The View Vol. 12 – Up and Running

There have been some unexpected turns, but our racing season is finally under way and we are just about back up to a full house as we send out our first runners.

My Sweet Boy (sitting third on the rail), finishing strong in the stretch to take fourth place in Deauville.
Just a week after we got started at Longchamp on May 11, the French government reversed its decision that allowed us to race in the first place. Thankfully, instead of stopping racing altogether, they decided to restrict it to tracks located in the so-called Green Zone of the country, where the virus is less widespread.
So now races that would have been run at Longchamp, St. Cloud or Chantilly are being moved as far away as Lyon – and as one traveling lad once said, “Never underestimate the size of France.”

Our first runner to hit the board since the reprise was My Sweet Boy, who finished fourth this week in Deauville. Sweet, who carries the colors of Roger Straus, made the running, which wasn’t the plan. But jockey Mickael Barzalona said the horse had such big action he found it better to control the pace from the front rather than try to fight with him to find a leader. We’ll get him to settle down. He is a very promising horse and a good claiming buy.

Dubai Empire also ran his comeback race that day and continues his run as the unluckiest horse in France, getting blocked twice in the stretch. At 2,000 meters, the race was a little short for Dubai, who runs for owner Bryan Gusdal. He came back fresh as a daisy and will run 2,400 meters on May 30.

Aborigene, owned by Paule Descargues, and Mister Mario, owned by Marie-Carmel Naim, ran comeback races actually AT Longchamp, and both needed the race. As well as they’re working at home, there’s nothing like racing to keep them tuned and a lack of competition for more than two months can take a toll. They’ll be able to build on their comeback race with another run at the end of the month.

Folle Passion, Myklachi and Aborigene, with their front side stable mates, eagerly anticipating their evening meal.

Tour de France

We have some very good entries in the next couple of days. El Viso will be hitting the road early Monday for Lyon, where he’ll run in the second division of the quinte handicap in a field of only 10 runners. He’s had a few niggles physically but seems in good form at the moment, so hoping for good things. Theo Bachelot takes the ride on El Viso, owned by Bryan Gusdal and Kay Minton.

On Tuesday, we head in the opposite direction to Dieppe with Minnipa, who makes her debut for owners Susanne Born and Bryan Gusdal. Minnipa was claimed in Cagnes from trainer Jean-Claud Rouget, so the forced break actually did her some good. She has grown a lot and is looking well. She may be just a little short of work for this race, but the entry is very good and she should still have a chance. Coralie Pacaut will be onboard.

On Thursday, it’s looking like Asian Queen might finally get a run. The plan had been for her to go to Fontainebleau last week, but when racing got moved to the far corners of the country, we decided to wait. She’s only had one run so far and needs to learn the game, so it’s a shame to have to drive six hours one way to do that! She is entered in a maiden race that got moved to Clairefontaine. While it’s not the easiest entry in the world, it allows us to get a run a little closer to home than Lyon or Vichy! Queen, owned by Marie-Carmel Naim, had a promising debut in March before racing was suspended.

Looking further ahead:

Dubai Empire holds an entry in Dieppe on May 30 over a distance of 2,400 meters, which should suit him better than the 2,000 we’ve been stuck with lately. His run of bad luck has to end soon!

Aborigene and Mister Mario had an entry at Longchamp on June 1, but that meeting has been moved to Deauville and their race now carded for the fibersand. That suits Mario just fine, but Aborigene has to find something else to do because he’s not a fan of the sand. He holds entries on the turf in Moulins on May 29 or in Dieppe with Dubai on May 30. The race in Moulins is 2,200 meters, which is a little closer to his distance than the 2,400, so we might find ourselves trucking down there.

We haven’t set a definite target yet for My Sweet Boy, but he could go for a 2,400 meter handicap in Dieppe on June 12.

Final thoughts:

These are strange times – we find ourselves living in a science-fiction reality show, and sometimes not a very good one. All of us have to wear masks when at the racecourse and enforcement is strict – at least one trainer and jockey have been fined 300 euros each for getting caught with their masks down. An owner who managed to sneak in to watch his trotter win was fined 1,000 euros for the privilege. We work in silence – there is no on-track race call and the Equidia feed is delayed, so figuring out what’s going on in an 18-runner handicap can be a challenge!

We are verifying nonstop when and where the racing is even happening – the program changes almost daily and organizing transport and staffing is also a challenge.

But amid the chaos there has been a combination of humor and determination that has allowed us to make it work. In Deauville, the organization was excellent. The racecourse gave free picnic lunches to every trainer and lad. Free coffee and water were available in the scales and the stables. The staff were happy to be back to work, everything ran smoothly and underneath the masks I’m sure there were plenty of smiles.

We are all hoping that owners can very soon come back to the track. For many of you, traveling to France once that is allowed will be the next challenge, but some of you will make it! We still don’t know the fate of our summer festivals like Vichy, and using the Deauville course now might mean we’ll be back at Longchamp in August. Who knows? We will adapt and look ahead and plan to win, as always. Thanks for being along for the ride!

Unusual weather we’re havin’…

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.

Continue reading “Unusual weather we’re havin’…”

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.

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Big Leagues

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.

Beyond There be Dragons

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.

Continue reading “Beyond There be Dragons”