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.

Gallop France Winners

Avenue du Monde

(Champs Elysees and Marla by Pentire)

Avenue du Monde had enough to win the Prix des Hauteurs de la Solle, March 17, 2017. (Scoopdyga)
Avenue du Monde wins again in 2017, this time in Vichy.
Her first race in foal, Avenue du Monde caught Santorina at the post in the Prix Wemyss Bight in St Cloud, June 15, 2018.

Bleu Astral

Bleu Astral winning the Prix de l Aisne in Compiègne for High Street Racing, March 27, 2017.

Casquito

CASQUITO (Delphine Santiago) easing past the winning post to take the Prix Equipement du Cavalier – Hippolia (Prix des Pervenches) (Course 7), June 25, 2015 at Deauville-Clairefontaine. (Photo by Frédéric Vernichon.)

Copper Baked

Copper Baked won the first of the double on the last day of racing in Vichy.

Deep Ocean

Deep Ocean’s second consecutive win, the Prix President Nebon-Carle, Lyon Carré-de-Soie, March 21, 2013.

Doctor Sim

Doctor Sim takes the Prix Perigord while King Driver follows closely for fourth. (Scoopdyga)

Eternal Gift

Eternal Gift taking the Prix de la Roche in Deauville, December 21, 2015. ScoopDyga

Gorki Park

Gorki Park winning at St Cloud for the second time in 2015 taking the Prix d’Anjou on October 2. Jacques YeSse
Not to be outdone, Gorki Park winning the Prix Crécy Saint James one hour later. (ScoopDyga)
Gorki Park, win photo, May 2013, St. Cloud, France.
Gorki Park, pulling ahead at the finish line in St Cloud, May 2013

Hi Shinko

Hi Shinko crossing the finish line first in February, Prix du Val Fleur-les-Vespins. Scoop Dyga.

Hard Way

Hard Way winning the Prix Du Vieux Colombier Handicap over 3,100 meters at Longchamp July 6. Photo by John Gilmore
Hard Way winning the Prix Du Vieux Colombier Handicap over 3,100 meters at Longchamp July 6. Photo by John Gilmore
Hard Way running away with the Prix Lomagnes at St Cloud, May 2012.

King Driver

King Driver winning just ahead of Grey Sensation in the Prix de Marseille Vivaux February 27, 2017. (André Viguier)
King Driver taking the Prix du Lavandou, February 8, 2017. Andre VIGUIER
King Driver easing ahead to take the Prix Herblay. (ScoopDyga)
King Driver winning the Prix de Juan-les-Pins in Cagnes-sur-mer, Febuary 14, 2015. (Scoopdyga)

Mouhjim

Mouhjim winning again in the Prix de Marseille Vivaux, February 20, 2017. (André Viguier)
Moujhim winning the Prix Janine Lefevre Winkfield February 12, 2017.

Parkori

Parkori taking the Prix Duc d’Alburqurque in St Cloud, June 28, 2015.

Quiet Zain

Quiet Zain easing across the post first, Cagnes sur Mer, January 2018.
Winner of the Prix Polygone Saint Jean, February 11, 2017. (André Viguier)

Ray of Hope

Ray of Hope taking his second straight win, the Prix de l’Esterel, February 11, 2015, Cagnes-sur-mer. (Scoopdyga)

 

One Two Punch:
Ray Of Hope edging out stable mate Mouhjim to take the Prix d’Ostende in Cagnes-sur-mer, January 22, 2015.

Surrey Storm

Surrey Storm taking the the prix Alec Weisweiller, April 1 2012 in Lisieux.

Turfani

Turfani (center, white cap) winning in Deauville.

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.

November: Why?

When T.S. Eliot penned “April is the cruelest month,” he obviously had forgotten about November. But then again, he probably wasn’t involved with racehorses. For those of us who are, November has to be the most miserable time of the year. The days are so short that you start work in the dark and you finish in the dark. Thankfully, this year hasn’t been nearly as cold and snowy as last year, but it has featured bone-chilling high humidity. A thick fog has blanketed Maisons-Laffitte for the past few mornings, and it gets heavier in the hour after sunrise, already the coldest of the day.

