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We have one runner today at Newmarket

Friday, 11 August 2017

"Perhaps apathy is a wave of emotions too afraid to burst out of the darkness into the bright light of day."

Terri Guillemets.

Velvet Voice, Topalova and Gee Sixty Six at first lot 

It’s a dry and bright sunshine morning with the temperature what it should be for this time of year. I think the weekend is for sunshine and showers. It does seem to me that autumn comes earlier every year and it has the feel and smell of early autumn already. It has been a great morning with the horses. Joey Haynes was in to ride fast work and we have had two lots out already galloping on the turf Across the Flat. There were very few horses about this morning and apart from one string that used a closed gallop, which was a bit of craic, we didn’t see another horse. Everything moved really well, worked nicely and it looks like we will be having plenty of good runners in the next few weeks.

Astroshadow working Across The Flat

We have one runner tonight, Topapinion, running in the seven furlong maiden at Newmarket in the 6.35. On looking at the opposition, you would start to be worried as everything has cost fortunes, including a £½ million yearling, but I have always liked this horse, think he will run a sensible race tonight and improve greatly for this debut run. We have nothing else over the weekend, but will certainly have runners Monday and Tuesday next week.

(L-R) Clearance, Roof Garden, Rum Ration and Four Fifty Three

It is the Shergar Cup meeting this weekend at Ascot, which always attracts a big crowd, in fact it is the biggest crowd that Ascot gets outside the Royal meeting. It’s mainly due to the music on afterwards and a lot of free tickets, or greatly reduced prices on offer. I see ITV are trying to broaden the appeal of the event and as a spectacle it works. But in racing there is no such thing as a team race and it’s just a novelty day with even the prize money not as good as it used to be. It is disappointing for them that there is so much racing on that they can never get the top jockeys to turn up.

Owners Max & Malcolm Franklin's grandchildren saying hello

Put Saturday 23rd September in all your diaries as I have been talked into commentating on one of the races at the Newmarket Rowley Mile meeting. It is all about raising funds for the Newmarket Open Day and especially Racing Welfare, which is the main beneficiary. There are three trainers from Newmarket and three from Lambourn this year, plus as yet an unknown celebrity. We will all get one of the races via a draw the day before, so let’s hope I don’t get the one with the most horses in it. We have set up a Just Giving page and I would be delighted if you could support my efforts and we will try to raise as much money as we possibly can do. I think there is a prize for the top fundraiser of a party for their staff. Please click on the link to donate and show your support.

Astromajor enjoying his retirement and looking fantastic

Phil on Friday

Racing is a dangerous game, we all know that. Last week we reported on some riders who, like Declan Murphy, defied death.

There have been miraculous escapes for some horses, too, such as Moorcroft Boy. He broke his neck in a fall at Aintree but astonishingly survived and two years later won the Scottish Grand National for David Nicholson. He died in 2013 aged 28.

Earlier, a horse call Henri’s Choice also broke his neck, again in a race at Aintree. He was put in plaster, recovered, and 18 months later won a seller before going on to land several more races.

The filly Throstle was born virtually blind and was considered so useless anyway that her owner Lord Alington ordered her to be destroyed. He eventually relented and offered to give her away, but there were no takers. She later won the St. Leger, at 50-1.

Shipwrecked on their way to England from New Zealand, two horses had incredible escapes. One was helped by a ship’s officer to swim ashore. The other was presumed to have drowned but was later found, whinnying, perched on a small rock. The first, Chesney, was the grandson of a horse who 23 years earlier was one of only two survivors of a disaster at sea.

The horse found on the rock was Kiora. He eventually reached Liverpool and ran in the 1904 Grand National won by Moifaa. It was rumoured that Moifaa was the shipwrecked horse and the myth persisted for years, but it was a case of mistaken identity. Moifaa had reached Liverpool from New Zealand without mishap.

Dick Francis saved Russian Hero from a potentially fatal bout of colic and the horse went on to win the 1949 Grand National, Francis finishing second on Roimond. “If I’d known what he would do to me today I’d have let the bugger die” he was said to have joked afterwards. Seventeen years later Francis was the rider of possibly the unluckiest National loser of all, Devon Loch.

The most bizarre case of equine survival I have come across was reported by Roger Mortimer in The Racehorse magazine between the wars.

A chaser fell at the old Hurst Park racecourse and was unable to rise. The vet was called and he decided the poor animal had to be destroyed. He took out his pistol and fired, but missed the horse and shot a groundsman in the foot. It was a very cold day, and it was only just after lunch … !

The shot, and the groundsman’s curses, stirred the horse into life. It struggled to its feet and trotted away. Over the next couple of seasons it won 11 races.