The pressure is on...............

I really shouldn’t go to the yard. I have been conditioning myself to the fact that Bay of Freedom is going to have a recurrence of his ulcer issues and run no sort of race; this may still happen but not based on how he is looking. He genuinely looks in magnificent condition and his coat is absolutely glistening. His work has been excellent and his schooling has been back to his best; quick jumping and having a real ‘cut’ at his fences as opposed to the nervous, slow jumps he has put in on his last few rounds of jumping at the course.

Kim is over and this time we have two special guests; well..they invited themselves but it is special.Kim’s parents are on a whirlwind tour of Scotland and Ireland and have opted to miss a day of their tour to go to the races for the first time. The tour bus is parked in Galway tonight and while everyone else will be leaving their bags outside their rooms at 6am and jumping (maybe that’s not the right word) on the coach by 7am, Sharon and Tom will be enjoying a ‘lie in’. Actually, let me change that to ‘should be enjoying a lie-in’ as they are so paranoid about theor suitcases getting to Killarney (for their next stop) that they will also be leaving them outside for 6am and, presumably, looking through the glass in their room door to ensure that they get taken to the coach.

They think they are going to be picked up by a limousine in the morning and, in fairness, that was the plan. However, I baulked at the $400 price tag and decided to chauffeur them down to the course with Kim. They have no idea that Kerry National Limousines (the company I have told them is going to pick them up) is actually me and Kim (or that we have stretched to a Hyundai Tucson). This all means that we are now in Galway (different hotel) and are planning our ‘surprise’ for the morning; we will be having dinner with them tomorrow evening before they rejoin their tour companions; who will tell them all about the Cliffs of Moher. (They are big and the sea is wet) It will all make for a long day. Very sensibly, Bay of Freedom has opted for blinkers so as to avoid them in the parade ring but, absent a quality pair of ear plugs, there is no escape. Of course, as the ever gracious son-in-law, I will be listening intently to every word and play by play replay of the last 10 days in Scotland and Ireland on the way to Listowel. I will never be more pleased to arrive at the racecourse!

Joking aside, I am delighted that Tom and Sha are here and they will have a great day.

Back to the subject of blinkers: why have we chosen to do this? Well, first of all, there is no ‘we’. This is a Peter Fahey decision; one in which he puts his stellar reputation as a horseman on the line in order to make a pivotal decision. Two weeks ago, it worked the oracle for Peregrine Run and now it’s our turn. We have tried him in them at home and they made little difference; that’s a good thing! We are hoping they will sharpen him up in the race.

You will have noted that the regular jockey, Kevin Sexton, will not be riding him this time. Unfortunately, he is injured at the moment although, I am sure, he will be cheering Bay of Freedom home. We have chosen someone equally cherubic; Johnny Burke is going to ride and he is a very accomplished rider. He had a tough time of it a few years back after losing his retainer with Alan and Anne Potts; a combination of injuries and poor quality horses meant that his winners dried up for a while and it has only been the move to the UK and riding for Charlie Longsdon that has made all of the difference. He also threw in a bit of race commentary when he was injured (did pretty well actually) and I said to Peter we should ‘mic’ him up and he can, at least, let us know what is going on.

Talking of Peter, he had this to say about our chances when asked by the Racing Post

“There are no issues with the ground for Bay Of Freedom and we’re putting blinkers on him for the first time.

“He was third in the race last year and won his beginners’ chase in Listowel as well, so he loves it round there.

“His form can be a bit in and out, but we think we’ve got him right and I’d expect him to run a very good race.”

That was ok but I preferred David Jennings from the Racing Post who wrote this:

“Bay Of Freedom ought to relish the slog, having already won twice on heavy ground. Course form is crucial and Bay Of Freedom loves Listowel. Perhaps the most interesting thing of all is seeing Fahey calling for blinkers for the first time. He did something similar with Peregrine Run at Killarney last month and it worked wonders as he won a competitive handicap chase by five and a half lengths”

You will note that Peregrine Run is also declared for this race. However, unless it dries out markedly (unlikely) he may well not take his place.

My thoughts on the race are very simple: at his best Bay of Freedom could win this. On his most recent performances, however, he has absolutely no chance. We are hopeful that he will be as relaxed and happy as we can possibly make him and that the ulcers do not return but we really don’t know. We will probably know after half a mile so, if he is still in with a shot three out, then we can start getting excited.

For those of you looking to find reasons to back Bay of Freedom I offer the following:

1) He is top on Racing Post speed figures; closely followed by Oscar Knight with the two well clear of the rest, and

2) His form in September and October is significantly far in front of any other time of the year; with three wins and three thirds from his six runs. All of his highest rated runs over fences (per the Racing Post ratings) have been in September and October. An average of 136 as compared to averages of well under 80 (and that’s being generous) in other months.

Of the horse more likely to show their form, the ones I would regard as most likely winners are: Snow Falcon (touch of class), Bishop’s Road (been given a chance by the handicapper and ran well first time out last season), Vieux Morvan (will be suited by ground and distance and trainer is in good form) and Haymount (well weighted)

I will provide the post-mortem after the race. I just hope that Bay of Freedom enjoys himself and comes back safe and without any pain (or ulcers)