Our spring season has been made considerably brighter by Deep Ocean’s untiring efforts and the revelation of Gorki Park, who has shown us he knows how to be a proper racehorse.
Deep ran 4th in the big handicap a week ago at Longchamp, showing he does have the ability to run competitively in tough company despite his heavy penalty in the handicap ratings. He may have another crack on May 18th over the 2,000-meter straight course here in Maisons-Laffitte, or he may wait a bit longer. At some point he’s likely to come off form a bit, because he’s been working hard and running great. The problem is he really can’t ever have much of a break, because he gets too fresh around the yard and turnout time isn’t an option given the state of his legs. He just has to keep training until he decides he doesn’t want to any more, and he seems quite far from that point. Horses with arthritis issues are like people – you can’t stop moving or you’ll stop permanently. In any case, he seems to be good spirits and happy to keep working, so we’ll keep working. His fourth place in the Tierce netted him another 6,690 euros and brought his career earnings to 105,000, making him our first horse to top 100,000 euros. (In all fairness, he already had 30,000 on the books when he came to me, so I can’t claim total credit.)
Gorki Park, meanwhile, confirmed his promising second place at Longchamp with a win at St. Cloud last Wednesday. He overcame a horrible draw and really gutted out the finish, because about 100 meters from home he looked like he might be beaten. But he fought to the wire with the second- and third-place finishers and managed to get his nose in front this time, beating a field of 19. The race was the second division of the Tierce, so he took home the winning prize of 15,000 plus the French-bred premium, taking the total purse to 24,600 euros. He came out of the race fine and I think he’ll probably do this again in the not too distance future. He picked up a 2.5 kilo penalty for the win, but I think he can still be successful off that mark.
The other horses are coming along, and we’ll have a few runners at the end of next week. Grey Falcon might test his wings again in Chantilly; he didn’t get off the ground last time out in Compiegne, but he’s a huge, late-developing horse and seemed to be going through a growth spurt (again!). He is improving steadily now and we should see something from him soon. Our new recruit Gold Knight is likely to have a go as well, and before long Eternal Gift will be back in action. His gelding went extremely well and he seems to have lost nothing (except some unnecessary bits).
Hard Way had a MRI scan last week to check on the status of his neck fracture. The news is mostly positive, in that the bones have healed in a way that will not compromise the spinal cord and all the fragments have fixed themselves in non-threatening places. He is having some arthritis in those vertabrae, though, and it remains to be seen how he handles training going forward. So far, it seems he definitely wants to race again (and soon, if he has anything to say about it), but we’ll have to wait until early June because he will be positive from the general anesthesia for five weeks.
And a bit of sad news on the home front: We lost our old basset hound, the Professor, last week to a combination of old age and heart failure. He was just shy of his 14th birthday, and he had a long and very good life. Coco the doberman is still not sure what to do with herself, since Prof was the head of the household and definitely told her what to do and when to do it. But she is adapting and I think we’ll be a one-dog house for the moment. We all do miss the crabby old man, though.
So here we are, again gearing up for my least-favorite race, the Tierce handicap (well, the Quinte handicap, actually). Deep Ocean has no choice since he jumped up the ratings with his two wins, so we have to run with much tougher competition now. We almost got lucky and made it into the second division, but in the end, we missed by one: He’ll be number 16 of 16 at Longchamp on Sunday, running for the big money.
Actually, he did very well the last time we were stuck in this position, just over two weeks ago at St. Cloud. He had nothing going for him: Left-handed track, heavy ground and a big, big step up on category. All that said, Deep always tries his best, and he finished 8th, beaten just two lengths and missing money by a head bob. Unfortunate, really, because he ran too well to get his handicap lowered and not quite well enough to make money. But he seems to be still in good form, so it’s not out of the question that he could make some money on Sunday. We have a good draw for once, breaking out of the 7 hole, and even better news is that our neighbor in stall 8 is a horse called Monofar, who tends to go to the front and set a good pace. If all goes well, we’ll just follow him and hope we get a good trip. It’s right-handed, he’s already run well at Longchamp and the ground should be to his liking. Fingers crossed he’s up for the run.
