Well, that was some weekend for lovers of the turf; at Doncaster on Saturday we had the emotional crowning of Paul Hanagan as only the second Northern based champion flat jockey in the last century, earlier the brilliant Kauto Star put up the bravest of performances to see off two rising stars at Down Royal however his jockey, the peerless Ruby Walsh ended up spending the night in a Belfast hospital with a double break to his leg facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, then over to Kentucky where the dazzling French mare Goldikova wrote her name into the history books with a record third Breeders Cup win shortly before Zenyatta failed by the narrowest of margins to grab the Breeders Cup Classic and a perfect twenty from twenty racing career leaving her jockey to break down in tears at the press conference.
Friday at Hexham was gritty stuff; strong winds, driving rain and heavy ground – proper conditions for National Hunt racing and a large crowd of die-hards to take in the action. Papamoa put up a most encouraging effort to finish 3rd on his hurdling debut despite some sketchy jumping, he was a professional throughout and should improve in every way. Seeking Power had a real tussle all the way up the home straight but ended up going down by a head in a stirring finish; to be beaten by about 9 inches at the end of 3 miles is pretty tough and he seemed to be in front 50 yards out only to think he had done his job. At least he is fit and well though and we might try some headgear next time.
On to Kelso on Saturday, very different conditions with bright sunshine, perfect ground and a huge crowd. Northern Flame ran a disappointing race in the opener, he jumped deliberately and never seemed to travel – he is much better than this, I think I probably just went to war with him a few weeks too soon. Confidence was therefore at rock bottom when Isla Pearl Fisher came into the paddock, luckily nobody had told him, or the crowd that backed him in from 5-1 to a warm 7-2 favourite. He walked round the paddock as if he owned the place and then he duly obliged by winning in the gutsiest of fashions on ground that was probably a bit on the easy side. There is nowhere that I prefer training winners to Kelso, the chase track is a particularly fair test and the welcome that you receive from the enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd is second to none and makes you feel on top of the world, all the work I do with the horses from their youngest days has this underlying goal – can we win a chase at Kelso? So, as you can imagine I am prone to becoming rather over-excited whenever we eventually pull it off, so much so this time that I nearly had Paddy Aspell arrested by passing him my mobile when he dismounted so that he could speak to Mrs G in Australia where she had been listening to the race online – shouldn’t be a crime really but such are the bizarre priorities of the racing authorities….
Sunday was on to Limerick where Lucy had her first ride in Ireland finishing a good fourth, I listened whilst watching Johnny playing in the Ardvreck Sevens tournament – I’m never quite sure what people think on these occasions when they see me jumping up and down on the spot with my mobile stuck to my ear, I’d rather not think about it but must try to stand still.
A quieter week ahead, entries at Newcastle on Friday and Wetherby on Saturday though and cold dark mornings have led to a return to the porridge for breakfast routine under the ever-watchful eye of the golden syrup police….