July racing update

July was a very busy month at the yard. Avenue du Monde (Champs-Elysees) ran her final race, we attended the Tattersalls Horses in Training sales in Newmarket, two new horses entered the yard from claiming races – Never Compromise (Astronomer Royal) and Surewecan (Royal Applause) – and we ran the racing festival in Vichy.

Avenue du Monde’s last race

Avenue du Monde’s last race before becoming a broodmare was in Vichy on the 20th of the month, the last day of the festival. We were hoping that she would drop to the third division of the handicap that day but ended up in the second with Grey Sensation (Aussie Rules) and Gascon (Heliostatic).  Gascon proved to be the best of the three on the day finishing a good second while Grey picked up fourth and Avenue was just out of the money at sixth.  By then, we were running on a turf that was well worn from the week of racing and the heavy rain that fell the Monday before and again that day.

Ray Of Hope finds his form

Earlier in the month, we took Ray of Hope (Layman) back to Deauville and the fibersand and he ran much better than his previous outing at Longchamp. This time picking up second place, one of two that he would run this month.

Ray of Hope earing the yard its 19th second-place finish of the year in Deauville, the 31 July 2018.

Further notable runs included Gascon again, finishing fifth at Compiegne, Never Compromise was seventh in a Quinte handicap and Mr. Chuckles (Arcano) adding a seventh in the second division of that same Quinte handicap.

The Mickaëls – Forest, and Barzalona – did most of the riding except for Mr. Chuckles who was ridden by Delphine Santiago and Maxime Guyon who rode Gascon in Compiegne.

The best paying horse in July was Ray of Hope with his second place on 4 July, paying €9,90 for a one euro place bet.

The week that was…

We entered last week optimistic. We had some good chances at the track, the horses in the yard are in form, and Gina had just returned from a successful trip to Royal Ascot.

Things, however, started to unravel mid-week. Mr Chuckles – Arcano and Caribbean Escape (Pivotal) – who is in peak form, was entered in a handicap in Maisons-Laffitte, only to be eliminated from that race. A new entry was found for the following week, but that one started to look complicated for him, so he will have to wait a few more weeks before running again.

Gina, hesitant to run at Longchamp for what are known problems with the track (unevenness of the ground that was not properly maintained during construction the last two years), decided to forge ahead there and so we went to France Galop’s Thursday night after-work meeting, Jeuxdi,  a nice play on French words and marketing effort that did actually succeed in getting a younger public to the racetrack, albeit most of them were nowhere near the racing and unaware that it was taking place.

Ray of Hope – Layman and Risque de Verglas (Verglas) – ran that night, his second race after more than a year off to repair a hind-leg fracture. The jockey who was supposed to ride, Mickael Forest, couldn’t make it because his flight was canceled. With much deliberation on the way to Longchamp, Gina reflected on her options of available jockeys. We weren’t sure that the rules of racing would allow the one she chose to ride, Mickaelle Michel, to take the ride. In the end, the stewards deliberated and she saddled up and did a fine job on such short notice.

Ray looked perfect, and seemed ready to race, but didn’t fire in the stretch. He will try again next week in Deauville on the surface that he prefers, fibersand.

Saturday we headed back to Longchamp to try and get our first results at the new ParisLongchamp, which reopened in April after two years of work to install new grandstands. This day we arrived with Eternal Gift – Layman and Get The Ring (Linamix) – who has won at Longchamp and Grey Sensation – Aussie Rules and Sensasse (Imperial Ballet). Eternal Gift was not the horse that we saw a couple of times earlier this year.  Gina had this to say the following day:

Eternal Gift has earned his retirement. I’ll never forget pulling him out of the box in Newmarket all those years ago (2012!) and what a stunning horse he was. He still is, but it’s now time for a second career. He’s won four races and placed 27 times in 65 races, and given many good memories to four different owners, particularly to Clément Rollin who has looked after him for nearly five years now. Ponito, as he’s known around here, will give someone many years of enjoyment to come. He retires with no health issues, four good legs and a kind heart. We’re looking for his next home, but we will take as much time as we need to find the right one!

Eternal Gift is available to a new home. You can see some photos of him in this gallery. Contact us for more information.

The second runner Saturday was the standard-bearer of the High Street Racing syndicate, Grey Sensation. Like Ray earlier in the week, we went into the race expecting good results, but this time with a cheering block as several High Street members showed up for the event.  

