Bay of Freedom runs in the Kerry National tomorrow. There, that was matter of fact wasn’t it? But it will, in fact, be a somewhat mystical experience based on feng shui and the number 13.
A few weeks ago, my enlightened trainer and his equally open-minded wife decided that it would do no harm to bring a feng shui expert into the yard in order to identify that elusive Chi spirit. There is some basis for this: even the esteemed Independent newspaper carried an article which, among other things, stated: "Feng shui "experts" claim that racehorses, because they are highly strung and sensitive, will benefit hugely from the supposed subtle changes to the energy around them."
Most of the comments from Peter and Ber's expert were fairly bland but in the case of one particular stall they were absolutely adamant: that stall had two streams meeting underneath and no horse should be allowed anywhere near to that stall before running in a race. It was stall Five; and guess which stall Bay of Freedom has used historically? The good news is that Bay has been in a field since the spring so wasn’t even using the stall but, never one to take chances, Peter has now moved him into Stall 13 as he completed his preparations for the Kerry National. Not only does stall 13 face the right direction but it is also the Fahey’s lucky number and it is fair to say the coincidences just keep on coming:
He is in Stall 13
Tomorrow is September 13th
He is carrying 9.13
Kevin Sexton (Jockey) looks like he is 13
And this blog will have exactly 1013 words
Ok, the last one is a bit contrived but you get my point. Now let’s talk about some less relevant information pertaining to tomorrow’s race:
Firstly, Bay of Freedom has never looked better. Not only is he in great condition and his coat is looking wonderful but there is an alertness about him that is noticeably different. Kim and I could not get over how well he looked and we couldn’t stop talking about it on the four hour journey to Killarney (we are staying in the same hotel as last year when he won; you can almost feel the positive energy emanating from our East facing room). Anyone lucky enough (or stupid enough) to brave the elements and go to the paddock tomorrow will be forced to agree – best he’s ever looked.
So that’s exciting and so is the fact that the cherubic Kevin Sexton will be riding. If Coneygree had run and we had still managed to get into the race then he would have been carrying 9.7 (133 pounds). That would have been a problem for the, until recently, rotund Mr. Sexton who had been weighing in at a middleweight 154 pounds in July when he had his first ride back. He is now down to a light welterweight of 139 pounds. Well that’s what he says and, given that’s tomorrow's weight, he had better be right. Otherwise, he will definitely be down to that weight when I have finished knocking his head off his shoulders!
I am joking, of course. Kevin looks very fit (per Peter) and schooled the horse this morning. He jumped six fences and was great. The ground and distance shouldn’t be a problem , he likes the course and he is certainly one of the horses in the race who can win if they show their best form. The problem with Bay of Freedom is that you are never quite sure what you are going to get in the race. That being said, he looks so well that we really are going to be scratching our heads if he runs a lifeless race this time.
It’s a strong race of course and there are four or five frontrunners who will ensure a strong gallop. In ground this heavy you don’t want to get too detached but if we can get into a rhythm behind the leaders, bide our time and then look to lead at the second last we should be all set. It’s so easy, isn’t it?
It’s going to be a real slog and you need a horse who goes on heavy ground (preferably Listowel heavy ground which can be a law unto itself) and who stays three miles. There are several horses in the race who should be ok on the ground but have not shown their best form over three miles; there are others who need three miles but have shown their best form on much better ground. If I had to choose four horses to be scared of(as opposed to the 17 I should be scared of) then these are the four:
Arbre De Vie
The first two are strongly supported in the betting and rightly so. They should stay the three miles on this ground (and I emphasize should because that is still to be proven) but they have a touch of class about them and strong form. They also have their share of weight to carry.
Viva Steve has come over from the UK and has a tremendous record when fresh (ie hasn’t run for a while). The distance should be fine but the ground is unlike anything he has experienced so time will tell if he acts on the ground.
Lord Scoundrel is top weight and the longest priced (28/1) but he was going well when falling two out in this race last year on similar (but not as heavy) going. His weight and handicap mark is very similar this year and I fully expect him to outrun his odds
Peter and Ber are being chauffeur driven to Listowel in the luxury of their horsebox. This can only mean one thing: they will be drinking! I was going to drive from Killarney but given we will either want to celebrate or drown our sorrows (never mind the medicinal calming drinks before the race) we have taken the prudent ,yet financially punitive, decision to get a car service and relax there and back. Actually, this cost is covered by moving into a cheaper hotel nearer to the airport on Friday night and by returning the car a day earlier. (It’s crazy how I have to rationalize all of this – I must learn to relax).
We are also debuting the official Bay of Freedom pocket book (sorry for these Americanisms). This is shown above and is the perfect color (there we go again) match with our racing colors. Ber was convinced this was custom-made (now, that would be a waste of money) but we actually found it at the Karen Millen Outlet.
I genuinely can't wait for tomorrow. We're going to have a great day whatever happens and can only dream of just how amazing it all could be. Wish us luck!
Now...I just need to figure where to stand at the course and which direction to face......