Picking up the places

We’ve had three horses in the money over the past week: Hold that Emperor was 4th in Maisons-Laffitte last Wednesday, Justthewayyouare ran a very nice third in Deauville on Thursday, and Talawa was third today in Aix-les-Bains.

Panisette was unplaced last Tuesday at Compiegne, but showed a lot of progress since her last time out and should do well next time, which will be at the end of this week. Layman’s Terms, on the other hand, was disappointing in Maisons-Laffitte, but she doesn’t do herself any favors with her antics in the starting gate. She loads fine, but the minute she’s in she rears. I don’t know how to fix this; putting her in the gate for more training will only wind her up more and is dangerous for everyone. Once she settles down, she will be a very useful horse.

This week, Rose Fleur will run in Deauville on Wednesday. Panisette is likely to go to Clairefontaine on Thursday and there will be two or three runners in the claimer in Deauville on Friday. I’m away in Newmarket at the horses in training sale, so Con will be handling the logistics. The catalog for the sale seems pretty promising, and I’ll be looking for at least two horses for owners here and hopefully bringing back a few new owners who want to make money racing in France.

An easy win for Sotka

It is a rare and wonderful thing to be watching a race and realize you’re going to win it before it’s even half-way through. Sotka jumped out of the gates in Maisons-Laffitte on Monday and never looked back, galloping off an easy winner by two and a half lengths. Ioritz Mendizabal didn’t even have to pick up his stick. Monday morning, when it was pouring rain, I thought we would have to scratch her. But then I went down to the track and found that the going wasn’t worse than soft, so we had to take our chance. I’m very glad we did.

Golden Age, on the other hand, did not run well in her race. She looked fine cantering down to the start, but she never traveled a decent stride once they were racing. She seems fine, so we’ll have to put it down to the ground for her. She’s still not there in her coat yet, either, so she may just be having an off week.

We have a quiet week ahead, with no runners until next Tuesday or Wednesday. Time to rest up, regroup and get ready for July.

Layman’s Terms wins, Comment Dit 2nd

It was a productive Sunday for us – Layman’s Terms won nicely in Durtal and Comment Dit finished second in Strasbourg, beaten just a neck. I actually thought it might be the other way around, since Comment Dit had an easier entry. But she was interfered with two furlongs out, which knocked her off her stride. She fought back for second, but couldn’t quite catch the winner.

In Durtal, Layman’s Terms beat a stronger field, but not before nearly beating us, first. She is a difficult filly – lots of ability but very, very tightly wound. It took two of us to anchor down in the presentation ring, but she wasn’t having any part of it when Fabien wanted to hop aboard. We ended up taking her down to the start in hand (that’s twice now, so this has got to be sorted), and she again reared in the starting gate. But her timing is right, and she hit the ground running as the gates opened. Fabien managed to settle her in second, then kicked on when they turned for home and no one could catch her. She won by a length and a half. I was in Durtal while I sent the lads out to Strasbourg – looks like I chose wisely. Fun part about winning at the country tracks is that they give you a basket full of regional food and wine goodies, so we came home happy (we also came home with a little over 13,000 euros, so that also makes the trip a little shorter).

Tomorrow Sotka and Golden Age run here in Maisons-Laffitte. Sotka is in the five-furlong maiden, and she is the favorite, but we won’t run if the ground is too soft. I’ll have a look and decide tomorrow. Golden Age will run in the claimer regardless.

Another win, plus some places

It’s been a little hectic so tough to keep up the blog – I’m way behind because we had a win last Sunday in St. Malo with Rose Fleur and a  few places with some of the others. Rose won nicely. She is a huge filly, and it was almost like watching an adult compete against ponies – she literally towered over the opposition. She will be a better three-year-old, but seems to be racing well despite her ungainly size.

Strictly Rhythm tried her first handicap on Sunday at Chantilly, and that went less well. She was slightly out of sorts in the morning and I almost declared her a non-runner, but decided to go ahead after all. I think she is having some serious female issues at the moment, and she had a bit of a stress colic that passed quickly, but is still worrying. We decided to run her from behind, because I expected there is usually better pace in these big handicaps than in the condition races. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case, and they were again crawling until the final turn. She accelerated well in the stretch to finish 8th of 16, and she came back fine, which was the essential. I’m going to give her a bit of a break and have her well sorted for her next try, which should be on Bastille Day at Longchamp.