Grey looked every bit the part, but like Ray of Hope on Monday, simply didn’t fire in the stretch. Mickael Forest felt that the unevenness of the surface didn’t help so we’ll send him out again on a track that we know will suit him better.

We hope that we’ll have a winner at ParisLongchamp soon, but we’ll wait a while for the surface to get sorted out before returning to this track. We have other options.

So, what was supposed to be a good week for Ecurie Rarick, didn’t quite end up that way. But as the old saying goes, “That’s racing”.

 

Annex has the perfect answer

Réponse Exacte taking the Prix Mesnil le Roi in Maisons-Laffitte, June 16 2018.

Réponse Exacte was the first winner for the new Avenue Marengo annex of Ecurie Rarick. The Rajsaman filly won from gate to post moving away from the field in the last hundred meters of the race.

The Prix du Mesnil-le-Roi – Prix Rose Royal was run on the day of the Fete des Courses in Maisons-Laffitte. Several hundred people were on hand to watch the French national soccer team beat the Australians in World Cup play on jumbo screens.  But all eyes were on the racing after the match was over.

Michael Barzalona kept his filly away from the rail with his outside draw in this 1100m  (5½ furlong) race but eased toward the rail in the later stages, pulling away from the others.

Réponse Exacte went off as an outsider paying 13,10 for a one euro bet at the track and 16,30 online. Place bets were 3,50.  The going was considered good to soft at 3.4. The time of the race was 1’05”79.

Réponse Exacte is one of 8 two-year-old horses in the Ecurie Rarick annex from Ireland, managed by Lisa Gautier,  running under the colors of Mme Catherine Hassett.

Avenue du Monde wins by a nose!

Avenue du Monde won the Prix Wemyss Bight at the wire in St Cloud the 15 June, 2018 (Scoopdyga)

Avenue du Monde (Champs Eysees and Marla out of Pentire) won the Prix Wemyss Bight, a second division 2100m turf handicap, at the St Cloud racetrack today in the west suburbs of Paris today.  She caught the favorite, Santorina (Trajano and Madinella out of Anabaa) at the wire, winning by a nose.

Avenue’s jockey, Michael Barzalona, led her out of the gate easily and placed her comfortably at the back of the field just to the outside of Santorina who was at the rail on the backstretch.  The two competitors ran comfortably with the pace, a few lengths behind the leaders.

As they came out of the final turn, the two were side-by-side. Santorina’s jockey, Alexis Badel, went to the rail in the stretch while Barzalona went wide around the field. As they both cleared the other horses, they came together with Santorina in front. However, Michael didn’t stop riding, both he and the horse fought to the end taking the race by a nose in a photo finish.

Avenue du Monde went off as second favorite paying 6,90 for a euro bet and 7,70 online. Place bets were 2,20 and 2,10 respectively.  The going was considered soft at 3.6. Time of the race was 2’12”80.

Labor pains

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.

Continue reading “Labor pains”

The agony and the ecstasy of social media

So it seems this blog is all but dead. My fault. Facebook’s fault. I resisted, in the beginning. I hated the idea of Facebook (not least because that was what the New York Times called their personnel directory, which seemed insulting and…well, impersonal). But a few years ago I cracked. My excuse was that I needed to be on Facebook for marketing purposes, which turned out not to be wrong. Facebook has been a useful tool for that. It also has been a colossal time-wasting addiction, but I digress. And it has also eaten my blog.

Facebook, for better or worse, is an extremely quick and easy way for me to update anybody who cares or claims to care about all the comings and goings in the yard, the races, the results and just random tidbits (that would contribute to the time-wasting part). I have a pretty large following there, and I have been resorting to communicating that way instead of by blog, which some of you have actually noticed. To those of you who still check back here regularly, I apologize. And once again, I will try to do better. Meanwhile, if you’re not already signed on to Facebook, just do it. It’s really not so bad. And if you’re paranoid that signing up to Facebook will open your entire private life in every intimate detail to cyberspace, don’t be. Facebook only knows what you want it to know, so just don’t tell it anything. They don’t need to know your birthday, your address or anything else pertinent. You need an email address and a name. That’s pretty much it. Sign up, “friend” me (yes, Facebook has verbed the noun) and I’ll add you to the Gallop France group there and you’ll see everything that’s going on.

