5 Results Found For: May 2024

18th May 2024

Following my Bletherings of 3rd May I saw a number of posts on social media from the Sun racing team in which they claimed that their coverage of racing was as extensive as ever. They then sent me a copy of their 16-page 2,000 Guineas Special. I don’t actually know what the Sun racing coverage looked like on Guineas day 30 years ago but I doubt if there was any more than this. I was impressed. I hope they keep it up.


17th May 2024

Second sucks! The horses are running well but keep hitting the post. A treble of seconds at Hamilton tonight.

We have had very few horses working on the grass this year as it has been so wet but Charlie bit the bullet this morning and had quite a few galloping, or cantering upsides, on our ‘North’ gallop. It was great to watch them but, unfortunately, it is still soft. We have no watering system here so that ground is what nature has given us and, sadly, it is soft. It is, therefore, very hard to imagine that Thirsk, just 20 miles away, can need to water. I’ll go to Thirsk tomorrow, where we have one runner, and I’ll be very surprised if it is any firmer than Good-Soft (soft on the bends). We’ll see.

I went to Newmarket today and Stuart Williams had the result of the 1994 Dante Stakes, in which Mister Baileys finished third behind Erhaab, on his phone. He pointed out to me that the race was run on firm ground and he was wondering how many, if any, of yesterday’s line up would have stood their ground in the going was described as firm. It highlights the fact that much of the issue of clerks of courses overwatering tracks is a result of pressure from trainers.

It was interesting to look back at that result but it wasn’t the fast ground that caught my attention, it was the prize-money. The winner received £73,884. Thirty years on, the winner of yesterday’s race received £108,996. According to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, that should have been £150,132 if prize-money had just risen in line with inflation. We are constantly told that York has better prize-money than any course in the country and I would have liked to think that they would ensure that one of their flagship races, the Dante Stakes, would receive prize-money commensurate with its international reputation. Has British racing really declined so far? Is it any wonder that we have small fields?

14th May 2024 12.31am

It is just after midnight and I have just calved a cow for the first time in a very long time. Maybe 38 years or not far off it. At 10.15pm, Mikaelle, our right hand (and left hand, come to think of it) woman came to tell me that her ‘Moocall’ ( a device fitted to the cow’s tail which, hopefully, warns of imminent calving) had gone off and that one of our heifers was calving. She watched on CCTV for a while but, as the Moocall told her that their had been ‘activity’ for the last two hours, we thought we better go and have a look.

The cows live at Friar Ings Stud, seven miles from Middleham, and by the time we got there we could see one hoof protruding and not a lot happening. We moved the heifer into a calving pen and, to cut a long story short, delivered a live calf about an hour later. I used to do quite a bit of this for a short period of my life prior to becoming a trainer and there is no feeling of job satisfaction quite like it. I’ve always said, it’s better than a winner. It was the part of veterinary practice that I enjoyed most. I didn’t do many foalings but plenty calvings and lambings and tonight brought back some great memories. I still got a kick out of it.

The night calls were the best. Waking and getting out of bed could be tough and the drive to the farm was spent wondering how long a job it was going to be and if I’d be resorting to a caesarean, but when it was over, if all went well and there was a live cow and calf in the shed, sitting in the farmhouse drinking tea and eating cake, there is no feeling like it. It struck me tonight that many of the younger members of my profession, maybe the majority, obsessed as they are with the modern view of ‘work life balance’, will never have that pleasure. They are missing the best bit.

8th May 2024

It has started already. Despite an extraordinarily wet winter and spring, with numerous turf meeting abandoned and small fields due to soft ground, clerks of courses are ignoring BHA instructions and watering to aim for ground softer than the optimum agreed for flat racing. The clerk of the course at Chester, a notoriously soft track, is watering on ground currently described as good and has openly admitted to Charlie that he is not aiming for Good-Firm ground.

Yet again we see that we have a toothless administrator in the BHA and they allow racecourses carte blanche to do as they please. I have been complaining about this for decades, ever since the rules, which previously only permitted watering to grow grass and not to change the natural state of the going (and were enforced), were changed. I have often sympathised with clerks of the courses as they are, at times, driven by trainer preferences and this is, in turn, influenced by an illogical going scale where the optimum ground is described as ‘Good-Firm’ rather than ‘Good’. It is down to the BHA to change the scale to remove the anomaly of the optimum ground conditions being described as something other than good and make rules that they intend to enforce.


3rd May 2024

Tomorrow is 2000 Guineas day and Tuesday 30th April, just past, was the 30th anniversary of Mister Baileys wining the race. To mark the occasion Rosie Venner organised a lunch, hosted by Baileys Horse Feeds, at the restaurant 47 in Rayne near Petches Farm where Mister Baileys was raised and eventually saw out his days.

Deirdre and I attended and had a fantastic time with about 20 of the Venner and Knowles families (partners in Baileys Horse Feeds) and a few others who were with us on the day, including Ron and Norma Huggins whose Double Blue won the next race. Many wonderful stories of the time were told, Paul said a few words, in particular about those who were involved and are no longer with us, and I recited the poem written by my late sister Lyn and published in the Sporting Life on the Saturday after the race.

Mister Baileys! He did it! Isn’t he grand?

Truly he’s one of the best in the land.

Mark was delirious, quite ‘over the moon’.

Now we prepare for the big race in June.

Paul he was worse, nearly died of delight.

Bet you all wish you’d seen him that night.

They danced on the floors, they danced on the tables,

They danced with Gretas, with Anns and with Mabels!

They laughed and they drank and talked till quite late,

And all, they agreed, said the horse he was great.

But things settle down and it’s back to the grind,

There are races to win and entries to find.

So it’s up at first dawn and on with the fray,

Of mucking out horses and carting the hay.

So it’s back to the yard and things carry on,

But none of the glory will ever be gone.

The Venners brought along the trophy, a photo album from the day, and a scrap book of press cuttings from Mister Baileys’ career. That was a real eye opener. There was so much coverage. There were articles from all the daily papers, front pages and headlines from the Racing Post and Sporting Life, and features on the horse and our yard. It set me to thinking what the press coverage will be like after tomorrow’s race, regardless of who wins. Will the winner even make it to the front page of the Racing Post or will it be trumped by ‘adverts’ for the day’s big betting opportunities. Sadly, I fear that we will never again  see the level of press coverage that horseracing received 30 years ago.

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