Talawa managed to snag a 5th place in a claimer in Aix-les-Bains, but she is still not really catching on to the game. It was a seriously weak field, and blinkers didn’t give us too much help. She needs more time and may go to the sales. We also were unlucky at Compiegne on Tuesday with Justthewayyouare finding the company a bit tough after moving up both in class and distance. He finished only 6th, but he is a good horse and we’ll find something a little easier next time out to give him confidence. He’s a very laid-back guy, and has a lot of potential. George had a crack at an easy handicap that day and didn’t really fire, either, but I’ve not really been able to get him back in top condition since his Guernsey trip. I’m not sure why, so I’ll keep trying to figure it out. Meanwhile, he’s on the easy list.

Things looked up yesterday with Hold That Emperor running a very nice third in Chantilly. He might have done even better than that, but we tried to relax him behind another horse, which wasn’t a good idea in the end. He was just behind the eventual winner, but he pulled like crazy and then lost his balance a bit when finally given room to run. Next time out, we’ll let him find his action and just roll along, and if that happens to be out front, so be it.

We head out to the country on Sunday with two fillies hoping to break their maidens: Layman’s Terms in Durtal and Comment Dit in Strasbourg. Then it’s back to home turf on Monday with Sotka in a maiden in Maisons-Laffitte and Golden Age in the claimer. Rolling along…

A decent week, and more ahead

We’ve had all four runners so far this week in the money, if not as close to the winners’ circle as we had hoped. Layman’s Terms ran fifth in Le Lion d’Angers in a good race. She was not beaten far and she made tremendous progress from her disastrous debut in Lyon. She is a filly with a lot of speed, but she has been too hot-headed so far to run well. But she comported herself much better in Lion d’Angers, so we can look for better things from her. Once she gets it, she’s going to be a very nice filly.

We finished fourth and fifth yesterday in the claimer at St. Cloud, but not in the order I had expected. Golden Age ran very well and closed to steal fourth from her stablemate, Comment Dit. Golden Age ran so well I’m a little surprised she wasn’t claimed; she probably will be next time out, and I’ll be sorry to see her go. I had expected a much bigger run from Comment Dit, but she seemed discouraged by the long uphill straight and didn’t put in much of an effort. We’ll look for something easier for her next time out.

Today in Maisons-Laffitte, Sotka took fifth in a Listed race for only her second time out. She was only beaten three lengths and is showing tremendous promise.

Panisette went to Bordeaux this noon for her race tomorrow, and Runaway Sparkle and Twilight Allure will leave for Lyon shortly. I’m told the track in Lyon hasn’t improved since we last saw it, but we’re going ahead anyway because if we pull out at this stage, we’ll have to wait another eight days to enter and both horses need the run. Runaway should have a good chance, but I have no idea how she’ll handle the ground. In any case, we’ll all be in the same boat, so the mudlarks will win the day – whoever they are.

Are we sure we’re still in France?

It’s been warm and dry in most of France for far too long; we’re in the middle of a drought that has turned most of the Ile de France into a dustbowl and the turf courses are turning hard as pavement despite watering. Consequently, tracks that can are watering aggressively – and that includes Lyon, France’s second city about six hours Southwest of us. So we thought we would have four runners there Wednesday and Thursday. When we left Paris it was warm and sunny. When we got to Lyon, it was cold and pouring rain. Con Marnane was sure we made a wrong turn and ended up back in Ireland. The rain on top of the watering turned the track into a heavy mess, and our two fillies struggled on it. Golden Age finished only fifth and Rajasthani Princess was right behind her (running better, actually, than I had expected).

Since the weather was not predicted to get any better, we decided to scratch Hold That Emperor for Thursday and go ahead with Talawa. We didn’t think she’d like the ground, either (and she didn’t), but she needed the run and we had no other good entries coming up for her. Hold That Emperor, on the other hand, is a very nice colt and we didn’t want to waste a race in Lyon. Unfortunately, by declaring him a non-starter, we have to wait eight days before he can race again, so he loses what would have been an excellent back-up entry in St. Cloud next week. But there will be other chances for him. Talawa, on the other hand, will go the claiming route. Hopefully she will run better on better ground, because she was extremely unbalanced in Lyon, and also managed to chuck Fabien off on the way to the start.

We have an easy weekend now, meaning I get to go to the French Derby on Sunday and actually just enjoy the day. We’ll pick up next week with runners in Angers, St. Cloud and Maisons-Laffitte.