Right, so some of you are still resisting. For you guys (all five of you, so I hope you appreciate it!), here’s what’s going on in a nutshell: Hard Way has resisted retirement yet again, and ran a comeback race down in the country yesterday at the ripe old age of nine. He finished third of eight runners. I had hoped he would win, because to say the competition was weak would be the nicest thing you might say. But third still requalifies him for handicaps, and he probably needed the run after six months off. Despite rock-hard ground, he seems to have come back OK.

Gorki Park also ran his comeback race, finally, after nearly six months off, and he came 4th in a 20-runner handicap in Maisons-Laffitte. He looks like he should be just as useful this year as last. He’s grown up a bit and will stretch out in distance this year – if we can find him a decent race, which is easier said than done at the moment. King Driver, our other stable banker, is just back from a short break. He finished third at St. Cloud in mid-May, but chucked off his jockey (twice!) and ran loose for quite some time around the racecourse before he got down to work. That was him telling us as clear as he could that he was ready for a vacation, so he got one. He’s back in training as of tomorrow after having spent a month at the spa  – a stud just north of us that specializes in massages and has a great water-walker to keep the muscle tone while on vacation.

Melrand and Pahlavan also had short stays there, as did Risk Well Taken, an unraced two-year-old who went for two weeks after coming up with sore shins. Risks’s stay there was nothing short of miraculous – she came back nearly 20 kilos heavier and bulging with muscle. Our other unraced two-year-old, Impulsive American, was almost ready to debut when he picked up a virus of some sort, which will set us back a few weeks. Pahlavan and Ray of Hope also got it, but they all seem to be on the mend now.

Charitable Act has been retired; his iffy joints were getting the best of him so we decided to stop while he was still sound enough for pleasure riding. Greatest has also moved on to greener pastures, but is still racing and just finished 2nd for his new connections. We wish him well – I always thought he was a good horse, but we were persistently unlucky with him. Clearly, a change was in order!

La Mer seems finally on track after having just about every problem a growing horse can have. She is back galloping, and will hopefully run a maiden in Deauville in early July. Eternal Gift has finally come down in the handicap to a mark he should be able to win from, and he’ll get a try in Amiens on Saturday. Gut Instinct also should be able to win a small race soon, but she would be better on softer ground. She has some good entries coming up, though, so I’ll have to decide whether to brave the good ground or not.

That rounds up just about everyone, I think. And reading back, I see the other problem Facebook has caused. Since I no longer write much more than a sentence at a time, it seems I’m losing the knack. I’d better get back to it, or I won’t be able to write that novel I’ve been talking about for the past two decades!

Winner, winner!

I’ve waited years to finally get a winner at Longchamp, and this month we got two: Hard Way won his handicap two weeks ago, and Eternal Gift followed it up with a win last Saturday. Hard-working Deep Ocean was in the money again this past week, and King Driver ran a fantastic comeback after a year off to finish third. Grey Falcon dropped in a check, too, confirming that the yard is definitely in form.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Hard Way followed exactly the same pattern as he did last year: After his comeback race out in the country, he was ready to tackle Paris and found his favorite jockey, Christophe Lemaire, who rode a perfect race to give me my first winner at Longchamp. It was a 3,100-meter handicap, and Hard Way aced it carrying top weight of 60 kilos. His efforts got him back into the Bloodhorse magazine in America, with his longtime fan John Gilmore doing the honors. The next day, Grey Falcon stepped up in class and distance when he ran second division of the Quinte handicap in Maisons-Laffitte, trying 2,400 meters for the first time. He nearly wired it, just getting caught at the post to finish second by a short head. He has been really unlucky not to win yet, but he’s knocking on the door and it should happen soon.

Eternal Gift finally stepped up his game at Longchamp last Saturday, winning a mile handicap by a neck. I knew he was progressing, and he certainly showed us that he preferred the good ground and galloping track of Longchamp to the muddy traffic circle he found in Amiens. It was his third race back after gelding, and I think he’s going to be a useful horse now. He picked up three kilos in the handicap ratings, which isn’t great, but he still has margin for progress.

We barely had time to get him off the truck Saturday night before we loaded up Deep Ocean, Gold Knight and Not Bad for a Boy for the trip down to Vichy and the week-long racing festival there. Deep Ocean finished fourth in the Quinte on Sunday (we were all sure it was third, but there was just the shadow of a nose in front of him), but Not Bad didn’t distinguish himself in his claimer. It was his first race back in a year, though, and he has been a bit sore in the back, so he deserves another chance or two. Gold Knight showed quite a bit of improvement in his claimer on Monday. He didn’t get up into the money yet, but he did give us hope that we’re on the right track.

