Bay of Freedom returns to the track at Tipperary on Sunday; he’s in the 3 mile hurdle at 2.35pm. He has had six months off since his disappointing last run at Naas in January so he’s all ready to go.
He’s spent most of the six months in a field with some of his equine friends and seems very relaxed and in good form. After Naas we initially thought he had a stress fracture of the pelvis but it turned out to be a bone bruise*; which means we have no idea what it was and when it happened. I am taking the view that it happened halfway around at Doncaster and that we can, therefore, ignore how he finished that race and that he barely turned up at Naas.
*A bone bruise is the racehorse equivalent of a virus in a human; in other words, it is what the vets diagnose when they have no clue as to what the problem as in “oh yes Peter, it’s a bone bruise, just give him a relaxed time and it should clear sometime soon. If it’s not better in three months please let me know” Exit Veterinary Surgeon with their fingers firmly crossed!
He came back into training in early June and his work really stepped up over the last few weeks; he goes well fresh so we have no real fears on that score. Actually, the major fitness concern we have is with his jockey, Kevin Sexton.
Kevin returned from his ban in May ready to make up for lost time. However, on his fifth ride, he fell and broke his hand, which meant he was in a caste until last week. He has been riding out this week but this will be his first race so he’d better be fit seeing as its three miles.
Peter says he will be fit enough and that’s as much as I am going to be able to find out. There’s no point in asking Kevin because he’s jockey; they are just crazy. He could be walking around with his arm in a sling, carrying his broken leg and holding his head under his other armpit and he would still insist that he could ride him (subject to being passed fit by the racecourse doctor, of course)
Of course, we didn’t have to choose Kevin on this occasion; well, we did, because Peter decided this was entirely my call and said he would be perfectly happy with whatever decision I came to…yeah sure!!. Anyway, I remember vividly telling Kevin that Bay was his ride once I learnt of his upcoming ban last October; that was the week before he won the Listed race at Wexford. I am a man of my word and, despite having a good excuse this time, still think it’s the right call to put him up. He’s won three time on the horse and his style definitely seems to suit Bay of Freedom.
So what of Sunday’s race? Does he have a chance? Well, if I’m being consistent I would have to say no; consistent, because I told Kim not to come as he wouldn’t have a chance over hurdles when he would be meeting horses on much worse terms than in a handicap. That was before the declarations. Now I’m torn between wanting him to win and hoping he loses so that I dare go home; I think we will go for the win and ask for forgiveness afterwards
I would be very surprised if he was able to win but, just to play along, this is how I would review the other six runners and their respective chances:
You always have to respect Willie Mullins horses in any race and this will, undoubtedly, be favorite. However, his form since coming over to Ireland, while good enough, is not too intimidating.... but that is not all; he has never run over further than two miles and this is a massive step in distance. Mullins has a pretty good record when doing this with his horses so it may not be an issue but it is certainly a possible chink in his armour.
This horse is much improved this year over hurdles but even after going up 30 pounds in the ratings, is still rated three pounds below Bay of Freedom and he has to concede four pounds to us. It is not at all clear why the early betting has him at 8/1 and Bay at 16/1. It may all be moot anyway because he is entered at Limerick tomorrow and it is unlikely he will turn out again on Sunday. He could be withdrawn tomorrow but then he wouldn’t be allowed to run on Sunday unless the ground was markedly different from when declared (and it won’t be)
This horse will be 2nd favorite but, like the favorite, has never run over further than two miles; in fact, after running in two miles bumpers (flat races) he was tried over one mile which suggests that, rather than going up in distance, he should be staying at two miles. His form is a little in and out and he is to be ridden by a conditional jockey who is able to claim seven pounds (thereby reducing the weight carried; a concession due to the inexperience of the jockey). The jockey may be entirely competent but will almost certainly not be over-confident having ridden only one winner in the last 18 months
Thanks for Tea
Not as good over hurdles as over fences (just like Bay of Freedom) We actually raced against her (she’s a mare) when we won at Wexford. Thanks for Tea was chasing us in second place when falling at the 2nd last fence but, almost certainly, would not have got close to beating us. On that day, we conceded seven pounds and on Sunday we are conceding ‘just’ three pounds. There probably won’t be much between us; certainly not enough to justify her 6/1 odds and our 16/1 price.
Little form and rated thirty plus pounds below Bay of Freedom.
Little form shown in just two hurdle races . Would need to improve considerably for the step up in distance.
That is the measured and fair assessment. A less politically correct view would go like this:
We have two dodgy stayers to beat, a horse who won’t turn up, another we have beaten and two more who wouldn’t win if they started now
….but who would say such things out loud?
The key to the race , for me, is the pace. We are pretty confident about the trip but you can’t say that about the two favorites. We typically don’t make the running but, on this occasion, we have to make sure it isn’t a really slow pace that doesn’t bring stamina into play. If it’s a true run race and the two favorites finish in front of us then “well done” but it would be frustrating if it developed into any sort of sprint after a slow gallop.
Realistically, I would be satisfied with a place (finish in first three) and then we can go back to focusing on steeplechases. The most important thing is that he enjoys himself, shows some sparkle and comes back safe and sound.
I will be over at the stables tomorrow morning and then walk the course early in Sunday (as part of my limited exercise plans) – I will post some updates after that