Horse welfare is paramount ...

A lovely sunny morning after the rains

Thursday, 26 April 2012

“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”
Lao Tzu, Te Tao Ching.


First lot jumping off at the bottom of Long Hill

My rain dance is really working as we had more downpours yesterday. It really threw it down and there were big hailstones as well. It was coming down so hard in the afternoon that Sky TV stopped working for a while. Saying that, we now have a lovely start to the day with sunshine and a few wispy clouds. We have been out cantering with everything on the Long Hill polytrack this morning as they have moved the grass canter over from Warren Hill on to Long Hill, and as yet it has not been opened. I think they are just getting it marked out properly and checking that there are no problems with the approach to it. This is the first time for a long while it will have been opened at this time of year. It has had very little use for the last couple of years because of the lack of rain, and it will be great to use it from now on.

       26-_Blimey_ORiley_Rhea_rON_wAJID      26-_Shomberg_Steve_Five_Hearts_Emilly

 (L-R) Ron (Wajid) Blimey O'Riley (Rhea) Five Hearts (Emelie) Shomberg (Steve)

We have one runner today - Kathleen Frances at Beverley in the 3:10. There is a 9 o’clock inspection to see if the meeting can go ahead, as they too had a good dollop of rain overnight. Iain the travelling head lad is there and thinks if we don’t get any more it should be all right. I hope it goes ahead as Kathleen enjoys soft ground and should put up a good performance. Her last good run was at Carlisle in the Cumberland Plate and, if I can remember rightly, it was lashing it down that day. While talking about Carlisle, it looks like The Bell and The Plate have been reduced in prize-money this year which is very disappointing. They have also changed the handicap qualifications which is another surprise. These races have historically been 0-80 handicaps and they are now 0-85. The prize-money always used to be £40,000 added, so I am equally very disappointed for all the owners and trainers who could have had a go at winning a good pot. They could now be taking on much better opposition for less money. I don’t know who had this brainwave but why change a winning formula on the two races which attract people to Carlisle?


Eanans Bay (Abbi) leading Battery Power (Butch) and Astrogold (Nikki)

It is amazing how things come in threes, and following the death of George Ward I have now heard of the death of one of my old owners, Dave Latter, who used to own a nice horse called Langford. Our condolences go to Pat, his wife, and family. Dave got a lot of fun out of his horse, and we had many good days together. We also have the news in the Racing Post today that Robert Fellowes has died at the age of 80. He was the Jockey Club Agent and Estate Manager when I first came to Newmarket and when I started training. He was here at the beginning of the dramatic increase in the horse population, when Sheikh Mohammed came to town and boosted the numbers. From under 1000 horses we have these days around 2500 plus. There are many more trainers as well and Hamilton Road was developed. He set up The Heath Committee which gave the trainers a platform to discuss what was happening with the Jockey Club. He was a quiet country gentleman, who got things done. He laid down the plan for the modernisation of the Heath, and also managed to get the people of Newmarket and the trainers on the same wavelength so everybody could enjoy the magnificent Heath.


Star Commander (John) bringing up Mystery Star (Lauren)

Great news yesterday - Investec are going to sponsor the two-day Epsom Derby meeting until 2021. It is a fantastic commitment from the firm, and one that is widely welcomed by everybody in the industry. It just goes to show what we have to offer in our world, and that people want to be involved and are prepared to invest in it in this way. We should stop selling ourselves short and shout about our history and heritage, as well as the top class horses - both racing and breeding -  that we have. We have great commercial value and we should use it for the greater good.

       26-_Mystery_Star_Lauren     26_-_Shomberg_Steve

                                  Mystery Star                                                                     Shomberg

Memories of Punchestown

We'd heard the legend - now we were to see it in the flesh. Well, almost.

Mighty Dan Donnelly was the Irish bare-knuckle boxing champion whose arms were so long he could buckle his boots without bending over. In a hollow on The Curragh in 1815, before a crowd some 20,000 strong, our hero squared up to the English champion Cooper in what was to become the bloodiest of bloody contests, even by the standards of those brutal days. Eventually Cooper succumbed, and the huge Dan Donnelly climbed victorious from the hollow leaving behind him vast, deep, but well-defined footprints in the rain-softened peat.

 They are visible to this day!

Dan Donnelly's Hollow became a regular point of pilgrimage on our Punchestown excursions - newcomers could scarcely believe the story until they saw those famous prints for themselves. And there was more to come....

On we would go to Kilcullen where, hanging in the bar of one of the local hostelries, were the withered remains of one of Dan Donnelly's giant arms. I can't remember now whether it was his left or right. No matter - there it was, shown off in a glass case like some prize-winning but deformed fish, with documentation to prove it was the real thing.

All a bit gruesome, but literally a slice of sporting history you could not find anywhere outside the Natural History Museum, or an Irish pub....!


The string returning in the morning sun