experienced the sloping floor, or fell off one of the stools, will have said the same about Epsom.