Gorki Park, meanwhile, ran a cracker the same week at Longchamp, finishing second by a nose-hair. He fought well to the end and confirmed he’ll be a useful little horse. I had thought he was coming into form, but his run at Amiens was so dismal I wasn’t sure what would happen at Longchamp. But a proper track rather than the potato field up north made all the difference, and he really distinguished himself. Hopefully, he’ll run at St. Cloud on May 1, but we’re not sure to get in. Start declarations are tomorrow and I’ll have a better idea then. He also holds a backup entry at Longchamp on May 2, but that race will be too hot, so we’ll have to find something else if we don’t make the cut in St. Cloud.
The rest of the yard is coming along, but needs a little more time. Grey Falcon has hit a growth spurt, which explains his horrible effort at Compiegne. Like a typical teenager, he’s sleeping all morning and incredibly uncoordinated. He’s starting to pull himself together, though, and by mid-May will be ready to be back at it. Eternal Gift is now a gelding, a fact that doesn’t seem to bother him one way or another. He’s been trail-riding with Hard Way as a way to keep his form up, and he won’t be delayed for too long, I don’t think. Hard Way, on the other hand, seems to be having a bit of an issue, and I suspect one of the fragments from his neck fracture may have shifted. So unfortunately, instead of running his comeback race next Saturday we’ll have to wait. He’s going in for an MRI scan on Tuesday, which will shed some light on whether this could be a serious problem or not.
Gold Knight is progressing very well and still has May 17 as a target, although he may well be ready before then. We’ll see. And King Driver and Not Bad for a Boy are just about ready to come in from pretraining and get down to serious work. Bring on summer!
In our last episode, Deep Ocean was going to try for a second straight victory in Lyon, but he ended up in the first division of the race, which I thought might be harder to win. It wasn’t. He won, and won well. The handicappers at France Galop were not amused. They walloped him with a four-kilo bump in his rating, sending him up to 34.5 and effectively ending our chances to win again soon. With that rating, and the amount of money he’s earned so far this year, we have two choices: Claiming races, which are off the table because the owners don’t want to risk losing him, and Tierce handicaps, which are fiercely competitive and damn-near impossible to win.
The plan after Lyon was to keep him ticking over and run the Tierce handicap at Longchamp on April 28. Deep doesn’t have the best legs in the world, and he was pretty stiff for a few days after his last race. But that was only for a few days. After a week, I could hardly hold him in the morning, and he clearly did not understand that there wasn’t a race around the corner. So we had a change of plans, and he now will run the Tierce at St. Cloud on Tuesday instead of waiting for Longchamp (which he will probably run, too). I’d love to give him a bit of a break as a reward for recent efforts, but he’s not interested, so we’ll kick on.
Deep is better right-handed than left-handed, and St. Cloud is a left-handed track. He’s also better on the fibersand than on turf, and St. Cloud is turf. He’s gone up seven kilos in the handicaps in the past month, and he’s running against company that should easily outclass him on Tuesday. But he doesn’t know that, and he will try his best, as he always does. His owners have been fantastic, and they’re just happy to be racing at this level, so they understand if he doesn’t bring home money this time. I hope. It’s pretty easy to get a little spoiled with a horse like Deep.
