Two of the four runners over the weekend were in the money, with Milly (Surrey Storm) running a very nice second at Longchamp and King Driver handling the gate much better and coming in 4th at Vittel. Hard Way fared less well there, finishing just out of the money in 6th, and Fibs found a mile at Compiegne too long on Monday.
Antoine Hamelin, a new rising star in the jockey circle, gave Milly a brilliant ride from the front at Longchamp and she gutted it out in the stretch to keep second place. She is a small horse with a decent stride and needs some pace at 2,400 meters, so this time I told the jockey he could take the lead if he had to, but to ride smartly and keep at her in the stretch, because she’s tough. He did just that, and she came through. We thought she might hang on to win but couldn’t quite do it. She came back well, as usual, and will go for a handicap next down in Vichy. She is extremely well placed with a rating of 30, so hopefully she might find the winner’s circle again down there.
King Driver schooled in the gate since his debacle at Chantilly and he seemed to have understood the point on Sunday in Vittel, when he stood like a lamb for about five minutes while the horse in the stall next to him threw a temper tantrum. The starting gate in Vittel was quite the spectacle. The girls leading in the horses look like they were rounded up at the local pony club, and while they did their best, they were no match for fractious thoroughbreds, some running for the first time. Two horses were scratched at the gate when the crew finally gave up, and it took nearly 15 minutes to get the 12 remaining runners in their stalls. Even though King went in with only three to go behind him, he had a good long wait inside. He broke brilliantly, and Tristan Normand had all he could do to keep him off the lead. He ran a little too freely in second or third through the race, and managed to hang onto fourth place and open his bank account. It was a lesson well-learned, but we still have quite a bit to do with him. He is a big baby and unfortunately not all that bright, so everything new is quite a challenge. He caused some problems in the parade ring this time because he didn’t want to leave to go to the track, so that will be our next project. He will probably head down to the track at Maisons-Laffitte to school in the parade ring there on Sunday.
Hard Way kept King company on the road to Vittel, but only finished 6th after being stuck with an outside draw of 15. Tristan’s orders were to absolutely put the horse behind somebody, so in order to do that, he ended up in the last third of the group rounding the first turn. On the small country tracks like Vittel, that leaves too much left to do. He ran well and was closing nicely, but a 300-meter stretch run is too short for him from that position. We’ve had back luck three times with him now and it’s getting frustrating, because he’s a good horse and will find another race to win soon. Entries are a bit tough, because he really should be running 3,000 meters, but there aren’t many races at this point. We may need to be patient for a decent entry.
Fibs and Flannel ran much better Monday than he did in his first try for us, but he needs a shorter distance to be in the money. Again, we’ll hope for a decent entry soon.