Hard Way (or Pencap to some of my American readers) finished 6th of 16 runners today in Deauville, running really well for what was essentially a schooling gallop and finishing just out of the money. (The French call 6th place the “place du con”; the nicest translation is the imbecile’s spot. There are other nastier translations, but I’ll spare you.) He clearly learned from his run at Fontainebleau what is supposed to happen on the track, so this time instead of sleeping in the gate, he panicked and jumped out practically first. Luckily Nadege was able to move him behind a couple of otherhorses, but he got stuck boxed in on the rail and started to panic again – he had never been in such a tight spot with so many other horses before. So he pulled a bit on the backstretch, although he relaxed in the turn and got a couple of deep breaths in, which allowed him to show – again – nice acceleration in the straight. He looked a little shell-shocked after the race, and I think he actually galloped at what might be close to a top speed for him for the first time. But by the time he finished blowing, about 15 minutes or so, he was looking pretty pleased with himself and started to relax again. Like Fontainebleau, he will learn quite a bit from this race; now we just have to see if he keeps his cool and handles the next few days of recovery well. He only needs one more race to qualify for a handicap mark, and there’s another 2,400 meter race pretty much like today’s on Jan. 10, so if all goes well that will be his next target.
Pixie, meanwhile, will wait until Jan. 6 for her next run. I scratched her for Friday, because there were just too many points against her. She would have been running a longer distance against older horses for the first time in the Tierce handicap, which is the most-watched daily race in France. On top of it, she’s gone slightly sour on her feed again and had a small stone bruise on her front right foot, so there’s no point in pushing her for Friday. The handicap on Jan. 6 is restricted to three-year-olds (well, they’ll be considered four after Jan. 1) and is for horses that haven’t won 20,000 euros this year, so that limits the competition a bit. It will also give that stone bruise another week to heal and give me a chance to get her eating up again. Plus the distance is 1,500 meters, which we know suits her. I think she will stay 1,900 or 2,000, but maybe a try at that can wait until the spring.