Things could not have turned out better: only 18 were entered so that means we were guaranteed a run on Sunday, the sun was out all week in Ireland, 75 degrees and beautiful for our entire time here and Ireland appears to be leading the world in gluten-free dining. We found that out early as Kim has celiac disease and has to be on a gluten-free diet; we stopped at a pub for breakfast when we arrived and were amazed that they had celiac friendly options. We shouldn’t have been surprised as this was repeated everywhere we went. As a wonderfully supportive husband I am on what can be best termed a ‘modified gluten free diet’ – in other words exactly the same diet as Kim but with beer included.
We rested on Friday and then went to introduce Bay of Freedom to Kim on the Saturday; it went well with Kim insisting they had a connection. I have no idea what this connection is but if it means I can keep going over to see him on her behalf then it works for me. We had a few photos taken (one of which, scarily, was to be our Holiday Card) and then went in to have a chat to Peter and Ber. I had last been over in June so when Kim whispered “is Ber pregnant?” I had to look twice which was one time too many as the answer was a definite ‘yes’. Ber’s daughter Kate had called it a few weeks and the baby is due in February. As the conversation continued it was pretty obvious that,even at this early stage, Kim was already developing a crush on Peter and , more worryingly, Ber (or should that be the other way around?) The fact they had gone out of their way to get gluten free products was a definite plus. I was feeling pretty good at this point – Kim liking both the horse and the trainer would give me a good four years grace on the ownership front.
Ber was planning to come with Peter to Listowel the next day; a fact that made Kim very happy. I kept quiet because I knew they fancied Queen Alphabet in the Mares hurdle and that was at least part of the reason.
As we headed to Killarney for the night I couldn’t wait to see what the various websites were saying about the race. There were 11 runners and I genuinely had no sense of where we might finish. Peter had said earlier in the week “I see what you mean when you talk about him being a 2 ½ - 3 miler” Now, I had said that and for two main reasons:
1) On breeding you would have to say that he is going to be stayer. In fact, a good friend of mine (David Johnson) is the Flat Racing Editor for Timeform and when I first bought the horse expressed the opinion that he was stoutly bed and I better be patient. In case you’re wondering he knows as much about jump racing as he does the flat which, to be very clear, would be a lot , and
2) I wanted an excuse if he ran like a drain!
But come on Peter, this is not the time to agree with me. Was he setting my expectations at the appropriate level? What could we reasonably expect? This is what we knew:
· He had run in a couple of schooling races at Dundalk and finished 3rd in one although there weren’t too many runners
· Peter typically makes sure horses enjoy their first experience on the racecourse (although he’s had a number of horses win first time out)
· He had spoken to Katie Walsh a good week earlier about the horse and she had agreed to ride him.
· He had then made doubly sure of no mistakes by declaring both the horse and jockey on Thursday night when the deadline wasn’t until 10.00am on Friday
It was the booking of Katie that made me feel good. Not only do I have a tremendous respect for her but she is well known for not being shy with her opinions on horses; good or bad. We wanted to know where we stood and Katie would tell us. The fact that Peter had spoken to her so far in advance said to me that he thought a good deal about the horse.
So we went to bed that night full of confidence and apprehension. The various website comments on the race ranged from “Bay of Freedom doesn’t appear good enough” (how could they possibly know?) through to the predictable “Keep an eye on the market, a well respected trainer and a significant jockey booking” My favourite though was from an unexpected source: the Betfair Racing Forum. Normally full of questionable opinions we had this insight from BreedingMad (not his real name). The first sentence is my favourite:
Has a nice name and is a half brother to Western Gale who was only beaten
1 length on his debut in a Listowel bumper contested by 18 runners,Peter Fahey
has a good record at the track and Katie Walsh is booked..So I'm already on as I
love horses sired by Heron Island . hope it runs well and wins
Big day tomorrow!