As for the rest of the yard, we have some work to do to get everybody else up to speed. Grey Falcon ran yesterday at Compiegne and it went pretty dismally. He’s not back to form yet from Cagnes, but we need to get his handicap rating down a bit so we went for a grass gallop. The only thing is, I had a tough time find a jockey so I put up an unknown apprentice. The Falcon was running his first race on a track that wasn’t flat. Compiegne is on a hill; the backstretch goes down and the home stretch goes up, and the ground was – well, hard to say what it was. Horses were sinking in and kicking up huge divets, but the ground was dry so it was like galloping in a grass-covered sandbox. The Falcon bowled down the hill with the poor kid hanging on for dear life. He really needed steadying up and collecting a bit, but he got no help from the saddle and when he changed leads in the stretch the kid very nearly fell off. He quickly dropped his hands in surrender and practically trotted over the finish line. Grey Falcon, for his part, tried his best but manged to strike into himself on both front legs just below the knee galloping like a rabbit in the bad ground. He’s feeling pretty sorry for himself today (although that didn’t stop him from eating). He’ll be fine in the long run, but he needs more back muscle so he can carry his big frame properly. He’ll come to form in a couple of weeks, I think, and then we can look for more from him.
Eternal Gift ran decently at St. Cloud last week over a mile, but the distance was probably a little too long and we’re going to finally accept the fact that he really needs to be a gelding if he’s going to be an effective racehorse. He’s scheduled for the equipment change on Wednesday, and if all goes well he’ll be back to racing in about two months. He won’t really lose too much training time if we don’t have any complications from the surgery.
Gorki Park will run Thursday at Longchamp if we’re not eliminated. We’ll know tomorrow whether we make the cut. He’s working well and will definitely appreciate Longchamp more than Amiens. The race is likely to be split into two divisions, and if that happens, we should have a good chance. He hasn’t done too much so far, but I like this little horse, and I do think he’ll start to hit the money soon.
Hard Way is on the comeback trail and training well, and his target remains May 4 at St. Cloud in the same race he won last year. He has all-American owners, and we like to keep busy on the first Saturday in May!
Lastly, a big welcome to our new addition Gold Knight, who I claimed yesterday for Foxtrot Racing, a partnership in England. He’s a lovely little horse, and I think we’ll have a lot of fun with him in the coming months. He has 9 places from 13 runs, so he’s a useful horse. Once he settles in, he’ll be one to watch.
Deep Ocean is heading back to Lyon tomorrow to try to do the near-impossible: Win a second handicap in a row. He went up three kilos in the handicap after winning on Feb. 27, and he’ll run the same course and distance tomorrow. He likes Lyon (at least one of us does), but I had hoped he would fall into the second division, where he would stand a good chance to win again, despite the weight penalty. But we ended up in the first division, which makes things quite a bit harder. On paper, he should be fourth, but I hope he can do better than that. He is feeling in top form, so we have to hope for the best. Antoine Hamelin gets the ride this time because Fabien has other commitments in Chantilly.
It would be nice of Deep could develop an affinity for a track a little closer to home. I’m really not looking forward to tomorrow12 hours of which will be spent driving a horse box. Thankfully, somebody invented Red Bull. The stuff is evil and probably bad for your health in ways they haven’t even discovered yet, but I do find it extremely useful in extreme situations. In any case, the truck has four new tires, so we’ve got that going for us.
After Deep, our next runner will be Eternal Gift on Sunday in Amiens. This race was supposed to happen last week but got canceled because of the blizzard. Unfortunately, France Galop reopened the entries, so the race doesn’t play out nearly as sweet as it did the first time. We’ll see the final start list on Friday and have a better assessment of our chances then. I haven’t run Eternal on the turf yet, but I doubt soft ground is going to be to his liking and I’m still not sure he’s all that effective at a mile. It’s all still a learning experience with him. Gorki Park also will discover Amiens, but not until next week. His entry in the maiden there is looking pretty good, and he has started to pick up the weight he lost coming back from Cagnes.
Grey Falcon also is putting weight and muscle back on, and he is likely to tackle a handicap in Compiegne on April 6. Hard Way is coming along, too, and hopefully will be ready to defend his title at St. Cloud on the first Saturday in May, a date that has some significance for the Americans in our crowd.
King Driver has moved to Xavier Richard’s pre-training yard in Normandy, where he joins Not Bad for a Boy, our new recruit from England. Hopefully, the two of them will be back in Maisons-Laffitte in two months or so. They’ve both had a few months off, so need to build some muscle before taking on more serious training.
