Culture Clash

Even the best intentions sometimes just can’t bridge that culture chasm between the Latin-influenced French way of doing things and the Anglo-Saxon way of thinking. I had surgery on my hand on Friday morning. Just a local, so not that big of a deal, but still I was feeling pretty woozy for awhile after the procedure. The French are pretty no-nonsense about it all, and they serve you coffee afterward to wake you up enough to get out the door. They tell you to go straight home and take it easy. Not a bad idea, except for that train strike, another French institution. It took me three hours for what should have been a 20 minute trip. By that time, the anesthesia had well and truly worn off, and of course I hadn’t been able to get to a pharmacy to get the prescribed painkillers (and for which I was told “take them right away – don’t wait for it to hurt.” Right.)

I did finally make it home, but needed to spend what was left of the day studying for the breeze-up sales on Saturday – which turned out to be futile, because the prices were ridiculously high. Horses with unbelievable flaws were selling for stupid money. This was all good news for Con, who had a great sale, including an Exceed and Excel colt that sold for 200,000 euros.  But it was an exhausting day that didn’t end until midnight. Then on Sunday it was on to Longchamp for the Guineas races and celebrating for Con’s successful sale. Having him around has really brought up the difference in thinking between the two cultures. I’ve been here long enough to have learned how to put up with how much time it takes to get something done, how much paper is usually involved and how frustrating the overall lack of any notion of customer service can be. I’m almost used to it. He’s not, though, and in explaining how things work – or don’t – here, I realize how much I’ve been putting up with. But if you want to be involved in racing, there is no better place to be. Whenever we get bogged down in paperwork, we keep repeating the mantra: the prize money, the prize money, the prize money. And yes, the great tracks. And the great wine. Champagne. The food.

The racing bit didn’t start out so auspiciously today. We sent Hold That Emperor down to Toulouse with what I thought was a very good chance. I hadn’t anticipated, however, the inefficiency of the gate crew. There were only seven runners. We were loaded about third, and it took at least five minutes, and that’s being conservative, to load the rest of the field. Our colt fell asleep. Fx Bertras, who was up, tried to keep him awake and interested, but to no avail. He completely missed the break when if finally happened and he was nearly 100 meters behind to start – in a 1,100-meter race. He caught up, showing a great turn of foot, but the race was lost. Looking on the bright side, it won’t happen again (plus I’ll ask to load last next time), and the odds will be great next time out.

Next up for us are Hi Shinko and Golden Age at Longchamp on Thursday. Shinko is in a seven-furlong handicap, and it looks like we’ll have a bit of luck and actually fall into the second division instead of the Tierce. Golden Age is debuting in a claimer. There has still been not a drop of rain, but there has been plenty of watering at Longchamp before the Guineas meeting. It’s still not ideal, but Shinko has to go – there aren’t many races for him and he seems in good form.

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