The star of the week, though, was King Driver, who was coming back after year off almost to the day. He had some serious health problems last year, and I was never able to get him to his potential. He showed that those seem to be behind him now, though, running a strong third. It was a very easy field of 18, and he would have won if he had kept to the rail instead of coming out to the stands side. He is still very green, having run only six races in his life before Wednesday, and there was a good crowd at the track and it was a night meeting, so once he hit the front, he just looked at all the people rather than pay attention to racing. He has come back very well and is likely to run in Deauville in early August.

In between the racing, I went to the Newmarket sales, where we found an addition to the yard optimistically named Greatest. He is a four-year-old gelding by Anabaa out of a stakes-winning mare, and he seems to want soft ground to run his best. So we’ll build him up and get him ready for a fall campaign. A half share in him is available, so contact us if you’re interested.

Next up might be Hard Way and Grey Falcon on Thursday in Chantilly. I don’t particularly want to race them against each other, but they are in the second half of the Quinte handicap and there aren’t many runners declared, so it might be too good to pass up. In any case, I’m pretty sure Hard Way will go, but I’m still undecided about Grey Falcon, who might prefer softer ground. Hard Way is really a soft ground horse, too, but he doesn’t really care what he gallops on as long as he feels good and wants to run. Both will gallop tomorrow morning, and I’ll decide for sure then. All of the horses are struggling a bit with the heat, and storms are forecast for Tuesday, which might make the going a little easier.

After that, we’ll gear up for Deauville in August, although we’ll probably have fewer runners than in July. Competition is tough there, and unless we have very good entries, it makes more sense to wait until September. In any case, the horses will tell me what they want to do. All I have to do is listen.

Sunrise waits for a spot

Satwa Sunrise was eliminated from her race this past week so didn’t get a run, but she is certainly ready to race. She’s been working very well, and there’s been no sign of any respiratory distress that would indicate a bleeding problem. (Her previous trainer galloped her on Lasix, even though she couldn’t race on it – thankfully.) Her next entry will be Dec. 21, and we have a priority after being eliminated last time, so hopefully she will get a run. Only a race will really test whether conditioning trumps pharmaceuticals, as I believe it will.

It’s very tough to get into races in Deauville; there were 134 horses entered for Satwa’s race, and 96 start declared for 16 spots. This results in ridiculous “double” and “triple” priorities by the end of the meeting. I hope to race Surrey Storm next Saturday, but there are 71 entered. I have to hope for a lot of forfeits and that France Galop will add a second race.

Deep Ocean was supposed to run next Saturday, too, but he has come down with something and is out for the moment. He had a fever and was coughing this week; we have had a terrible year for viruses even though we have taken every precaution in disinfecting boxes and making sure every horse has their own tack. Vitamin C is helping, too, but it’s been very frustrating. I can take some solace in knowing I’m not alone; there are lots of horses coughing out there in the morning from various yards. I was hoping we had already had our share, and now Deep comes down with it (whatever “it” is – lab results are due back tomorrow).

The rest of the team seem fine, touch wood. Now it’s just a matter of finding the races we need.

Breeders’ Cup madness

Can’t help but venting a bit after watching the Breeders’ Cup races last night (or what little of the Breeders’ Cup races Equidia chose to show us). I have to say this year more than ever has left me with the impression that horse racing in the United States has absolutely nothing in common with horse racing anywhere else on the planet. First off, the Americans have shown they have absolutely checked their horse sense at the door with the handling of Announce in the Filly & Mare Turf.

Maxime Guyon was hacking the filly down to the start when she spooked at something and managed to touch a trailer of some sort parked on the track. The contact was all of a split second, and about two seconds later the outrider was over telling Guyon to dismount and unsaddle, because track veterinarians had decided to scratch the horse. One wonders what the hell was a large piece of equipment doing parked on the side of the track? But no matter – Guyon handled the situation very well, and as soon as the filly touched whatever it was behind her, she settled down and moved forward, like a sensible horse will. Apparently there was a tiny cut. There were rumors that it later needed stitches (I’ve seen no confirmation of this).  Clearly the horse was sound, and if a vet had bothered to take a look at the horse, this would have been evident.  And clearly, connections of Announce were paying the price of the ineptitude shown in last year’s Breeders’ Cup when Life at Ten was allowed to race despite every indication that there was a problem.

