The big day has arrived.....

Socks in Bay of Freedom's racing colours (pretty pathetic really)

Socks in Bay of Freedom's racing colours (pretty pathetic really)

A beautiful sunny day heralded our entrance into Listowel; the going was good which was a relief given it was officially firm when entries were made. Kim and I were looking cool and understated (respectively) but had coordinated our footwear with socks matching our colors; not for us any sense of decorum or ‘seen the movie, read the book, bought the t-shirt’, this was all new to us and we were wide-eyed and loving it. Attheraces actually made Bay of Freedom their selection which irrationally gave me confidence despite the obvious fact that they had no idea about him.

Our plan was to stay cool and not check in with Peter until after Queen Alphabet’s race. She looked great in the paddock and was well-supported in the betting ring so it looked like all was set. Davy Russell jumped her out in front and , while she jumped adequately, there wasn’t quite that spark and she didn’t have any answer after the second last. This was not her true form and I said to Kim “Peter and Ber are going to be disappointed by that” We still had four races before our race so, with discretion being the better part of valour, we decided to keep to ourselves and have a quick drink in the Owners and Trainers Bar; a bar distinguished from any other racecourse bar only by the signage and less choice of beer.

Kim  forsake (how often do you get chance to write that?) her ginger ale and opted for a Bacardi and Coke; the first of several on the day as her nerves were kicking in big time. After the next race we bumped into Ber who was having a drink with Queen Alphabet’s owners and, when Peter joined us, we went to the stables to look at Bay of Freedom.

Of all the things I had worried about before the race from would he get balloted out to the state of the ground, from picking up an injury to getting the right jockey, the one thing that I had never considered was him taking a pee before the race. Apparently he was just preparing to relieve himself when he first got to the course but then the vet turned up to check the passport and inspect him and, being a shy horse, that put him off his stride, so to speak . So, now 3 hours later and only 75 minutes before the race, he still hadn’t managed it. I would never have imagined that I would be so concerned about the bathroom needs of a horse but here we all were just looking at him and hoping. Paul, who was leading him up, took him for a walk; presumably to get things going but that was not working. Peter then put him in the stable, closed the top and bottom doors and let him have some privacy. Privacy is, of course, a relative term as one of the funnier sights I have seen on a racecourse is Peter peering between the wooden slats to see if Bay of Freedom was doing the business. It’s not often you get a roar between races but that’s what happened when Peter gave us the ‘thumbs up’ – now there was no excuse.

Bay of Freedom looked  a picture in the paddock and duly won the Best Turned Out award. While I was delighted for Paul who would now get 50 Euro, it is a proven fact that the horse winning this award has never actually won the proper race as well; at least now I knew the result, we could relax a bit.

Peter had spoken to Tony Mullins who was running Fearachain and Tony had said that today was ‘his Derby’ and the betting seemed to support this as he was backed heavily into favouritism; knowing we were going to lose I was able to take this in my stride. Katie came in and we introduced ourselves.  I said we were so pleased she was able to ride him and Peter said to get him enjoying himself and if things were going well to ride a race on him.

Kim and I went off on our own to watch the race but could see Peter and Ber from where we stood. He travelled well on the first circuit and made up some ground just over three furlongs out and was well placed on the final bend. Katie said later she was trying to keep the favourite in but that Bay of Freedom was just too inexperienced and so he lost quite a bit of ground on the turn. He finished well to be third beaten 2 ½ lengths – we were delighted, and we could see that Peter and Ber were as well. All we needed to do now was to see what what Katie said: she loved the horse, ‘very genuine’ but ‘inexperienced’ and not a bad word to say!  She said he didn’t know what to do when she picked up the stick but , as we all said later, this was the first time he had ever galloped on grass in his life and the first time he had been hit. We knew he would come on a ton so , all things considered, it couldn’t have gone any better.

We had a drink with Peter and Ber (a theme may be emerging) and we well all in great spirits particularly after the disappointment of Queen Alphabet. (They had used different tactics but she didn’t settle in front; frustrating but now they knew). I was keen to get back to see what the Racing Post said about him and to make a few transatlantic and UK calls. Kim was still shaking and it was great to see her so excited about the experience; I haven’t seen her that excited since I arranged for her to meet with a personal shopper at Saks (the plan was to give her style tips but Kim went from planning to implementation in the space of 60 minutes – it was me shaking after that experience)

The Racing Post race analysis was available when we got back and it said this:

Bay of Freedom made a good first impression here...
— Racing Post

 ...... and gave him a rating of 99.

Overall a very good start and now we could plan his next race..and I was definitely going to be there!