Little Milly is a maiden no more; she won this past Sunday in Lisieux, battling to keep a neck in front of 13 other runners, all of whom considerably bigger than she is! Lisieux is a country track in Normandy, decently designed and with a tape start rather than starting gates. Milly (Surrey Storm) handled it like a pro and got a great ride from Tristan Normand, who sent her to the front at just the right time. She’s a tough little horse, and she pinned her ears back and held off two or three fast finishers.
It was an easy maiden, with most of the other runners fist-time starters, but there were some decent pedigrees there and time will tell just how easy it was. If we see the horses who finished behind her running in decent rates, that helps us. It was great to get the maiden win for the catalog page – Milly is by Montjeu out of a stakes-winning Dansili mare and she is a first foal, so she definitely added value to the family on Sunday. It was also really great to see her owners back in the winner’s circle. They have been wonderful faithful clients, but it’s been too long since they’ve won.
The other big news of the week is the return of Hard Way, who finished 7th of 14 runners in a little handicap in Lisieux. Hard Way is a special horse. I retired him more than a year ago after we discovered that he had a crushed first vertabra and was basically lucky to be alive. We have no idea how or when it heppened, and chances are he was already racing with the injury when he ran his last race for me, at Clairefontaine in August of 2010 (with Olivier Peslier up, no less!). He had six months off, a treatment of Tildren and then had another MRI scan, which showed that the damage had healed into a bony mass and that nothing was touching the spinal cord. (Oh, and by the way, he also has a slight case of wobbler’s syndrome, but that was secondary.) He was given the green light to resume training. I considered it, but decided to retire him instead. Hard Way had other ideas.
Hard Way was orphaned in the days after foaling, and was raised with a nurse mare, who was a draft horse. Consequently, he didn’t socialize with the other thoroughbreds in the field, and I’m pretty convinced he thinks he’s a draft horse, too, maybe just a little faster than your average Clydesdale. Over the winter, Hard Way actually grows so much hair he has feathering on his legs, and he could certainly pass for something ready to pull the milk cart. He was absolutely miserable turned out with the other retirees, and when I saw him last fall, he seemed pretty much begging me to take him back home. I did, and he strutted into the yard like he was ready to head back to Longchamp. By January, it was clear he would race again, and by last week, he seemed pretty ready. The race in Lisieux was too short for him, but I didn’t want to over-extend him his first time out. He ran very well, and was passing horses charging toward the finishing post. He’s come back in great nick, and he will head out to the same racecourse on April 15 for another easy spin, this one longer, and I think he’ll be ready to get serious and take on the big tracks starting in May.
It’s great to have him back. He’s always been sort of the yard mascot, and we’re all looking forward to seeing what happens this year. He gets to decide where and when he wants to race. We’re just along for the ride.