Staying positive.....

Time for some updates: first and most importantly Ber and Lauren are home and everyone is doing well; Peter sounded in great form when we spoke on  Friday. The news on Bay of Freedom is slightly mixed but nothing alarming. Good news first: he is working really well, has strengthened up a lot and we are on course for Cheltenham. However, he is ‘only’ eating the recommended amount of food and not being his normal greedy over-eating self. This could mean a whole myriad of things in a racehorse and it could mean nothing at all; Peter seems pretty relaxed about things and has told me not to worry so that is what I am going to do..well, try to do.

I don’t know about you but when you someone says to me ‘no worries’ that is when I start to panic. On this occasion I am, instead, deploying logic, common sense and fortitude and am ignoring any nagging concerns; the main reason for this being the incredible enthusiasm Peter is showing about the horse. He said how excited he is about going to Cheltenham but also he is almost more excited about him when he starts his hurdling career; Peter’s pretty phlegmatic so when he starts talking like that it’s difficult not to get caught up in it all. Of course, he may be all emotional from Lauren’s birth but I think it may be more than that.

Being the super conditioned athlete that I am (pause for mass hilarity) I think I know what is going on with Bay of Freedom: it is a proven medical fact that a period of intensive physical aerobic exercise actually acts as a natural appetite suppressant. Conversely, if aerobic activity is moderate this can act as an appetite inducer. Clear evidence of this occurs every year on the Jimmy Fund Walk in Boston; this is over the Boston Marathon course and is often completed by people who have consumed more calories at the various food stations than they will have worked off during the walk.

We have, however, decided not to take him for his overnight to Chester. We’re pretty convinced he would take it all in his stride but we don’t want to risk any issues so close to the race and we can’t afford for him to miss too much training if something went amiss; a couple of days would be no problem but a week would really be an issue.

We are planning to take him to Leopardstown the weekend of February 28th; it's become a tradition over the years that many of the Irish challengers for Cheltenham go there for schooling or one of their final gallops. It’s pretty amazing to think that Bay of Freedom will be joining this august company; I am regretting now not coming over until the 4th. On the other hand, after 70 inches of snow in 18 days in Boston I might need to stay around that long to clear it all

Peter had entered Owega Star for the Grand National earlier in the week and I know is equally excited his participation in that race. We had different dates in our respective minds for when the entries needed to be in for the Champion Bumper; I think the date is 23rd February but Peter was thinking it was week earlier – being early is no bad thing and it would be a bit embarrassing all around to miss the entry after all of this.

Of course, the big news in racing this past week has been Tony McCoy’s retirement announcement. For me, he has exemplified class, hard work and has been the best ambassador for racing, By all accounts, he is a great and supportive mentor to young jockeys just and an all around good guy. Perhaps, if Yanworth doesn’t go in the Bumper and John Ferguson hasn’t got anything in the race, then he might be available for Bay of Freedom? Actually, Peter and I haven’t had this conversation yet and, to be honest, it all feels really premature until we’ve seen the entries and got a better sense of if we get into the race. Of course, we will need to have the chat in a few weeks time but I am very confident that Peter will make the right choice; we just need that wonderful mix of someone who will not give up and get the most out of the horse but also will look after him for the future.

There have been a few interesting Bumpers over the last few days and things are beginning to take a little more shape. Interestingly, it’s very rare for a horse contesting the Cheltenham Bumper to have his first ever run after 8th February – the only horse who fell into that category last year was Royal Vacation. In most previous years there have been no horses having their first run that late. Armed with this statistical information and a whole load of biases and subjective opinions I decided to keep a separate record of my thoughts on other runners in the Cheltenham Bumper. This week I am starting with the 26 horses which appear in most bookmaker lists. A few things to note:

1)    Bay of Freedom is not quoted (don’t they read this blog?)

2)    I think that as many as 15 of the 26 will not even run at Cheltenham

3)    There are horses not quoted who may run and should be quoted (I will talk about them in future weeks)

Click on this link Bumper Horse by Horse Thoughts for a very personal perspective

I am off to enjoy the sun in Florida for a few more minutes before returning to the freezing North East tomorrow. All I know is if Cheltenham was where Boston is then we wouldn't be racing for two months!