We are off to Wexford on Monday to try and win the M W Hickey Memorial Chase for the second year running. It’s shaping up to be one of the best races you will ever see on a Monday or, to put it another way, a race we will really struggle to win.
I arrived in Ireland on Friday morning a relieved and excited man. Until Monday, I had spent 10 days lying flat on my back , unable to bend my left knee in any way. I had x-rays which showed no fracture but had to wait until Monday to see the orthopedic specialist. I spent the intervening few days in a bad mood, convinced that I would not make it to Ireland but I need not have worried. She was amazing and diagnosed it straightaway, gave me some tablets and some magical cream and told me I would be better within a day; she was right. A true medical miracle.
Apparently my vastus lateralis is disproportionately stronger than my vastus medialis and this caused pressure on my patella which in turned seriously inflamed the tendons in my knee. That was the medical diagnosis, Nurse Kim just said ‘you’ve tweaked your knee – hope you’ve enjoyed lying around watching sport for 10 days’
(I have no idea why images from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are flooding through my mind right now)
Seriously though, Kim has been amazingly supportive and was always positive and confident that I would make it to Ireland. Anyway, all of this explains why I had a car service pick me up from the airport and take me to the Curragh to see him school on Friday morning. Peter had said “ get there for 7.15, it’s getting light by then’ I wasn’t convinced as we sped down the M50 in pitch black conditions and even less convinced when the whole area around the Curragh was enveloped in thick fog. We drove around for a while getting increasingly disorientated until we saw one of the gates being opened. The Gate Opener was extremely suspicious as we asked where the schooling grounds where and gave us a bit of an interrogation. It was all a bit strange; he was talking to a guy wearing a suit, driving a Mercedes ; not your typical ‘up to no good at 7am look’! I took my balaclava and black gloves off just in case though and he directed us to the right gate (which he still had to open). We went in and parked up and waited. I don’t know if it was because my senses had been alerted to potential nefarious activities but when a fresh faced 12-year old joyrider came speeding up I was ready to act. It turned out to be Kevin but, in my defence, how was I supposed to recognize him without his helmet in thick fog?
I said “how can you school in this – I can’t even see the fences?” He said “ he’ll see better than me..well, I hope so anyway” Kevin has this way of putting you at ease and is so laid back he must spend most of his life like I had for those 10 days. It does explain why he gets on so well with Bay of Freedom though.
Kicking myself that I had forgotten the night vision goggles, we waited patiently for Peter who arrived a few minutes later. By this time, conditions had transformed and I could see the outline of Peter’s horsebox from 50 yards away! Bay of Freedom had a quick canter around and then jumped the line of three fences; he was pretty fluent and gave them plenty of air. Kevin said he feels as good if not better than at Listowel; he’ll need to be but that was pretty reassuring. All systems go for Monday now and he will look a picture in the paddock; although don’t be surprised to see him squinting if it’s a sunny day!
If you’ve got this far you’re probably desperate to know what I think of the entries and our chances. Well, there are 11 entries and with five being owned by Gigginstown it is likely that the race will cut up and we’ll be left with probably half a dozen runners. However, there are some class horses entered and with it being a conditions race we will be meeting most of the horses on much worse terms than if it was a handicap.
I have created my own provisional rating system which has four variables. They are as follows:
How well suited will the horse be by the likely heavy going (Scale 1-10)
How well suited by the 2m 7f distance (Scale 1-10)
How well has the horse run left-handed (Wexford’s direction) compared to when it has run right-handed (Scale 1-10)
Based on official ratings how do the horses score in relation to Bay of Freedom. I have allowed 1 point for every two pounds. As an example: Balko Des Flo is rated 158 and is due to receive four pounds from Bay of Freedom who is rated 138. The calculation is: (158 minus 138 plus 4) = 24 pounds. This is then divided by two to give a points value of 12. This is compared to Bay of Freedom (whose score will always be 0) In other words, Balko Des Flos rates 12 points better than Bay on this rating variable.
This is what it the ratings system shows:
Going Distance L/H Weight Total Rating
Balko Des Flos 7 8 5 12 32
A Genie in Abottle 9 7 8 6 30
Bay of Freedom 9 8 8 0 25
Alpha Des Obeaux 5 7 6 5 23
Childrens List 4 8 5 5 22
A Sizing Network 5 8 6 3 22
Tiger Roll 3 6 8 3 20
Presenting Mahler 8 6 7 -1 20
Call It Magic 7 6 8 -3 18
Attribution 4 4 8 1 17
Thanks for Tea 3 7 7 -1 16
While it may be argued that there is some subjectivity involved here, I would counter that I have deliberately eliminated a couple of variables that would benefit Bay of Freedom. The first is pretty interesting: he comes out top on Racing Post Top Speed ratings. The second may seem more arbitrary but for some people who believe in magic, witchcraft and other Halloween type things, he has never been beaten on this Bank Holiday in October (he is 2 for 2).
I will update this blog on Sunday after the declarations are out and after I have met up with John and Bernard and we have infiltrated a Leopardstown stag party that another friend is attending. It could be a long time between now and then!
Ps. One tip for Saturday: Making Light 3.05 Leopardstown