well...that's a surprise!

Peter called today and we spoke for the first time since the day after the race (that’s not the surprise). Apparently the horse is ‘jumping out of its skin’ and he’s been entered at Roscommon on Monday night….but, I may be getting ahead of myself

I have been recalcitrant (good word, eh?) in not posting an update after his run at Galway. My grandma also used to say that ‘no news is good news’; unfortunately, that no longer applies in today’s world when ‘no news’ means either that your battery has run out or you are so shocked and disappointed that you can no longer be bothered to communicate. In case you’re wondering my battery did not run out!

For those of you who are mercifully unaware of Bay of Freedom’s performance at Galway please allow me to give you the abridged version: he could not have run worse. He finished 10th or, if you want to be hyper critical, last! He never looked happy and barely jumped a hurdle; stopping and starting at each jump and losing any momentum he had. I spoke to Barry Geraghty (jockey) afterwards and he said “ he jumped better on the 2nd circuit…you might want to try him on a left-handed track…perhaps go up in distance”  All of these comments make sense but they also sound like something a jockey would say when the performance is too bad to be true and he doesn’t want to upset the owner. He needn’t have worried about that; the owner was already upset. It’s at time like this that you re-run the race in your head and pick out the single positive aspect; regardless of how small it might be. Unfortunately, try as I might there was not a single positive note to strike; it was pretty incomprehensible! I felt sorry for Peter and Ber: their other horse in the race, Credo Star, had run a tremendous race to finish second but the performance of Bay of Freedom more than took the gloss of her run. Peter and Ber were even more shocked than me and we spent a head scratching few minutes in the bar before Peter found an excuse to leave early and drive back to Dublin. The head scratching continued the next morning as we stopped by the stables on the way to Dublin; the horse looked a little light but that is often the case and, in all other respects, he seemed fine.

You start to wonder if there is something physically ailing the horse but he is constantly being looked at by very experienced people who surely would have spotted something before the race. He schools well but he jumped as if he had never seen a hurdle before and, to make matters worse, resented being asked to jump one. I did wonder aloud if the problem might be psychological but, as Ber said, he has never really had a bad experience; I am the one who’s had the bad experience and is having the psychological issues! Peter said he would run in a maiden next and we would take it from there adding that I didn’t need to fly across for that one. That’s when I needed to tell Mr. Fahey the rules of this very strange game:

1)   If the owner is stupid enough to fly across for every race then the trainer should be clever enough to keep quiet and let him

2)   The trainer should throw away any map or, in this case, an atlas. In fact, if he owns one of those globe cocktail cabinets (which would be a cause for concern in any event) he should immediately drink the contents and throw it away. (As an aside, based on the partying until 5.30am on the Wednesday of Galway, this task would be accomplished in a few minutes!)

3)   It is of no concern of the trainer how far the owner has travelled and there is no basis for any sense of guilt that this travel has been wasted

4)   The owner is a grown man and is capable of making the stupid decision to buy a horse and have it trained in Ireland; the trainer should happily accept the training fees that accrue (and are paid early) and, apart from doing his best to train the horse to the best of its capabilities, there is nothing else he should worry about.

5)   The trainer decided when the horse runs but gives the owner enough notice (if possible) so that he can buy the extortionate flights and come and watch it run (useful reminder – see Rules 1-4)

So that brings us to today (sort of) Peter called me and told me about Monday (Rule 5) He knew I was still over in England so probably assumed that I could be there on Monday (I am graciously assuming no flouting of  Rule 3, part i)

The horse is being looked at this afternoon but, all being well, will be given the green light to run on Monday. It’s the same old story pre-race: he is working really well, schooling great and seems in great heart. It’s got to be so frustrating for Peter to see the horse under-perform on the racecourse. We are a little concerned about ulcers (which can affect up to 90% of racehorses) but he is being treated accordingly and we will do the right thing by him. His racecourse performance could be explained by ulcers but he is eating well, training well and his coat is gleaming; things that you would expect to have issues with if it were ulcers. The only positive test is an endoscopy so we will be thoroughly checking him out. Almost perversely, you almost want to find something wrong to explain his performance at Galway and , to some extent, at Down Royal and, even, Punchestown.  I keep remembering Barry Geraghty’s words before the Galway race “none of these (meaning the other horses in the race) could have finished 9th in the Cheltenham Bumper” Something has gone wrong since – but what is it? We won’t rest until we find out.

I know some people say that good Bumper form doesn’t translate to good hurdles form and I would agree with that. However, as far as Bay of Freedom is concerned, he was bred to be a jumper and anything he did in Bumpers was supposed to be a bonus – that’s the theory anyway.

I will post again on Friday with the latest plans and also provide a little bit more colour commentary to the Galway experience.