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.
She ran like an old pro, too, relaxing in midfield and then accelerating smartly to win when it was time to get serious. She looked like the real deal, and my owner agreed. She was in for the top price of 40,000 euros, so to be sure we got her we put in 43,511. Not too many horses get claimed for that kind of money, and the trainer said he wouldn’t defend, which made me slightly nervous until he explained that he had only paid 8,000 euros for her as a yearling, so with the two wins and selling for that price, he and his owners would make a more than tidy profit. I was even more nervous when the claiming box was opened and ours was the only bid. Turns out, I needn’t have worried.
Ella settled into our yard like she’d been there her whole life. She didn’t seem to care where she was, as long as there was a good bed to sleep in (there was) and a regular supply of good food (there was that, too). I had claimed her to race at the week-long summer festival in Vichy, and she trained up to that race perfectly. It was a step up in company, and Ella was perhaps mildly surprised at the effort required to win, because she managed it only by a nose. But win she did, so now it was time to play some serious poker. Could she step up again? We came back to Vichy two weeks later for a Listed race, the Prix Jouvenceaux et Jouvencelles. And she did it again, but showing tougher stuff this time. She was headed in the stretch, but fought back just enough to get a head in front when it counted.
And now, all of a sudden, we are in possession of an undefeated, black-type two-year-old filly. That, of course, is when the phone starts ringing. We have offers for eight times what we paid for her. The smart money says “sell.” She has done what we have asked, but only just, and she will now have to face much, much tougher company. Can she do it? The stakes have been raised considerably.
Her owners are no strangers to racing, and they know that the Good Horse comes along only rarely, if at all. If they sell, they will buy two or three more – and probably not have one as good. Or maybe they will.
We got together the other night for dinner to celebrate the Listed win. It was a family affair, there was singing, laughing and drinking out of the trophy. Selling, for the moment, doesn’t look likely. Who can blame them? The logical program for this filly is a Group 3 race in Chantilly, then on to a Group 1 try at Longchamp on Arc Day. We’re entered for Chantilly, and we’ll enter for Longchamp, too. For the moment, the owners want to go all in. Should be quite the game!