You just can’t plan in this game. We had actually wanted to run at Down Royal (having changed our minds about Gowran) but a couple of weeks before Peter had called and told me that we wouldn’t be going; the horse wasn’t moving well and it seemed like something to do with his suspensory ligament. It appears that Gavin was riding work and he just wasn’t striding out right. Now bear in mind that his normal work rider was Shane so my first reaction was, stupidly, that Gavin didn’t know the horse and was he really sure? (denial is a dangerous thing) My second reaction was to get off the phone and Google suspensory ligament injuries in racehorses. I really should know better; when I was diagnosed with Leukemia back in October 2004 I purposely stayed off the Web and just trusted my doctors to tell me what I needed to know which was really one thing: will I be well enough to go to Cheltenham in March? It was so important to me to have something to look forward to that I needed to know immediately if Cheltenham was going to be that goal or not. I could cope with not going to Cheltenham if I knew straightaway and could prepare myself; what I could not cope with was looking forward to it and then finding out at the last minute that I was not well enough. Looking back there was always that possibility but I ignored it so when they said no to March my follow-up was “what about Punchestown?” That was realistic so I settled down to dream about that.
As an aside I was still in hospital when Cheltenham was on and had no access to a computer. My dad was in Boston at the time and would print off the full Racing Post form the day before, I would call him the next morning with my bets, he would get my sister to put them on in England and then he would call my hospital room before each race, place the receiver against the computer speaker and I would be able to listen to the commentary. I had backed Harchibald in the Champion Hurdle so imagine me in bed putting the pictures to the commentary – desperate! (For non-racing followers the rider on Harchibald sat motionless halfway up the run in and then the horse found nothing and finished 2nd when it had seemed impossible he could lose)
How did we get onto such depressing subjects? Oh yes..internet searches. Don’t do it! The most optimistic was “Suspensory ligament injuries are a common cause of lameness in the horse, particularly athletic horses and those involved in competitive events. Often these injuries are chronic and have a high probability of reoccurrence, which makes them a significant concern for horse owners.”
In terms of time, it was anything from three months of rest to a couple of years to never racing again. Again? He hasn’t raced once yet! The logical part of my brain knew I was overreacting and should not be indulging in this amateur Sherlock Holmes charade so I chose to be cool and not keep phoning Peter asking for updates. No.. no..it was far better to worry myself stupid!
I decided to go across anyway and spent a few mornings at the yard and each time the horse worked (admittedly at half pace) Gavin would get off and say that he feels great now. To this day, we have no idea what it was but with the vet also giving him a clean bill of health it was time (again) to plan his first race.
We decided on Listowel as it’s a fair course and he would be ready to go by September; I was planning to come back over but what I hadn’t expected was that Kim was going to take all of her remaining vacation at work to come over as well. It’s important to note at this point that if there was a Kim Dictionary then vacation would be defined as “a period of time, not less than two weeks in length, characterised by beaches, sun, average temperatures of 80 degrees, open air restaurants and beautiful rooms” For good measure she would have added “and specifically excludes the UK and Ireland” but any decent editor would have eliminated that for it’s redundancy.
We would fly over economy on Thursday night and fly back the following Wednesday. If there were a lot of entries we wouldn’t know until the day we arrived if Bay of Freedom had actually got into the race (he had no standing having not raced and so would be one of the first balloted out). I made sure that Kim understood this possibility and she agreed that we would still be able to see Bay of Freedom and ‘would have a great time anyway touring backwards and forwards around Ireland in our little Seat Ibiza on the wrong side of the road and it wouldn’t even matter if it was cold and damp’ For reasons I cannot explain, this only made me feel more nervous!