Bay of Freedom had come on really well in the 5 plus weeks since Listowel and Peter was convinced he was 15-20 pounds better. The plan after Listowel was to run again when I was over in Ireland at the end of October; this was the annual Dublin weekend with Bernard and John and I was happy to extend my stay to see the horse run. We spoke on the Monday before (20/10) and said we would cover all options ; he would get an entry at Galway on Sunday, Wexford Monday, and Punchestown the following Wednesday. We were leaning towards Punchestown but would play it by ear.
The weekend plan was to go to Dundalk on the Friday, Leopardstown on Saturday and again on Sunday – if Bay of Freedom , by some chance, ran at Galway we would review options then. I arrived into Dublin at 5am on Friday and arrived at the hotel by 5.45; I always negotiate a good price for the night before so that I can get straight to bed and catch up on some sleep before the drinking begins. That was the plan but after about 90 minutes sleep I couldn’t resist checking the declaration status for Sunday’s race at Galway; that decision would cost me any remaining sleep.
I was on the Racing Administration Services website http://info.hri-racing.ie/Content/RAS/default.aspx ; you can see the declarations by race until they close at 10am. You don’t know which horses are declared but you can see how many. At 8.30am there were no declarations for the bumper at Galway on Sunday and as I refreshed for the next hour nothing changed; at 9.40 there were still no declarations for the race at all. I was really tempted to call Peter and ask him he was on the site but decided to act cool and assume that he was all over it. All of a sudden three horses were declared , then four, then six and then back to five. I checked my HRI (horse racing Ireland) account and could see that Peter had bitten the bullet and declared him; he was one of the five. You then have to wait about 45 minutes for the list of declared horses to be posted and when they were I immediately went to work. The horse that scared me the most was Captain Von Trappe; he had finished 3rd then won a point to point back in the Spring and then had been sold at the Brightwells auction for 115000 pounds ($190000). I was able to do a search and access a video of his win; he won comfortably enough but only jumped adequately; even so, he was now owned by Gigginstown and that was a lot of money to pay for him. The other thing I was following was the jockey booking; I knew Peter was keen to get Katie Walsh again but he also had another horse entered (Dreamland) and Katie had ridden him last time as well so I was a little nervous about who would ride him. At this point Peter called and he said that the race had cut up so much that he couldn’t resist. I agreed and asked who would be riding him: he answered “Katie rides” as if I was asking a stupid question. Instead of feeling like someone who had just asked a stupid question, I was delighted and now any thought of sleep gone. In the next 30 minutes I called the guys about the change of plan, cancelled our final night in Dublin, booked a hotel in Galway, booked the car hire for Sunday and decided we should finish in the first four at least.
My philosophy on owning a horse is a little like building a new house. You want to imagine what it will look like and agree to the plans but then it is best to just turn up when it is all completed; sometimes it’s best not to know every detail about the journey. Peter seems to sense what to tell me, what not to and when to tell me. If he didn’t have this filter our conversation on Friday and Sunday would have gone like this:
Peter: “ We declared for Galway. There aren’t many runners so couldn’t resist. Mind you he worked like a drain at the Curragh onTuesday. It was straight into the wind so we put it down to that. He wasn’t much better yesterday but we let him finish in front so hopefully that will do his confidence some good”
Me “ Thanks for that honest update Peter”
Sunday morning (day of race) conversation:
Peter “ Just got the blood test results. Vet says his counts are a bit low and he shows signs of dehydration. Asked him if we should still run and he said that they are still within range so to go ahead but that ‘he (the vet) wouldn’t advise backing him”
If I had known this, my confidence levels would have been very low as we drove to Galway in torrential rain and 50mph wind gusts. It would have been lower still after a conversation with Peter which did actually take place:
Me “ We’re about 50 miles from Galway and it’s pissing it down”
Peter “Just starting off now”
Me “See there’s a non-runner; we’re down to four now”
Peter “ Yes – should get fourth placed prize money at least”
The good news is that, in my ignorance of what had happened on the gallops and with the tests, I took this as a very positive sign and assumed that he really meant the opposite of what he said and that he really fancied the horse to run well and win. In retrospect, and knowing what he knew at the time, there is no way he would have been that confident but logic plays no part in an owners view of what might happen; this website is called Cheltenhamdream after all!
I found out something else a couple of days later and it all sort of made sense; Peter was thinking this was his lucky weekend and so ‘let’s just go for it”. On Saturday morning one of his horses was laying down in his box in obvious pain; he was taken straight to the vets and a decision was made to operate to remove part of his intestine due to a blockage. The owner agreed to pay and the horse was shaved ready for the operation but this was delayed for about an hour because of fewer vets being there on a Saturday morning. By the time they were ready to operate, the horse was standing up, looking at them as if to say “who are you?” “what am I doing here?”and ‘it’s cold – why have I been shaved?” He had obviously rolled around and untwisted whatever was twisted and now he was as right as rain – if you ever doubt that trainers and their staff love their horses you need to experience both the despair and euphoria that were on display that particular morning.
Could this really be a lucky weekend?