So, with 35mm of rain landing on Ascot racecourse in the last 24 hours it looks as though a horse bred in Monifieth outside Dundee is going to start at single figure odds for one of the great flat races of the season, the £1m plus King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, taking on the mighty and unbeaten Derby winner Golden Horn among others – what a story, the stuff that dreams are made of and whilst I am a huge fan of Golden Horn my heart will be willing on Clever Cookie. He will pick up £130k even if he comes third, not bad for a horse that started out in Musselburgh bumpers and hurdles before finding his true metier and tremendous to be competing in a world where even Mr Oppenheimer of the De Beers diamond family is regarded as a relative pauper.
It isn’t only him of course that has to compete against the inexhaustible cash of the Sheikhs. In scanning the Perth entries I find myself giving a weary sigh when I see that my 70 rated filly off the flat has to take on a John Ferguson horse that was rated 109 in that sphere. A 70 rated flat horse ought to have a little chance in a novice hurdle but not these days; many of you will be surprised that John Ferguson is currently the leading National Hunt trainer, he is Sheikh Mohammed’s long standing bloodstock advisor and the vast majority of the horses he trains are apparently leased to him by his boss. I don’t know John Ferguson but by all accounts he is a thoroughly decent man and I certainly don’t wish him any ill but perhaps it is time he and his Sheikh had a little think about the implications of what they are doing.
Even the deepest pocketed Rich Ricci style National Hunt owners would struggle to buy these horses if they came up at public auction; they would be bought to race where they should be racing – for big money at the international carnivals on the flat and for that job they would be worth a huge amount – I speculate but perhaps £250-750k. Instead they are tipping up to win novice hurdles at places like Perth, Hexham and Cartmel, heavily odds on they are reducing the appeal of this racing and no doubt impacting financially by reducing the betting turnover. Why you may ask? It’s hard to work out the Sheikh’s motive, my guess is that he wants to find decent second careers for these horses without them turning up to compete against his own horses in Dubai, he also probably wouldn’t want to see them improve for another trainer as once again his Godolphin training operation appears to be struggling to produce the stars at the top level. Whatever, I’m not sure it is good for jump racing and if the Sheikh actually wanted to do something for our code other than win all these little races he would be better received if he spread his horses around a few trainers rather than continue spoiling the fun with this rather opaque arrangement.
Anyway, true to form it has now rained every day in July so far, no haylage made yet, luckily we have a decent overhang of excellent stuff from last year but I’ve certainly stopped selling it now in case the rain never stops; there is meant to be a high moving in later next week but that seems to have been the situation for a while. Thoroughly enjoying getting going with all the horses, I think we are due to ride 29 on Monday and a hint of excitement provided by some entries at Perth. Two lovely moments when out with the horses this morning – the veteran & retired Paddy Premium (whose current role is nanny to the filly above) storming up the side of the gallop as the Perth runners had their final bit of work and a large flock of curlews out on the flat ground – haven’t seen one of those for a while….