Today’s been a good day. It started when Jimmy the Cab Driver picked us up from the airport. He was going to Leopardstown races today and I just happened to mention that I owned Bay of Freedom and he was running tomorrow. He said he would back it but wouldn’t be there as it was going to be colder tomorrow. In fairness, he wasn’t to know the fashion shows I have endured as we planned the perfect owner’s wife’s racing outfit but, even so, there was no need to be talking like this in front of Kim. He likes to follow horses owned by his customers; Flying Tiger was one such example from last year and he went on to win the Fred Winter at Cheltenham at 33/1. He likes his outsiders and told us of a five horse accumulator which delivered 68000 euros; I asked why he was still a cab driver and he seemed to changed the subject because he kept talking about his wife, Carole – very strange. Anyway, I bounded out of the cab; well..as much as you can at 6am!
When we got to the hotel Kim asked how many races are there tomorrow. I muttered something about seven and we were race six and she said “how many?” I came clean and said seven and she said ‘fantastic.. there’s normally twelve’ so my dilemma was: ’do I tell her there’s never been more than seven or do I just keep quiet?’ – I have been silent for, let me see, eight hours now!
We were in the room at 6am and Kim was desperate to get some sleep. I, on the other hand, was desperate to confirm that the horse had been declared. Sometimes I wonder if Peter is playing games and leaving it as late as possible to declare in the certain knowledge that I am refreshing the screen every minute. The light from the phone screen was starting to cause a certain level of tension so I retired to the bathroom where I refreshed until 9.30am when Peter finally got around to declaring him (deadline is 10am). However, this time he introduced a new twist: normally he declares the horse and jockey at the same time but this time it was only the horse. He made me sweat another 25 minutes before declaring Kevin to ride.
Anyway, newly relaxed, all I had to do was to wait for the Racing Post tips for the race; I was hoping he would, at least, get a mention. Instead, that wonderful, knowledgeable and intelligent judge, Richard Forristal (Irish editor) tipped Bay of Freedom saying, among other things:
'Peter Fahey has enjoyed another excellent year, and he has a chance of ending it on a real high with Bay Of Freedom in the prestigious handicap……this eight-year-old ran a blinder when making his handicap debut over fences in the Kerry National………Today, he gets in off a fair racing weight of 10st 12lb. If he makes the sort of progress expected, he is too big to ignore at odds of 25-1.'
I am now following him on Twitter and look forward to similar insight as we approach Cheltenham
There is some 25/1 left but he is 20/1 in most places and that may change again in the morning.
The other bits of good news are that Kevin rode a nice winner at Limerick today to give his confidence a boost and Peter is well on his way from optimism to pessimism; a sure sign that he is excited!
So what do I think?
The ground is not as soft as might have been expected ; the chase course seems yielding (but no worse) based on times today and with a dry forecast and a fresh breeze, it should ride a shade quicker tomorrow. We know he acts on heavy ground but he put a really quick time when winning his Listed chase easily at Wexford on good ground. I would also argue that 9th in a very strong Cheltenham Bumper on good ground showed he’s not exactly slow. I do think he may be a little one paced but also that he has a high cruising speed and what is probably more important to him is that they go a good gallop; with 28 runners tomorrow that will not be an issue.
The horse is really well and we just need to stay out of trouble, settle into a good rhythm, not get too far back and take it from there..
At the risk of being shown to be a clown (again) I do not fancy the two favourites at the current prices; Squouateur and Polidam. I think they both may need softer ground and, in the case of the former, he is not guaranteed to be better over three miles. Polidam could be anything but, at the prices, I would be looking elsewhere if I was going to have a bet
With 28 runners a combination exacta seems the way to go so, in addition to Bay of Freedom, these are the ones I would put into the exacta:
Oscar Knight – finished a close 3rd in this race last year despite being badly hampered. Only 6 pounds higher and will be suited by the ground and course
Out Sam - was favourite for the Ultima at Cheltenham 21 months ago off a 6lbs lower mark. He seemed to fall out of love with the game in his most recent runs but, if he has been transformed by Gordon Elliott, he could run well on his first run for his new trainer.
Pleasant Company – likely to be aimed for the Grand National he looks reasonably handicapped, runs well fresh and will appreciate the ground. 20/1 looks a very generous price.
Phil’s Magic – has always struck me as a horse capable of winning a competitive race. It will hopefully not be tomorrow but he is interesting.
Anibale Fly – he was the first one I was scared of when the entries came out. The ground may not be as soft as ideal but he has a bit of class and could run well.
I am remarkably sanguine (the fact that I can come up with a word like that is proof enough) and, after a few pints before the race, my relaxation levels will be through the roof. When you look at the other horses and how many horses their respective owners own, it is remarkable that we are here at all and Kim and I are determined to enjoy it.
See you in the bar (whatever happens)!