Down to work

We’ve had three more places since the last post, but we’re still looking for our first victory down here in Cagnes. Magical Flower ran fourth twice and Deep Ocean finished second. Magic is running well, and with a little luck she just might hit the winner’s circle here. Today she got stuck making the running again, which wasn’t necessarily the plan after she fought so well from midfield last time out. But we had a low inside draw, and from that post you either need to gun it early or get swallowed by the wave of horses coming over from the outside. I much preferred the way she ran last time, when she actually fought to pass horses in the stretch, something we’d never seen her do before. In any case, she’ll have a couple of more chances down here. She seems to like the weather and the track (as do we all) and she’s taking her racing well.

Deep only got beat a half-length last week, which was frustrating because I thought he might win. He runs better right-handed and didn’t change leads in the stretch like he should have, which made the difference. He’ll have another shot next Wednesday, but it won’t be quite as easy of a race. In any case, he always tries his best.

Eternal Gift will be our next runner when he makes a road trip to Marseille on Monday. I didn’t like the choices for him here in Cagnes, where he either would have had to run against older horses or run on the turf, so we’ll take our chances up the road in a condition race.

Gorki Park, Grey Falcon, Blue Lilac and Santarini all have yet to hit the board, but they’ll have chances soon, I hope. Gorki ran badly on Monday, and I’m not sure why. He didn’t have the same action as he did in his first two times out, but I can’t find anything too wrong with him. His shins may be bothering him just a bit again, but I don’t think it’s serious. Grey Falcon got a bad ride last time out and will have another chance next week. Blue Lilac hasn’t show much so far, but we’ll give her another couple of shots, too, and Santarini desperately needs to get into a race – she’s been eliminated twice now. We’ll try to get Blue and her into the same race on Feb. 9 and go from there.

Meanwhile, the carnival atmosphere behind the scenes continues apace. The usual gathering at “Joe’s Bar” – tack room by day, debauchery by night – takes place every evening after stable time. The cantine is doing a brisk business and the Concorde is never empty. My staff is living in relative squalor in the lad’s rooms above the boxes, but they seem to like it in a strange way. Their room looks like a cross between Animal House and a trailer park after a tornado – not the least because the apprentice jockey from the English team seems to have moved in with them.

I, on the other hand, am living in relative luxury in my tiny studio in the Afasec building. The final bend of the main track is right outside my window, and the pull-out sofa bed is barely bigger than a glorified twin – OK for me, but not sure what will happen when Tim comes in a couple of weeks. That said, my bathroom is big, very warm and usually with hot water, which is far, far more than I can say about the staff accommodations. I’ve also got WiFi, which is indispensable. Andrew, who rents a far more lavish apartment in the Baie des Anges, does not have WiFi, so sometimes I find him sitting outside my door piggy-backing on mine.

My car has become the communal shuttle, so I have to make sure I keep track of who has it and where the keys might be at any given time. Everyone is more than willing to help out everyone else, sometimes in the strangest situations. The other night, Agata and Natalie found themselves rounding up a horse that decided to have an after-midnight tour around the stabling area. Once they caught the horse, they looked everywhere for the empty box it might have come from but found only fully occupied quarters. They found an empty box in the trotter barn and parked the horse there, told security about it (they were in their booth at the front gate, blissfully oblivious that anything had happened) and went back to bed. They checked back the next morning and found a trotter in the trotter box, so where the thoroughbred they had parked there the night before went was anyone’s guess.

Luckily, none of our horses are escape artists; their boxes are outside of the main stabling enclosure, so if one got loose, who knows where we’d find it. That said, since we are right across from the grain depot, perhaps we wouldn’t have far to look. Santarini is the most likely candidate for an accidental escape. There is a hook on the front of her door that she loves to play with, and she can also reach the light switch on the wall outside. More than once I’ve gone back for a late-night check to find her trying to sleep under fluorescent lighting. If only we could teach her to turn it off herself.

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