No joy in Mudville

Mudville was the operative word today. It has been raining here for 48 hours now, and when it rains here, it pours. The track here is essentially a bowl at the bottom of the Alps, and there is no drainage. All morning, jockeys were saying racing would be canceled. I rode out first lot. Spidello has quite light action; while there was water standing on the track, he seemed to skim over it. But then I took Belle out for second lot. She is a heavy horse, and on her, I sensed we were finding the bottom of the track (that said, she seemed to enjoy it, which is more than I could say for Spidello). Strictly Rhythm and Turfani were really my two best chances of this meeting, and it was all being scuppered in the rain. The tractors were out and working the track from 11, but it wasn’t enough. The piste was completely waterlogged, and I would have done better to declare non-runner for the two of them.

In the end, Strictly finished sixth in a race she could have won, and Turfani finished eighth. We also could have done without the starting gate problems. Strictly was No. 1 in the gate, which would mean, in theory, that she would be loaded first. But she wasn’t having it, and instead of loading another horse first, the gate crew insisted, using a blindfold. She found herself alone, panicked and broke out the front leaving Fabien behind. But being a sensible horse, she didn’t run off, and he was able to catch her. By that time I had run down to the gate and told the crew to load another horse first. They hesitated, then finally did it. After that, Strictly loaded fine, and waited a good long time for everyone else to get in. Still, it would have been best to avoid the situation in the first place. I was called in by the stewards later (not a surprise, really), and I said everything would be fine as long as there was another horse first. They agreed, and it was no further trouble.

I’m not sure where either horse is going next, but there are races for the two of them in Marseiile on Feb. 28. It all depends on how they are tomorrow. It is supposed to stop raining tomorrow night, and the sun will return. And then everything will change, again.

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