Well, after a few weeks off, the blog is back and ready to go for a busy few days. When we last spoke Bay of Freedom was going on holiday and getting himself mentally and physically right for Galway; he duly went into a field for four weeks, played around without a care in the world, and has come back a stronger horse..well, according to his lad, Gavin.
Now, you can look at this in each of two ways: Gavin rides him out all the time so he should know or, Gavin has just got back from vacation and may have lost a bit of conditioning in the last few weeks. I prefer the former view but you can be sure I will be examining Gavin’s fitness levels when I go to the stables on Monday.
I have also been getting myself mentally and physically right for Galway as well but that did not involve any outdoor space; a bed and a seat at the bar sufficed for my training.
Kim is with me on this trip and we are being joined by her brother, Brian, his wife, Sarah and two friends from Columbus, Jennie and Mark. We flew over a couple of days ago and will spend a weekend in England before heading to Ireland. It was 90 degrees when we left Boston but only 50 when we landed in Birmingham. I like to think I am a reasonably intelligent and observant person but, for some reason, Kim has felt compelled to remind of this differential a few hundred times in the last 24 hours. At some point I will pluck the courage to tell it is likely to be even colder, wetter and windier in Galway; not sure whether to do that before or after asking her why she didn’t pick up the coat I put out for her.
The entries for our race, the Guinness Novices hurdle came out yesterday and there were 28 entries. Only 20 horses can compete but it is likely there will be a significant number who come out at the overnight declaration stage on Wednesday; a number of trainers have multiple entries and/or several horses are entered in other races at the Festival so it likely that everyone who wants to run will likely be able to run. However, just in case, there is a balloting system to rank the horses to determine who would be the ‘first’ 20 to get into the race and then list the other 8 in order. Horses who have won over hurdles are given priority and there are 18 of them, Bay of Freedom comes in the next group of 2-3: horses who have won a bumper but a hurdle and were placed in one of their last two hurdle races. To cut a long story short we are in the top 20 although I would be surprised if there are many more than 12-14 runners declared when all is said and done.
I have to be honest and admit that I am not feeling my normal positive self this time; not sure what it is and I hope this changes over the coming six days. I seem to be focused on some negative elements such as:
1) He has played up at the start the last couple of races and the start at Galway for the 2 ½ mile races is right in front of the stands on the busiest and noisiest day of the week, Ladies Day. Will he be distracted?
2) Galway uses fixed brush hurdles for this week’s racing and the first time I saw him school it was over similar hurdles and he did his best to knock them out of the ground.
3) The opposition looks pretty strong and we are rated 17th or lower in every rating category used by the Racing Post or Timeform
Pause for important announcement:
A strange thing has just happened: while I was writing that a little leprechaun with a cheeky smile has landed on my shoulder and is requesting the opportunity for rebuttal. Not sure what can be rebutted given the overwhelming facts above, but he seems a decent chap and I will give him a chance:
1) Cheltenham took more out of him than we realized at the time and he is a better horse fresh. The break has done him the world of good and, anyway, he’s already won at the track and 2 ½ miles is what he needs right now
2) When I saw him kick the hurdles out of the ground he had only been broken for six weeks, and it was almost two years ago. In addition, Peter thinks his hurdling is absolutely fine – even over the fixed brush hurdles
3) On the basis that I have not missed a chance to criticize Timeform or Racing Post ratings for the last 12 months it is the height of hypocrisy to use them to justify my pessimism. Also, we think he ran 15-20 pounds below form at Down Royal so, by an arithmetical miracle, he really should almost be top-rated by everybody
4) Most of the other horses will carry penalties and have to concede upwards of 4 pounds to Bay of Freedom.
5) The forecast appears reasonably mild for next Thursday and the wind should not be too strong – he’s a bit like Kim: he doesn’t like cold, rain and wind!
I am not sure that you can five rebuttals to three comments but there is some logic to this perspective and I will now retire to bed in a much happier frame of mind. Tomorrow, I will provide some initials views on the race: likely runners, quality of the form, biggest dangers and a very positive assessment of what will happen.