Once again, I have been very quiet on this blog – my apologies for that. I could blame the Brexit vote, Iceland but, seeing as they happened four weeks after his Sligo run, that wouldn’t make much sense. I think it was more a feeling that I should stop thinking about Bay of Freedom while on a romantic 5th Anniversary vacation with my beautiful wife (and, yes, she does read this blog!)
Bay of Freedom is out again tomorrow at Bellewstown in a 2 ½ mile handicap hurdle at 7.40pm (local time). It looks pretty competitive with 16 runners – more on that later
So what happened at Sligo? Well ..it might have happened the Friday before Sligo (which, to remind you, was on a Monday). He had his final gallop at the Curragh and was in a bit of a state afterwards; he had worked really poorly so Peter took him straight off to the vets and he was found to have an irregular heartbeat. The vet said something to the effect “this can happen.. take him home. If he’s back to normal in 48 hours then forget about it , if not, we’ll sort him out” He was actually back to normal by Saturday morning so we decided to press on and run him at Sligo.
While he came out of the race really well, it was a disappointing run and it was pretty clear that he was ‘looking after himself’ and jumping very deliberately. At the risk of making excuses and also of giving him way too much credit, he did not gallop again before the race and may have been waiting/scared for the irregular heartbeat to happen again. If that’s the case, then he has done a fair few pieces of work since Sligo and there has been no recurrence so , if it was in his head, then it should be forgotten about by now.
You may be wondering why I never ventured any of this information prior to the Sligo race. Well, as I hope you know, I like to be authentic and honest but in this instance I was between the proverbial hard place and a rock! If I had said something and he had won then I would have been accused of ‘putting people away’ and, on the basis the vet said to forget about, I decided that was probably the best policy; to forget and not say anything.
I have had a niggling feeling for a while that he may be better going left-handed so we decided at the end of May to target tomorrow’s race. To be honest, the program book doesn’t provide too many opportunities anyway but the timing and distance were in our favor. As the race has got closer the weather seems to be on our side with the ground now being on the soft with, hopefully, a little bit more rain to come. Not only will this make it harder to stay the 2 ½ miles (which is probably the minimum he wants now) but many of the other runners have shown their best form on much faster ground. Right now he’s trading at about 14/1 and around sixth favorite in the betting. Based on what he’s achieved that’s a fair price; based on what I think he can achieve then it’s the ‘fill yer boots time!’
Unfortunately, before I can any of my boots I need to fill my bank account! I am flying out tonight, going to the UK on Friday and then returning on Sunday; all for the ridiculously expensive price of $2200. Before you ask, I am flying economy (business class $6500) – I can only assume it’s all those Americans desperate to get back (or leave) for the 4th July. I will be arriving at my hotel at 6am and will be in bed 5 minutes later, desperate to get some sleep before racing.
So what about the race? Here are my initial thoughts of the first few in the betting (ie the ones the bookmakers think will beat him):
MAI FITZS JACK (Odds 7/2)
He won easily last time out but was entitled to do so. The second (btn 10 lengths) had previously been pulled up in a point to point and the 3rd (beaten 18 ½ lengths) was then beaten 52 lengths in his next race. In his prior he finished 2nd beaten a head, and receiving 8 pounds by a horse rated 109. Mai Fitzs Jack is now rated 118 – he could be a much better horse than he has shown but will need to be. 7/2 looks a pretty short price.
MUSTADRIK & CASUAL APPROACH (both 8/1)
They are both trained by Gordon Elliott who won this race last year. Mustadrik seems well handicapped ot me but hasn’t run for 239 days and would prefer better ground. Casual Approach has also not run for a while (217 days) but runs fairly well fresh; the bigger issue may the weight as he is top weight.
Back over hurdles after his chasing debut. Another who would be better suited by faster ground.
Second in this race last year and probably ‘laid out ‘ for it again this year. The ground may have gone against him thoough.
CALL ME PJ (12/1)
Not badly handicapped and won his maiden on heavy ground. However, has not run as well on soft going subsequently and is not guaranteed to stay the 2 ½ miles
The distance should not be an issue but is high enough weighted and, once again, may be better on faster ground. I do have to say, though, that I have been impressed by his jockey, Rachael Blackmore, who seems to be improving very quickly.
Of the others I would have been scared of Little Haarth on better ground and have a sneaky feeling about Stay With It.
Not sure if I will post again before the race but will definitely do so afterwards. See you in the winner’s enclosure!