In a change of plan we have decided to go for a 3 mile handicap hurdle at Galway on Sunday; a change of plan because we had been looking at a beginner’s chase at Roscommon on Tuesday. However, with the chases there being cancelled, no real options before Killarney late August and the horse being so well, we have to take our chance on Sunday. We’ve always said that 3 miles was what he was crying out for so now, we have our chance to find out. Peter was starting to feel he needed softer ground but Kevin Sexton (our jockey) is adamant that the ground is not an issue and that it is the 3 miles that he wants. He has run well on good ground at Listowel, Cheltenham and, of course, when he won at Galway so it really shouldn’t be an issue. From a breeding point of view he is related on the dam’s side to Strong Gale who frequently has progeny who act on good and, even, fast ground. On the sire side there is also no reason why this wouldn’t even be his preferred surface and, looking at his action, he is a good mover and should act well on good ground. We know he likes the course having won there but we also know, such is the beauty of horse racing, that he ran his worst ever race at Galway last year over hurdles. Of course, we had the undiagnosed ulcers to blame for that so we can safely ignore that performance – can’t we?
Peter made the decision to run on Monday and said that he worked the best he ever had in his life on Tuesday morning. I would normally urge everyone (particularly me) to take this news under advisement because nothing is more certain than a racehorse can build your hopes only to leave you feeling deflated within days. However, things are potentially a little different right now: Peter’s horses are running out of their skin. He has had an exceptional run over the past few weeks with some great wins; in particular from Queen Alphabet and, the revelation called Xsquared. This latter horse has won his last five races: three over fences and two on the flat. If anyone saw his flat win at Killarney then you must agree that it was one of the most remarkable feats of riding this year. Pat Smullen was riding and, in a two mile race, his saddle slipped and was up the horses neck over a mile from home. At this point all Pat could think about was staying on board but, since he was already in the lead, he couldn’t really try and pull up. He kept going probably hoping that the field would ‘swallow him up’ any minute but strange things were transpiring. He was allowed to stay in front. Even when he went wide on the last turn, unable to steer the horse, the rest of field followed him going just as wide; it was bizarre to watch and got even more bizarre as , with a furlong to go, it was becoming obvious that Xsquared could actually win the race. He did win and, normally, the race report would say ‘won comfortably’ but I suspect Pat Smullen would have had something to say to the racereader so instead it said “kept on well’. An amazing performance! His win at Galway yesterday was also incredible as he looked to have lost his chance jumping the last and being pushed wide; luckily it’s a long run in at Galway and he ended up winning comfortably.
I am delighted for Peter, Ber and the yard; they deserve every win and to win at Galway is a highlight for any trainer. It would be great if Bay of Freedom could stick another one in the win column – there’s every chance he can. Let’s consider some facts:
1) Timeform has him the 2nd lowest rated horse in the (20 runner) race – if that doesn’t give you confidence then what does? (In fairness to Timeform, I do hear that their flat ratings are much more accurate!!)
2) It was Ber’s birthday this week and she’s not the sort of person who will be content with just one winner in her birthday week!
3) I am not going to wear any clothes on Sunday that I have worn when he has raced before; the time for superstition has long since passed.
4) The only other time he has run in the 2nd race of the day was when he won at Wexford. (in case you’re wondering: this is not superstition; it is empirical fact)
I will be dissecting the race on my coach trip from Dublin Airport tomorrow morning and have little doubt that, without even trying, my winning hypothesis will be fully proven. Ah, come on everyone…it’s a long way to travel on a red eye in Economy if you don’t believe he’s going to win. Ok, that’s enough for now. I need to get to the airport and relax before watching Kung Fu Panda 3 on the flight!