The turf season is just around the corner ...

It's a day for hats, scarf and gloves

Friday, 06 January 2017

"Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity."
Edwin Hubbel Chapin

Gee Sixty Six on Hamilton Hill with the frost on the grass

It’s the coldest day so far and I am sure it wasn’t forecast, but with the wind starting to get up and a good hard frost, it is absolutely freezing out on the heath. The forecast is for rain from lunchtime onwards and then to get much warmer, but we will have to wait and see. I used Southfields Round polytrack canter for first lot where the horses did two and a half laps and everything went smoothly, but anybody riding without gloves and a scarf got very cold indeed. It is mornings like this that just show how hard the staff work, and it is very much appreciated. Second and third lot have been on Hamilton Hill which is slightly more sheltered than on the heath itself.

Gabor's impersonation of Notting Hill

Bracken Brae ran a fantastic race last night and was just unlucky to be mugged on the line. She is still in great form, proved she stays the two miles well and we have got improvement to come when we move onto the turf. It was frustrating, but you couldn’t be disappointed.

The yard's centrepiece covered in frost

I see that Cheltenham have boosted their prize money once again by £190,000 which makes the total fund at the festival £4.3 million. It is quite beyond me why this is needed as everybody wants to run at Cheltenham and the prize money could be halved and they would still run. This additional money should be spread in the lower tiers where horses are still running for paltry figures. It always seems to me, both on the flat and especially over jumps that the money goes to the same people. It will be interesting to see where all the bonuses go and how many smaller owners ever win one.

Phil on Friday

Following Phil’s Christmas article we are now introducing you to 'Phil on Friday' which will be a regular piece on topical racing issues. Here is the first of many.

The ingenuity of the British racehorse owner is severely tested when it comes to finding a suitable name for his or her pride and joy. You can labour for hours finding the perfect name, the ideal combination of sire and dam, only to be told: “Sorry, there’s an old broodmare in Ireland called that. Been barren for years but you still can’t have it”.

The rules are strict, quite rightly. Obviously something already registered, or anything too close to it, is not permitted. You can’t recycle the names of Classic winners, either (there will never be another Bob’s Return!) and horses successful in the Ascot Gold Cup, the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle, among other races, are also protected. The stewards use their judgment over other famous horses, and any previously used name does not come back on to the books for years after the death of the original animal.

The stewards have to be on the look-out for a naughty double meaning, too, though one or two have slipped through the net.

There have been some odd names in the past. Crwr, Catgut, The Flea and Winkipop all won Classics. Among the most prophetic were Motel, way ahead of her time in winning the 1808 Oaks (although there is some dispute about her name, Morel being favoured in later accounts), Skyscraper, successful in the 1789 Derby, and Nike (1797 Oaks).

We’ve had an Ob and a He, but the unbeatable shortest name in history was that of I, an Argentinian colt in the thirties.

Then there are the owners themselves. How’s this for a moniker: The Hon. Major-General His Highness Farzand-i-Khas-i-Dowlatt-Englisha Maharajah Sir Pratapsinha Gaekwar Sena Khas Khel Samsher Bahadur Maharajah of Baroda. He owned winners of the 2,000 Guineas and St. Leger in the forties. Happily, especially for racecard compilers, he was prepared to be referred to quite simply as The Gaekwar.

And finally … An American called Colonel Bradley once bought a horse for no other reason than that it was called Bad News. He confided afterwards that his hope was it would travel fast …!

Mick Legood being presented with his champagne for winning the tipping competition