What did I think of yesterday’s performance? Well, obviously , the three pounds penalty made all the difference! It was another inexplicable Bay of Freedom performance so the only thing to do is try and explain it,
For those of you who were fortunate not to have seen the race, it can described very succinctly:
Going well in 6th until the first fence, jumped it well, held position until the second and jumped big and carefully. Dropped to 7th and continued to jump slowly losing ground and position over the next six fences passing the stands in an increasingly remote last position. Jumped slowly and poorly at the next fence and was quickly pulled up to prevent any further embarrassment.
So that’s it basically: we only managed half the race and we really only raced for the first three furlongs. He ran as if there’s something wrong with him and we need to find out if it’s in his head or in his body; maybe a combination of both. Kim continues to think that he just throws in the towel when he is behind other horses and she may be onto something I personally worry about ulcers (more on that later) but his worst performance ever was at Galway last July when we started him towards the back in a 3 mile hurdle. I wondered about ulcers then but 42 days later he came out and won his first chase at Listowel so, perhaps, it was in his head.
The reason I am concerned about ulcers is that he just seems to be protecting himself and being very careful. We went to Doncaster in December and he disappointed slightly (much less than yesterday) but I was concerned that travelling and taken him out of his normal routine might cause him some stress; stress that is one of the primary causes of ulcers and we know he’s susceptible. Peter mentioned that he’s been a bit more anxious in the past few days but that could equally indicate he’s in good form with himself; the fact he worked really well with the mare who finished 5th (of 21) in the prior race yesterday suggested he was in really good shape.
He was in a field for 4 weeks after Doncaster and has been on the Gastroguard until Wednesday (you have to be off 72 hours before a race so it clears the system as, for some reason, it’s a prohibited substance). All of this should have helped protect against ulcers so, if they are there, we’re going to have really back off.
We’ll have him fully tested on Monday and see what comes to light. If it’s ulcers we’ll stick him in a field for as long as it takes but, if nothing shows up, we’ll try doing something different with his training to get him interested. Gordon Elliott has been hunting with Don Poli and he came back refreshed and reenergized to run a really good race in the Lexus over the holidays; perhaps something like that would be an idea. Certainly, that was among Peter’s thoughts over dinner on Saturday
Whatever happens on Monday, there’s no point in thinking about any race in the near future. We had thought about the Leinster National on the Sunday before Cheltenham but that’s off the table now. We’ll figure it out; we just have no idea when but, trust me, you will be the first to know.
It’s all part of the rich tapestry that is racing; the highs and lows have to be taken in the same way and, sure enough, a good night was had last night and finished with my reflecting (or was it Roger Loughran and Alan Crowe telling me) how lucky I have been with Bay of Freedom; a feeling that never changes, whatever happens. It’s particularly relevant on a day when Many Clouds literally ran his heart out at Cheltenham; he has been a wonderful horse for his connections and they have some tremendous memories to enjoy once the tremendous sadness has passed.
And to prove that I am just as keen as ever, I wentdown to the stables this morning to see how Bay of Freedom. He seemed to give me a smirk as he was led into the field where he proceeded to run around, buck and kick and have a roll in the mud; it sure didn’t seem like there was too much wrong with him this morning. What will the tests show tomorrow ?– please check back in as I should be posting a quick update in the early evening (Ireland Time)
Now, it’s time to enjoy the hospitality of Aer Lingus
I spoke to Peter yesterday and he has a low Grade 1 ulcer. That is actually much better then the Grade 2/3 he had 5 weeks before he won at Wexford last April and is, by far, a much better result than we could have anticipated. Peter said he had been anxious in the days before the race and that was another reason why we thought that the ulcers had flared up; well they haven't but we have no explanation for the anxiety.
I am starting to think that Kim is onto something with this "he doesn't like being behind other horses" idea. Now he isn't having real ulcer issues (90% of horses have low grade ulcers) we can keep in training and Peter is thinking or trying him back over hurdles (his mark is 113 which is pretty attractive) and putting blinkers on him to reduce his peripheral vision; that and riding him more prominently should make it less likely he actually sees another horse. We discussed a 0-123 Opportunity hurdle at Navan on 19th February; Opportunity means it's open only to Conditional jockeys who still claim weight as they have ridden less than 75 winners (and, I think, are under 26 years old). Peter knows my favourite conditional jockey but I will not tempt fate by mentioning the name.
In the meantime we are likely to take him into the fields and have him jumping of hedges and walls as a way to reinvigorate him and get him enjoying things.
I will keep you informed........