Earlier, another filly in the sprint, Shotgun Gulch, also was scratched at the gate because a vet apparently saw a sign of lameness when the horse was warming up. How this could happen is beyond me, since the American horses “warm up” with their head twisted toward a lead pony, so they all trot sideways. No news yet on whether anything was actually wrong with the horse.

Obviously, an unsound horse should not be allowed to race. But if the vets stationed around the gates at the Breeders’ Cup are able to make that sort of diagnosis in less than 10 seconds without getting within spitting distance of the horse in question, they are a talented bunch of doctors indeed.

Another thing that always jars me when watching American racing is the loading process at the gate. It seems the gate crew try to outdo each other in proving their testosterone levels by slamming the back of the gate as hard as possible behind the horse, and the more flourish the better. Are they looking for high marks for artistic impression? I do appreciate the speed with which they work, but is it really necessary to do it all with that much yelling, slamming and gesticulating? And don’t get me started on the insanity of crawling up into the gate with the horse and holding his head.

All that mayhem at the gate means they jump out fast and terrified. The first fractions are usually faster than the finish – sort of like watching Arabian racing here. And gunning into those tight turns makes me hold my breath and hope for the best. Then there’s the added unease of knowing nearly all of the horses out there are racing on Lasix and probably Lasix adjunct and anything else permitted by the rules. With all this, I found myself watching the races by peaking through my fingers like a kid at a horror movie.

So what will I be doing tonight? Watching anyway, because I can’t help myself. I have to cheer on Goldikova and see how So You Think adjusts to both dirt and blinkers. Come home in one piece, guys.

 

King debuts, and Hard Way’s home!

Two big events this past week: King Driver finally is officially a racehorse, and Hard Way has come home. King debuted Thursday on the fibersand in Deauville. I sent him there not because I thought he would be particularly adapted to the surface, but more because the big Chantilly trainers tend not to send their very best on the sand for a debut. I also realized the race 1,500-meter race would probably be on the short side for him, but he needed to learn what it was all about. I was right on both counts. There were a couple of decent horses from Chantilly, but I doubt next year’s Derby winner was among them. And King figured out he needed to stretch out and accelerate only about 50 meters from the finish, which was, of course, far too late. But he learned some very good lessons, and I’m very pleased with his debut. We drew our least-favorite far outside post, No. 15, which left us sort of hanging out to dry, but since all the horses were debuting, they all ran in a wide pack rather than arranging themselves in the usual ordered peleton. King was with the leaders until they started moving away from him at the turn, at which point he was wondering where they were going in such a hurry. Now that he understands a bit better, I suspect his next race will be quite a bit more interesting. And that should probably be on Nov. 3 at St. Cloud, a mile on the turf. The surface and distance will suit him better, although he’ll eventually need to stretch out closer to 2,000 meters.  But he’s going to need a few races to learn the game, and there’s no need to push him too much. He is going to be a very useful horse if we do things right with him.

Hard Way, meanwhile, has come out of retirement. For the moment, he’s sort of the stable pony, but when I had a hack through the woods with him today he certainly felt more like a racehorse than a trekking pony. He is bright-eyed and seems very happy to be back. We’ll see what he tells us he wants to do.

Magical Flower ran her first handicap last week and finished only 7th, but she was carrying 59.5 kilos and the winner 53.5. Luckily, she’s now come down 1.5 kilos, so rated 30 we should be better placed next time out. She is a nice horse and will win somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 meters. She’ll be entered in both on Nov. 4, and we’ll take whichever race we can get into; unfortunately by not being able to grab 5th last week, she is still “exclu” because she hasn’t passed 3,000 euros in earnings and will be the first eliminated.

And we gave Rendition another shot yesterday in Pornichet, but the race confirmed what we pretty much knew: while her heart, head and upper body are in the game, her legs can’t keep up. So we’ll look for new horizons for her.

Meanwhile, I’m getting ready to head off to Newmarket tomorrow for the annual fall Horses in Training sale. The catalog looks enticing, as always, so anyone needing a racehorse to run down in sunny Cagnes-sur-Mer this winter should speak up! Buy yourself an excuse for a weekend in Nice in January!