Some of my readers have criticised the pessimistic tone that occasionally creeps into my writings about racing, so this time I am delighted to bring you a blog that is full of good news.
With that feel-good factor in mind, I will not dwell on the disappointment at Warwick, at the end of September, where Arctic Ben, having led for most of the way, was beaten into fourth place and immediately referred to the vet with a serious muscle strain that will mean a six-week break. Nor will I waste your time by describing The Artful Cobbler’s woeful appearance at Haydock where he simply didn’t seem in the mood for racing and finished eighth in a fairly modest field of 10 runners.
I was understandably nervous when Sixty Something returned over a year and a half after falling, at the fourth last, in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham, when 4 lengths in the lead and going away from the field. It wasn’t the hoped for triumphant return, Jake Greenall did well to stay on board after a misjudged leap halfway round but, after they pulled up and returned to the paddock we all (Jake, Paul Webber, head lad Jerry and myself) agreed that ‘he enjoyed it’ and will have gained a lot for the run.
The only really bad news was no surprise. Pretty Mobile started the season in my last chance saloon after failing at Bangor-on-Dee, in May, to prove whether she was a stayer by parting company with Liam Treadwell at the first fence. With nothing proved I paid for her feed for over four more months before she was pulled up at Fontwell and lost company with an experienced amateur jockey at Southwell.
It was time to take a careful look at Pretty Mobile’s record. It didn’t look pretty. I was coming to the inevitable conclusion that it was time for Pretty Mobile to find her happiness elsewhere when her breeder offered to take her back, an easy decision. The name ‘Pretty Mobile’ was inspired by the launch of our mobile phone repair service which during her career reached sales of over £7m while the horse ran 10 races and won nothing. Her best finish was fourth in a five-horse race. The fifth horse fell.
I was once told that without having a few failures I wouldn’t enjoy the successes. I was certainly ready to have some fun when I went to Chepstow for the meeting on Saturday 10th October. It was a big day for Chepstow and a big day for me – I was there to launch my book ‘Under Orders’.
Karen and Alli from Eclipse had a book stall just inside the Owners’ & Trainers’ marquee and I was interviewed after the third race. The microphone was having a bad day so few racegoers heard my words of wisdom and Karen soon discovered that punters prefer placing bets and putting away a few beers to buying a brilliant book. But one person did show an interest, the local Racing Post correspondent who put a profile piece in their Sunday supplement. We only sold 25 copies of the book because the crowd were saving their money to back Upbeat Cobbler in the last race.
Having a runner at the meeting was an added bonus. On my only previous visit to a wet and cold Chepstow, Alex and I watched Jake Greenall produce a brilliant ride on Safran de Cotte to win the big race of the day. Upbeat Cobbler finished last season with two wins and seems to benefit from a break (the phrase is ‘goes well fresh’) so we had a chance. I was entertaining friends, Nick and Gilly and enjoyed giving them their first experience of the weighing room, saddling up and standing in the paddock.
It was a conditional jockeys’ race with Upbeat Cobbler ridden by Stan Sheppard, a new face to me and I liked his positive personality. I liked him even more when he took the lead and despite falling back to fourth with two fences to go found another gear and went on to win (pictured). While we celebrated with a glass of champagne long queues formed by every bookie, seems that most of the crowd put a few pounds on my horse. A good day.
Four weeks later I nervously stood up in front of an awesome audience. I was the guest speaker at the annual dinner for members of the Jockey Club held at the Carlton Club in St. James’s. It went better than I feared, they were a friendly crowd. At the end of my speech i offered every member a free copy of my book ‘Under Orders’ but suggested they might give a bit of money to the Injured Jockeys’ Fund. They raised £1,000.
We had a second book signing on Betfair day at Haydock (the 2015 meeting was Alex’s last visit to a racecourse) there was a lot of interest but we didn’t sell more than 30 books. However, over the next few days plenty of books were purchased on-line, it won’t be a bestseller but the book promises to be a modest success.
The next 10 days went well. On Sunday 20th November Royal Palladium won a competitive race at Exeter and the following day Un Prophete came second at Kempton. On the Wednesday I joined Venetia Williams at Hereford to watched Super Sam win over hurdles by 11 lengths, a great comeback after an absence of over 18 months. Upbeat Cobbler came third on the following Monday in a particularly competitive chase at Ludlow and two days later Super Sam made a quick reappearance to beat the handicapper and in a close finish scored his second win in a week.
Not bad eh! Five runs – a third, a second and three winners – as I promised this blog has nothing but good news.