I thought it might be interesting to blog about a day in the life of a small owner (that would be me); a day that doesn’t involve any stable visits or races but is still nerve wracking and exciting. Here goes:
Wednesday April 22nd
I woke up convinced that we were biting off more than we could chew in the Champion Bumper and resolved to call Peter and see if we should also make an entry in the Winners of 1 bumper on the Thursday. I was scared that all of the horse who beat us at Cheltenham would be entered as well as a few more that were kept back; in particular, Disko and Charbel, two 4 year-olds who get a 10lb weight allowance, look to be very good.
I mentioned all of this to Kim who was appalled! “Why are you being so negative and such a coward? You’ll only regret it if you don’t run. What’s the point of having a dream?” and so on and so on….
Duly chastened, I checked my HRI bank account and had a small panic. There was just over 600 Euros in there and the entry for the Bumper was 760 – what had happened? It turns out that Weatherly’s had finally gotten around to charging me for the entry and, presumably, jockey fees for Cheltenham. I say presumably because all I could see was a one-line charge of 750 Euros and no explanation. I deposited another 1000 Euros to be on the safe side and re-did the family Budget!
Spoke to Peter and he said that Bay of Freedom had done his best piece of work ever in the morning; beating a couple of (supposedly) speedier horses in the gallop; he’s definitely improved and Peter was very bullish. Then he asked the question: do you think we should enter him in the other race? Quick as a flash I responded, “why not – we should take a look at it” (Kim had left by this time). We spoke a little about jockeys: Katie’s almost certainly going to be required by Willie. Peter had got someone lined up but it was all-dependent on other entries and if he would be free to ride (which is why I can’t divulge anything). We left the call saying that the Champion Bumper was 99.9% certain to be the race for us.
It’s interesting isn’t it? Just ‘taking a look’ at the other Bumper is going to cost 96 Euros and yet I agreed to it so quickly. The previous day I had spent 90 minutes trying to find the cheapest car hire and ended up spending 75 euros for four days hire but, as I always say, there is your horse racing owner brain ‘stupid’ and then there is your everyday ‘sensible’ brain!
Talk of jockeys inspired me to look at the jockeys who might be available. The race is confined to Amateur riders and, while there are a lot of them, there are not so many who have either ridden many winners or have experience in such a big race. As with professionals they receive weight allowance until they have ridden so many winners; initially 7 pounds it drops to 5, then 3 until the claim is lost. Unfortunately, in the Champion bumper, riders cannot claim so it would be like putting up overweight if we used a claiming rider. The answer is obvious: don’t use a claiming rider! That’s good in principle but there are only seven riders without a claim and they are the crème de la crème. I thought there was likely to be 15-20 runners so we might have to look at 3lb claimers: there are only 10 of them so we might even be pushed to use a 5lb claimer.
Trying to distract myself I emailed a few people in Ireland I have come to know through this site and scheduled time to catch up with them next week
I was just playing around on the Punchestown site and then had an epiphany; an epiphany preceded by an “are you serious?” moment. This is what caused it:
The stylish overall winner of the Gold Fever Best Dressed Lady competition will be lavished with the hair of her dreams for one year. The winner will also be flown to South Africa for one week on an all-inclusive five star luxury trip to Makanyi Lodge Game Reserve located in the Timbavati. The prize includes return flights for two, luxury suite accommodation, all meals and refreshments and two safari game drives each day. This is a trip of a lifetime and a prize worth over €20,000! Now come on: how could I run Bay of Freedom in the Winners Bumper when the first prize would only get me three days on this trip? We would have to run in the Champion Bumper; it’s the only way I could ever make as much money as the Best Dressed Lady.
As an aside: when I first went to Punchestown this was won by a lady in winter tweed who was dressed ‘appropriately’ for the weather (according to the judge). Obviously that judge has been replaced, as the winning look will be a cross between Aintree Friday and Royal Ascot Thursday.
Thursday April 23rd Morning
I was excited about seeing the entries. They closed at noon in Ireland but 7am for me. On the HRI site you can track the numbers (but not the names) from 5.30am onwards. I did steal a quick glance at 5.30 and was a little surprised to see only three entries; more surprised when it only rose to 4 by 6.15 and a little shocked when there still only 6 at 6.40. I knew Willie Mullins was going to enter about half a dozen so was thinking he was either playing it very calm or, my preferred option, there was a communications blackout at Closutton where he trains. I fondly imagined him driving frantically to the bustling metropolis that is Carlow to use an Internet café or a well-preserved phone box.
He must have made rapid time to Carlow as, sure enough, at 6.42am the entries doubled to 12. When it was all over there were 15 entries but I still had no idea what horses; for that I would have to wait another 75 tortuous minutes.
My initial reaction was positive given that only three of the horses who finished in front of us at Cheltenham were entered; seeing that we have improved and we plan to start the race by going forward (as opposed to sideways) there is cause for optimism that we can reverse some of these placing’s. Of the others, I am most concerned about the four year-olds: Charbel and, particularly, Disko who get a very generous weight allowance of ten pounds (twice what it would be in England).
I spoke again to Peter who, if anything, was even more bullish this morning. We are going there with confidence; the Punchestown dream is well and truly on!