Over the next few weeks I gave a lot of thought to this Cheltenham idea and it seemed that everyone I mentioned it to was fully on board and already planning their day out. There are many problems with this but the main ones are:
1) He may not get in the race (it is often over-subscribed and then it depends on how highly the handicapper rates the horse which, unfortunately is based on racetrack performance and not the urgings on a website)
2) If he does get in, Cheltenham only provides four tickets. The good news is that you can buy other tickets on the day; the bad news is that 70 pounds ($120) is a steep price to pay
3) There is no accommodation available for miles around so it will be a day trip for most people; a truly sobering thought for most of my friends and family
We will see what happens if this all becomes a reality. I think the rating is what I am most concerned about as several good horses have been balloted out in previous years due to a cap of 24 runners in the race. That may sound like lot but I would bet that there will be more than 24 declared. We won’t know what rating the handicapper gives until after the entries are made in February; until then I can only use the two most respected Horse Ratings, Timeform and Racing Post, to get some sort of feel.
Timeform rate him at 105+ - a rating good enough to entitle him to be at Cheltenham based on the last eight years. They wrote:
after 6 weeks off, showed improved form to get off the mark at the second time of asking and, whilst he was clearly better suited by how this developed than the runner-up, it's encouraging he coped so well under these circumstances, given that he'd shaped like a stayer on debut; in touch, travelled smoothly, headway approaching 3f out, ridden approaching home turn, stayed on to lead early in straight, driven clear; may do better still.
The Racing Post was, if anything, even more complimentary:
BAY OF FREEDOM had run with a good deal of promise at Listowel and improved on it. He tracked a pace that was steady, although probably quicker than might have been thought, and was a bit outpaced in the dip. From the entrance to the straight, however, he picked up strongly and galloped clear of a favourite who found little. He´s likely to be put away for a winner´s bumper in the spring, according to his trainer, but he´s a big staying type and one to look forward to.
The Racing Post then went on to give Bay of Freedom the same rating it had given Haddington Road in his previous race: 108. That would be the same Haddington Road who Bay of Freedom had just beaten by 11 lengths off level weights at Galway; that was very strange and a little deflating.
I then wasted way too much time trying to determine if the handicapper rated more in line with Timeform than the Racing Post in previous years; after statistical research that Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (good movie, by the way) would have been proud of, I concluded that was three days of my life I would never get back and that the correlation was virtually zero although it could be argued that the standard deviation on the Timeform ratings was..................oh, forget it! Let’s wait and see shall we?
We had talked about jockeys back at Peter’s house so I started imagining who might ride him at Cheltenham. I also did some more research (and this time it may have been more meaningful):
One of the things I wanted to look at was the success rate of Irish professional jockeys in the race. In Ireland, bumpers are open only to amateur riders whereas in the UK they are open to professional jockeys; this means that professional jockeys based in Ireland only get chance to ride in Bumpers at the big meetings in England – does this lack of practice, particularly in judging the pace of what is essentially a flat race, make any difference to their success?
There have been 22 runnings of the Cheltenham Bumper and Ireland-based horses have dominated, winning 17 times. On only four occasions has an Irish based professional jockey been victorious and , even then, just two jockeys (Charlie Swan and Paul Carberry) rode those four victories; most of the winning Irish horses have retained their amateur partners or engaged a top UK jockey in the big race. I haven’t spoken to Peter about this but it does make you think.
The week after he won I received a link to some photos taken by Healy Racing; they do all of the Irish meetings and many in England and Internationally. This is the link that Pat sent http://healyracing.ie/gallery/26-10-14-galway/375bay-of-freedom-kw/ and then we had to sit down and decide which ones to order; in the end we ordered five (four of which are now on this website). It’s a bit like going through and choosing wedding photos: so many to choose from, many look the same and so many big, wide smiles anticipating great things to come; the only real difference is that I’ve watched the video of Bay of Freedom winning about 50 times. The only time that would happen with a wedding video is when you have it on perpetual play and have been sent into a deep, deep sleep.
I must confess that I was second guessing the decision to put him in a field when I was at the Open meeting at Cheltenham in November. They had a Listed Bumper and it would have been interesting to see how he fared. On balance though, we (well, Peter) definitely made the right decision and, if I wasn’t sure before I certainly was after the November statement came through. It was 657 Euros ; about 600 down on the average and almost a 1000 down on September and October. Better still, I could use some of my winnings to pay for the next 3-4 months training and not need to transfer any money from the US. I was so excited that I told Kim; which explains why we’re now going to Florida for a long weekend in February. When will I ever learn?