FIRST EVER TREBLE A CAUSE FOR DOUBLES ALL ROUND!
I never really did enjoy New Year’s Eve – for those of you in the horse racing industry I’m sure most of you will agree. I mean essentially we are tired for 12 months of the year so the prospect of a late night for the sake of it never appeals.
Therefore, waking up on New Year’s Day without a hangover or a lack of sleep meant it was just another Monday; an exciting Monday with three nice runners, but a Monday none the less.
Work list sorted with Graham, Oliver and Rupert and a chat through the morning’s plans and proceedings, I hopped in the car and headed to Heathrow. First point to make; New Year’s Day is a fantastic time to use the roads.
Having organised a new mortgage to pay for the parking for the day at Heathrow, I headed through security to catch the 10:40am to Edinburgh.
A trip to Pret A Manger brought the first piece of bad news of the day, no bacon and egg rolls, in fact not much of anything. Horrified at the prospect of no breakfast I wandered down to find a Fortnum & Mason serving breakfast. I haven’t got on the plane yet and it’s already been an expensive day!
An easy flight and taxi ride later I arrive at a blustery and dry (good news) Musselburgh. God knows why because it’s bloody miles away but I’ve always enjoyed Musselburgh, you arewell looked after by everyone there and, apart from a certain trainer who will remain nameless, you receive a pretty warm welcome.
Bill Farnsworth, who runs the place, does a terrific job and welcomed me in, I told him it was great to be back, but the last twice I was there I’d filled the runners-up spot, so this time I must do better.
BIG GEOFF A MERE RED WINE HANDICAPPER
I head to the owners and trainers to meet my parents and their great friends Jon and Debbie Gregory owners of Fidelio Vallis. Now if I was a betting man I’d have had a fairly strong wager on the fact they did not share my steady plans for New Year’s Eve and, as soon as I see them, my suspicion is very much confirmed. Debbie is wearing sunglasses inside (it’s Scotland in January) and talking very quietly, mum looks a little dusty and father once again blames Jon for making him drink too much red wine.
The problem is Jon buys very nice red wine and is a master at consuming it. In fairness to dad, despite a fairly hefty body of evidence and plenty of practice, he can’t keep up, but is relentless in his efforts to try. This Musselburgh lunch time is further evidence he is a hardy handicapper compared to Jon’s Grade 1 status.
Jon, who has some horses with Paul too, has been asked to go and represent one of their runners so I’m sat with mum having some lunch.
“Any New Year’s resolutions dear?” she asks.
“Train more winners mum and be less grumpy is the plan, the two sort of go hand in hand though.”
“Well, you’d be well advised to stick to the first one.”
VALLIS VICTORY JUSTIFIES CONFIDENCE
Thanks to my mid-morning flight, the clock quickly turns round to Fidelio Vallis’ race. Now,I’ve been trying to persuade myself to be brave enough this week to give Alice the right instructions.
Charlie, who rides Fidel has been basically screaming at me all week that I’ve never had him better or fitter, but we’ve got to use that. He stayed well round Ascot and this is easier.
“You’ll rarely get these instructions from me Alice, in fact you might never get them on any other horse, but I want you to just send him. I want you to send him out the start, lie up his neck at every jump, maybe give him a little breather round the all-weather bend, but after that just send him. Be as numb as you can because he won’t stop galloping.”
We tack him up, Alice comes out to the paddock explains to Jon in as many words what’s she’s going to do and, cool as a breeze, heads out. I can see from the way Fidel goes to post he’s on it, head in the air, tanking and not wanting to pull up. We’ve got him right.
I just hope the ground is not too dead but from early on you can see Fidel is in the same mindset as Al. He’s going on long strides with a smile on his face and halfway down the back second time, that bit of class he has is really starting to put the squeeze on.
Alice and Fidel turned in and blaze up the straight, me cheering him on with Jon, Debbie and my parents going wild. He was not for catching and met all four of the last jumps on forward going long strides. He’s not over big but he is a very genuine horse and happily gave Alice everything when she wanted it.
Jon was kind enough to buy me Fidelio Vallis because we wanted flagship chaser for the yard to start off and getting a nice win like that and a decent prize was magic.
Jon and Debbie have been huge supporters of mine, not just in buying horses but being involved and helping me so to have a nice winner for them really did mean the world. The fact that it was with such a lovely natured horse was all the better.
VIC BRILLIANT ON BILL
We’ve two runners to go and I’m absolutely thrilled. That’s six winners since Christmas Day, the horses are flying and two decent chances to come.
Bolsover Bill is next at Exeter, he starts racing about 10 mins before Republican back up in Scotland. In the paddock at Musselburgh, I’m watching Exeter on the phone. You don’t give Paul instructions, he’s far too good for that type of carry on. He’s as fit as possible Paul, ready to go. Go do what you do as I leg him up – “Yeah” he knows already.