The horses don’t appreciate it much, either. They change their coats, pushing out winter wool, which we then have to clip off so they can work and sweat without catching cold. The heavy rugs have come out, but get alternated with the lighter polar fleeces during the day, because the winter rugs are too hot in the afternoon. Changing their clothes three times a day adds to the work load, and wiping all the runny noses and seeing to the coughs and sneezes are keeping us running, too. It’s the time of year when we need to decide who should push through a winter campaign and who needs a break. The turf racing is almost over, and the all-weather races in Deauville and Cagnes-sur-Mer are ahead.

We’re counting the days until Dec. 21, when we start to add back those precious minutes of sunlight that make such a huge difference. By then, too, the horses will have adjusted to winter. The coughs and niggling health problems that come with the change of season should be behind us – to some extent, it seems we’ve already turned that page, because most of the horses seem to be coming up in form. All that Vitamin C and echinacea extract has paid off.

Satwa Sunrise has started galloping without the aid of Lasix, and seems to be completely fine. We haven’t done head-to-head work with her yet, but will start that next week, and she should run in two weeks (or at least she has an entry – we’ll have to see if she gets in. Magical Flower seems to be recovered from her brush with a cold, and even Triple Tonic seems back in form, except that she popped a splint on her near fore and will have to have an easy week to let it set.

Deep Ocean is a lovely horse, and the infiltration and Tildren treatment seem to have made him pretty comfortable. He had a gallop yesterday that was quite impressive, and I’m looking forward to seeing him race in December. He has to switch boxes and go to a bed of shavings, though, because he has threatened to colic twice in the past week after trying to eat his entire straw mattress.

Little Milly (Surrey Storm) is giving us no trouble at all, and seems to be balancing up a bit better. Hard Way is training up so well I’ve had to cut his feed back because I can’t hold onto him any more. He was supposed to be spending the winter as essentially the stable pony, and he’s only eating pony food, but he thinks he’s ready for Longchamp. I had forgotten what a magnificent stride he has – even going slow he opens up huge distances from the others. Anyway, we’ll try to keep him turned down to simmer for the moment.

The enigma has been King Driver, who just doesn’t seem to have a great immune system. He ran two nice races, but then we had to give him a flu shot, after which he promptly got a fever and a cough. Just when I’m ready to pick up the phone to call the vet to come and geld him, though, he seems to stage a miraculous recovery. He’s not quite 100 percent yet, but he’s fighting hard to get there.

Pretty much everybody can race in December, I think, and then we need to decide who goes to Cagnes. Strictly Rhythm will come back into training in December to get ready to go down south, and Sunrise, Magic and Milly will probably also go. Deep Ocean can’t because he can only run left-handed (Cagnes runs right), but King and Triple can go if they are healthy. I have six boxes, so the final roster will wait awhile to be determined.

Meanwhile, dreaming of Cote d’Azur sun will get us through November, which, apologies to T.S. Eliot, really is the cruelest month.

The road to perdition…

…is paved with good intentions. That certainly was in evidence this past week, when a number of attempts at good deeds were fraught with unintended consequences. Where to start? How about the story of George.