We’ve had some unfortunately news for Magical Flower, who injured her suspensory tendon in Cagnes. The problem is very minor, but a tendon is a tendon, and she can’t train for four months or so. Given that diagnosis, we’ll now be looking to place her as a brood mare because her pedigree is quite nice, she has good size and conformation and is now a winner, so she does have breeding value.
Santarini, meanwhile, is convalescing down south and we hope to have her back in two months or so. Meanwhile, off to Lyon…
I haven’t had a runner over the sticks in several years, since I decided I’d rather concentrate on the flat because frankly, I don’t have the stomach for the risks involved to horse and rider. That said, I do have a lot of respect for the discipline and I love to watch the best jumpers in action, which is something that will happen next week when attention turns to the Cheltenham festival in England. Why am I taking time out from my usual blogging to look at Cheltenham, you might ask? Two reasons.
The first, and most important, is that a friend of mine, Sally Anne Grassick, is one of the riders in the Saint Patrick’s Derby, a race to be run during the festival to raise money for cancer research. Sally Anne is a journalist who spreads her time between Equidia, the French racing channel, and various publications, including the Jour de Galop and its offshoot in English, the French Daily News. I sometimes lend a hand translating the French Daily News, which is how I got to meet Sally. She is also an amateur jockey in France and was one of the 12 chosen to ride in the Cheltenham race next Thursday. Sally is just shy of her goal of raising 15,000 pounds for her cause, so lend her a hand and make a donation. It’s very easily done online, and every bit helps.
Sally Anne will be sporting the famous JP McManus silks, which brings me to the second reason I’m interested in Cheltenham. A friend of mine was instrumental in selling a French horse to McManus called Another Sensation, who is entered in the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle next Wednesday. According to the latest betting on the upcoming Cheltenham festival, he’s a bit of a long shot, but I wouldn’t rule him out. A few of us over here will definitely be rooting for him. (Oh, and just an aside – that link on the odds takes you to our friends at Paddy Power, who also have a nifty next-Pope book going. Ya gotta love it!)
I’ve been to Cheltenham a few times, and it is an amazing few days of racing. The crowds are unbelievable – it once took me three hours just to get out of the parking lot. Turned out I wasn’t as clever as I had thought when I snagged that close-up spot in the owners and trainers lot. Once you get in, you can’t get out! So I’ll be happy to follow it along at home. Watching it, though, will probably inspire me to send my own string out jumping a bit. We do like to train over hurdles occasionally, just to build back muscle and sharpen them up overall. But I think I’ll leave the actual racing to the specialists.
Deep Ocean made our stopover in Lyon on the way home from Cagnes worth it, winning his handicap by three lengths. It was a great evening’s racing, because his owners came down and were dressed for the photo, so good thing Deep delivered. I was pretty sure he would – he was feeling great in . . . → Read More: Rolling in the Deep
Where do I start? We finished the Cagnes season with a win, six places and just over 22,000 euros in prize money, so it was a success. We would have liked to find the winner’s circle a few more times, but most of the horses ran well and they’ll be far ahead in their training . . . → Read More: Cagnes: It’s a wrap!
We’ve had three more places since the last post, but we’re still looking for our first victory down here in Cagnes. Magical Flower ran fourth twice and Deep Ocean finished second. Magic is running well, and with a little luck she just might hit the winner’s circle here. Today she got stuck making the running . . . → Read More: Down to work
First off, Eternal Gift finished fourth yesterday, so our first runner here was in the frame. He should have finished a bit better, but our jockey made two tactical errors: He gunned to the front when he didn’t need to, and he decided to stay glued to the rail for his stretch run, when most . . . → Read More: The people you meet
We’ve shipped just about everybody to Cagnes, and just in time – snow and freezing cold have moved into the Paris region, and we’re down here in much more reasonable weather. We haven’t yet seen as much sun as Cagnes is known for, but it’s promised tomorrow. Even when it’s cold here, it’s a dry . . . → Read More: Let the Games begin