As I leg Paul up, Bolsover Bill is jumping the last down the back straight at Exeter and, like all great technology, the Iphone chose to freeze.
After trying to make it work with Amy and Sophie, my two members of the team in Scotland,we quickly dial William Hill Radio and, by the time we’ve got through all the options at the start of the call, the first bit of commentary I hear is “and Bolsover Bill and Vic Malzard hold on”.
Yes Vic, I didn’t see the last bit so I’m going to assume you gave him a peach. Having watched it back I can confirm she did. Brave and aggressive just like we discussed.
I do a small and understated jig on the spot, punch the air a couple of times and trot happily to the grandstand.
The thing is once you’ve had two winners on the day you all of a sudden think well Republican can’t possibly win. Days like that don’t happen, it just can’t. You can’t have three winners in a day.
“Well you’ve been telling us this was going to win for ages” dad reminds me. He’s right, I have, so I settle down to watch Paul and Republican try to complete the last piece of the puzzle.
In truth it was all pretty stress free. He travelled round just in the pocket behind the leaders, idled a bit late on, but was always holding Call Me Harry; imagine if he’d bloody beaten me.
Three, three winners in a day. Well, I’m beside myself now. I genuinely cannot believe this has happened. My phone is going mad as I bound back to the winners’ enclosure with mum and dad to greet Republican and an ever calm Paul O’Brien.
“Yeah, that was fairly straight forward Harry, good day.”
Good day is right Paul, as good a day as I could imagine. I am just over a year into this training adventure of mine and whilst I know things are going alright this feels like a day that I can really cherish. Three winners, three different jockeys, everyone in the yard involved, topped off with all of my horses supporting my brand-new sponsor OLBG.
What a day for a partnership to start.
I’m very kindly taken back to the airport by the clerk of the scales Fraser but in truth I could have floated back there. I’m just so bloody happy. Eight winners since Boxing Day is a memorable week or so and for once I’m really letting myself enjoy it.
If you are competitive in this game, which you really have to be, then you only ever feel as good as your last result. It’s a funny thing because on Saturday evening I went home after being lucky enough to have a double – which included my first Listed winner in the shape of Queens Gamble – feeling deflated because I finished third with my last two runners.
Now I am aware I sound a right spoilt brat saying that but it’s the truth and I’m certain most trainers would be the same. We want to win, it’s really as simple as that. I’m so desperate to win at times it makes me a bit mad as my team often remind me.
“I WANTED TO KNOCK YOU OUT”
“Fuc*#ing hell Harry, you didn’t have a winner for two weeks the other day and I wanted to knock you out” one of my great friends Joe reminded me on Tuesday morning.
Whilst I try very very hard not to be grumpy I do put myself under a lot of pressure because I know how lucky I am to be in the position I’m in and I want to make that count.
With this being my first full season training, Graham and I always said that January was going to be a month we’d be very quiet, we’d let the horses freshen up, get them all right and try to kick on and have a really good spring.
I am constantly setting myself goals and making plans for my horses and the last couple of days whilst they have walked and trotted the lanes of Ownham has given me a good bit of time to reset a few. Lower my sights with some and dare to dream with others.
If you’d call this a half term report then I’d say we are just under par, I think. I don’t like getting ahead of myself and I am so focussed on what is to come for the rest of this season that there is not much time to look back.
At this stage in my career everything still feels new, I’m still massively excited by having runners competing and I still get crippled by nerves before my horses run. Everytime, I have a runner I wish I didn’t have those nerves, but they are a constant reminder of how much it matters to me and how badly I want to keep progressing. You have to keep moving forward.
The yard, as you can imagine at the moment, is buzzing, my team are in good form and on the whole they seem to be a very happy group of people doing an extremely good job with their horses.
I know that if I am patient with my horses through January then I can and should have a really good spring. I’ve got some lovely horses to run and some really exciting targets ahead. Every day I tell myself that I must keep getting better, learning more and trying to train my horses to a higher standard.
I’m hugely fortunate to have the team around me I have. Graham and Rupert taking take of the horses with their team, Oliver keeping me level and Amy running the business. The people that you have around you are everything and right now on that front, I’m doing well.
The horses will be back into their routines towards the back end of next week and I can’t wait for that. A day or two of reflecting is enough for me and whilst I don’t find myself blogging very regularly anymore I have enjoyed telling you all about this last week or so, mainly because I haven’t stopped talking about it myself.
I hope that you all had a good Christmas period and a happy New Year.
Look forward to hopefully seeing some of you on a racecourse soon.