I sold him to an organization called Ecurie Second Chance, which buys out-of-training racehorses, reschools them and then sells them on as riding horses. Sometimes, with the owner’s consent, they are placed again for racing. When I sold George, for just 500 euros, which is the going rate for retired racehorses, I said I wasn’t opposed to him racing again if a small permit-holder was found and if the horse had a much-needed break. George is sound, nice and could race next year in easier venues than around Paris. A week later, the man who bought the horse called me and said he had two possibilities that both involved racing: One in Martinique, and one in France, but for either one he’d have to move on immediately. Needless to say I wasn’t pleased with either choice, but in all fairness I had sold the horse, so I had very little say in the matter. Between a rock and a hard place, I said I prefer he stay in France. That week, he showed up declared in training with a public trainer with a yard of 25 horses, and a week after that he was entered in a sprint up in Le Croisé-Laroche, a dismal track near Lille that I would avoid racing at at all costs. George would have to endure a seven-hour truck ride each way to get from his new trainer’s base to race and back, not to mention it was a race completely unsuited for him even if he WAS in shape. He raced, and needless to say he finished last, poor kid. The next day I saw he was entered in a race at Amiens seven days later. That was when Kay, my American owner who had leased George while he was with me, and I took action. Long story short, we bought the horse back, and we’ve found a new home for him that will not include racing.

The man who runs Ecurie Second Chance was highly apologetic and I believe he sincerely did have good intentions, but just had no idea how to execute them. During our numerous phone exchanges, he would always complain that he was severely overworked, that numerous trainers were looking to “dump” their bad horses at the end of the season and that he couldn’t cope. These are the times that try men’s souls. Yes, there are too many horses, and yes, we’re looking, at this time of year, to move the underperforming ones on. But if Ecurie Second Chance felt overwhelmed by the task, he should not have bought the horse! I would have kept him until I found a suitable situation for him myself. Which brings me to the second story of the week…

…and the names are changed to protect the – well, not the innocent, really, but…a horse, let’s call her Sadie, was injured in a race at the end of September. The nature of the problem meant that she had to be on box rest for a few weeks, but she was a very nice-natured filly and would make an excellent riding horse; the injury wasn’t limiting in that sense. I immediately started looking for a home for her, but obviously it is hard to place a lame horse, even with good potential. So I was forced to hang onto her for longer than I wanted, and certainly far longer than the owner wanted, but I did eventually find a very nice home for her at the end of October. This meant the owner was being billed for the horse a month longer than he wanted to be. He paid, along with a registered letter saying how furious he was with my “extortionary” price of 30 euros a day for a horse out of training. I understand his frustration, but despite all, I applaud him for paying his bill and not ordering the horse sent to slaughter, which I suppose he could have done (for the record, I wouldn’t have done it, even if it meant paying the horse’s keep myself). In any case, this story ends well: I just got a photo from the new owner, and he is thrilled with her. And for the record, the price I charge is far from extortionary; there is no profit margin there. Hay and straw prices have skyrocketed this year, and while the horse wasn’t ridden out, she was kept in a clean box, brushed and fed daily. The standard of care doesn’t change when the horse can no longer race.

We soldier on. Going into winter is the worst time of year in the horse business. Magic picked up the dreaded cough right before her race on Monday, and I nearly scratched but didn’t and should have, probably. In any case, the distance of 2,500 meters seems just a bit too long on heavy ground, and I’ll look for something shorter for her once we clear up the cough. King ran a great second race at St. Cloud last week. He’s learning his lessons well and I want to get a couple of more races in this year, but we had to give him a flu shot this week, and of course, he’s had a reaction to it. I’m hoping it’s a brief setback, but don’t know yet.

The new fillies from Newmarket are doing well, and Triple Tonic, back from her convalescence in Normandy, is jumping out of her skin. It’s great to have Hard Way back. He seems better than ever and hasn’t lost a step – if you don’t hang onto him in the morning he’ll be off like a shot. And we have a new colt, Deep Ocean, who came to us from Marseille. He can only race right-handed because of stringhalt in his left hock, which makes him a challenge, but he’s a lovely horse who clearly always tries his best (he’s had a win and six places this year). All of them are being aimed at some winter racing on the fibersand in Deauville and later in Cagnes (except for Deep, who can’t go to Cagnes because it is left-handed).

Already, November this year has been paradise compared with what we had to put up with last year. I don’t know how long we can escape the freezing temperatures, but I’m treasuring every day I don’t need to put ten layers and gloves!