We’re off to Sunny Doncastertomorrow for the 3 mile Grade 2 chase ; as always, itseemeda good idea when we planned it but now it’s here a few doubts are creeping in.
Look…..we had no choice really. There wasn’t a suitable race in Ireland until the end of January so we had to look at UK options. We wanted a left-handed track, a likely small field and 3 miles and not have too big of a penalty for his two wins – this race fitted the bill perfectly with one exception: it is a Grade 2 and we may be reaching too high. That being said, we felt exactly the same way before his Listed win at Wexford and look what happened there. I am actually a bit more relaxed this time around; he’s shown he has taken to fences and now we have a handicap mark (140) to work with which allows us to plan.
My biggest concern has been the travelling as with his history of ulcers you don’t want to be causing unnecessary stress or have too many changes to the routine. The reality though is that we really have to find out how he takes the travel as there may be opportunities later in the season to come to England; best to know where we stand right now. The early indications are positive: he ate what would be expected after the ferry and drive to Doncaster on Wednesday and ate a little more last night and, overall, seems to have taken it all in his stride. Peter always brings his own water and, this time also brought Benny in Milan who finished 2nd in his race today.
Peter and I have had several discussions this week about finding the right jockey; the good news is that we seem to be on the same page. We need a ‘quiet’ rider who won’t try to organize him too much but will have the confidence in him to let him jump and travel. We had a few great options but, ultimately, decided on Brian Hughes who seems to be riding a winner (or more) every day; I am very happy with that outcome. (Breaking news…. of course, Brian failed to ride a winner today (Friday) which means that he is guaranteed a winner tomorrow. Well, almost guaranteed…my detailed research shows that in the last 31 days he has never gone two consecutive days without a winner. Well, except for last Friday and Saturday which is either an anomaly or indicative of some weekend phobia; hopefully, not the latter)
There are four runners tomorrow and, with the possible exception of O O Seven, the race is wide open. Potters Legend and Present Man are officially rated one pound below us (O O Seven doesn’t yet have a rating) so it is surprising to see that the latest betting has Bay of Freedom at 10/1 with Present Man and Potters Legend at 7/2 and 7/1 respectively; O O Seven is about 8/15.
My own view is that O O Sevenwill take a lot of beating and I suspect Peter is a little scared of him (he should be). I did however try to use some convoluted logic earlier this week when I reminded Peter that we have already finished in front of O O Seven in a race : when we finished 9th and he finished 17th in the 2015 Champion Bumper. I also, genuinely, am not convinced he truly stays three miles and there is likely to be a steady pace tomorrow with Present Man likely to lead with the other three being pretty close up. I doubt there will be a mad gallop and, to be honest, we would like a steady pace and for Bay of Freedom to get comfortable and into a good rhythm. His jumping, which is good to start with, improveS as the race progresses and , as we have no doubts about either the trip or ground, him being in that good rhythm will be a tremendous advantage.
Any objective view has to have O O Seven winning and the other three vying for second place but this is a novice chase and, somehow, I doubt it will play out quite like that. I’m not saying that O O Seven won’t win but I would rather take 10/1 about Bay of Freedom to small stakes as opposed to 8/15 about him to win the same amount.
It’s also our first time on terrestrial TV so family and friends can either watch or record the race. I will be very interested in any paddock comments or after the race and will be recording both Channel 4 and ATR to watch later; I just hope I’ll want to watch it later!
(For US readers, the race is live on TVG at 9.40am EST)
As regular readers know, I do have a lucky outfit when I watch him run. Unfortunately, the Doncaster executive has decided that my outfit does not meet with their 19th Century sartorial standards. Apparently my $160 jeans are banned but it’s ‘absolutely fine’ to turn up in $5 trousers from Primark; not that I will be doing that. I have invested in a pair of Emerald Green cords and will be wearing them with a white shirt (with the required collar) and a black coat (as well as my lucky socks which, if they get banned, will lead to a revolution on Town Moor). Purely by coincidence, I seem to have ended up wearing the Bay of Freedom colours; just be grateful I’m not dressed as a jockey! That isn’t too far-fetched because in the same conversation when they rejected my lucky outfit I was informed that people are being encouraged to wear a Christmas Jumper to the meeting. Are you kidding me? Have you seen the jumpers available on the Racing Post site? Does anyone actually buy them?
Time to go to the pub and calm my nerves…