Pretty much the entire yard will get a chance to race over the next three days, which will give us a chance to see how what sort of team we’ll bring to Cagnes sur Mer this year. Most our horses are coming back after a break, and we are really looking forward to see how they’re doing because they’re flying at home.
November sucks, to put it in simple, non-literary terms. It’s dark as midnight at 6 p.m. It’s just as dark at 6 a.m., but colder. There’s no decent racing to be had – the flat season is over and winter racing hasn’t started yet. But there is a faint glimmer at the end of the tunnel, and that glimmer is Cagnes sur Mer.
I just got back in from changing the horses’ clothes for the fourth time today. I turned the heat on. Then swatted a mosquito. It’s mid-November.
When a friend of mine gave me an American Pharoah t-shirt on Arc weekend, I didn’t think I would get a chance to wear it before next summer. But this past week temperatures have topped a sunny 22 degrees (71 Fahrenheit). More than half the horses had already quite sensibly grown their winter coats. A couple have resisted. Turns out they had the last laugh.
The pheasant that could have ended my life this morning chose not to, for which I was grateful. Far away into my own thoughts, I didn’t see him preening alongside the trail until the last second – Hard Way was nearly on top of him, bowling along toward home in a huge extended trot. Too late to stop, all I could do was crouch lower to the saddle and hope he didn’t choose that second to fly off, which would have resulted in me flying too, probably straight into a stone wall. The pheasant stayed put, and Hard Way coasted past – he probably didn’t see him, either.
Winner, winner! Mickael Forest win on Gorki Park with an absolutely perfect trip.
Ella ran a pretty gutsy race for her first try in Group company yesterday in Chantilly. She finished fifth, in the end, picking up our first paycheck in a Group race, despite a less-than-ideal trip – both on the racecourse and in the truck getting there.
You know you’ve jumped into the deep end when you bring an undefeated horse to the racecourse and you go off the longshot.
Ella Diva has done everything we’ve asked so far, but tomorrow we’ll see what’s really under the hood. Luckily, she can’t read the program, because she’ll be standing in the starting gate next to a slick miss trained by Andre Fabre who cost 720,000 euros as a yearling. On her other side will be a royally bred Khalid Abdullah filly trained by Pascal Bary. The two of them are supposed to finish first and second in the race, the only question is in which order. Ella doesn’t know that, though, so she will do her best to crash the expensive party.
Four other horses are also fighting for the scraps. None of these fillies has run a mile, so there are a lot of questions to be answered tomorrow. What we do know is this: Ella likes a fight, and she needs a decent pace. The problem is who will set it. None of the horses are necessarily front-runners, so we might run the risk of having to go in front. I hope not. Six other trainers are going to bed tonight hoping not, too. Well, maybe not – Andre Fabre is probably going to bed tonight wondering about his next polo match. He’s done this so many times I can’t imagine he worries about anything one way or another. Not so for us. This is our big day. We’re hoping our little filly does her best, and we hope her best is good enough to keep her in the mix. Stay tuned.
We are heading into uncharted territory. Finally, after seven years of training, we have a Good Horse. And that means the weeks ahead are about to get quite interesting.
I thought Ella Diva was quite a nice filly when I bought her out of a claiming race for my English owner. We’d been looking for a horse for months, tried to claim a few and failed, and were getting increasingly frustrated at the process. But we kept hunting, and in late June at Clairefontaine, there was a claiming race for two-year-olds that looked promising. We liked two or three on paper, and Ella Diva was one of them. When I saw her in the parade ring, she ticked all the boxes. Physically, she was just about perfect – not too big, but well put together, with straight legs, a clear eye and good, harmonious muscle. Even more impressive was her demeanor. She had only run once before, when she debuted a winner in Craon, but she was strolling the parade ring like she had done it a hundred times – calm, confident, paying no attention to other young horses acting silly.
Just home from Vichy with our Listed winner Ella Diva! She was fabulous and is now undefeated in all of her four starts. Wonderful filly – huge thanks to Derek Lodge, her owner, and to our team. Great work that has paid off for our first black-type win, the Prix des Jouvenceaux et des Jouvencelles!