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July 2023 Blog

July has been a quiet month. There’s not been too much racing, but the lorries have driven north to Perth, Market Rasen and Cartmel for a handful of runners, as well as staying more local.

The biggest excitement was the horses started coming in. They all begin their fitness regime up on the round gallop, trotting around in the sandy kickback. It’s tedious work but builds up the horses’ muscles as their workload is gradually increased.

By the end of May, ‘pointers had been purchased through the sales and three returned here, whilst others went straight to their owners’ or pre-trainer’s. About fifteen stores, meaning unbroken youngsters, were bought from Goffs in Doncaster, Goffs Arkle Sale in County Kildare and the Tattersalls Derby Sale in Newmarket. The stores went off to different yards to be broken in, before returning and having a break out at grass.

Each of these newbies portray our excitement and hope for the season ahead, that they might be the next high-class horse or the next Cheltenham winner, and their new owners have great fun in naming them too. At the moment, though, they all start off in the same way: in the helter-skelter of the round gallop, some spooky and jumpy, whereas others, mainly the fattest ones, are lazy.

The Royal-est of Meetings

I've enjoyed watching lots of Flat racing on the TV. The big meetings seem so much more glamorous than the National Hunt equivalent, although the gap is closing with Aintree and Cheltenham holding Ladies' Days. The weather is warmer in the summer so there's no woolen coats, less layers and colours seem more iridescent.

Photo Credit: Edward Whitaker

Royal Ascot proved to be top viewing. Sometimes it felt as if I was there, not in my own sitting room. Sunshine, top hats and tails, colourful fashion, elaborate hats, the white horses and shiny carriages and the daily who's who of the procession. The owners supplemented the pageantry: a first Royal Ascot winner for the King, Coolmore winners, a first Royal Ascot for Jim and Fitri Hay who are owners at Jackdaws Castle was fantastic to watch, as was seeing the green and gold stripes of JP McManus, more frequently associated with jumping, win the final race. The trainers added their dimension, ranging from the O'Brien Dynasty oozing sheer class to champion of the all-weather Mick Appleby sending out his first victor there. The jockeys rose to each battle: Frankie Dettori’s farewell winners, Hollie Doyle and Hayley Turner, Cotswold lad Tom Marquand and the ice cool, tungsten-tough Ryan Moore.

All of this mixed in with the flutter of bunting, flap of union jacks, fizzy atmosphere, pop of champagne corks like a delicious cocktail. It made me wish to go one day in the future: in towering heels (actually, that’s a lie – I can’t walk in stilettoes) and an outfit like none other, topped with a hat or fascinator like any posh wedding guest. I got plenty of ideas and liked the wide, decorated headbands best of all, opulent with gems, a spray of feathers or zesty flowers.

Flat Vs Jumps

National Stable Staff Week passed by without a blink of recognition but through no one's fault. It’s a great initiative but held at the wrong time of year. Jump yards are always quiet in June and most staff are on holidays. The week is geared towards the Flat, with many more Flat meetings held compared to the handful of National Hunt ones held in the same week. After the first COVID lockdown, National Stable Staff Week was delayed until the October, when the codes over lapped and evenings were still light enough for barbecues. But, it returned to June and it’s a bit futile for our yard.

However…the whispered rumours of a yard party were all confirmed when the invites went out. Jackdaws Castle will be hosting a post-season, pre-season and summer party all rolled into one at the beginning of August.

One Winner

Our only winner was on the 6th of July when Zabeel Champion (Zabbie) won up at Perth, led up by Alex Pawlowska. A long journey but made to feel shorter with a winner on board on the way home.

Photo Credit: Niel Duggan

Rest in Peace Babysitter

Where there’s racehorses, there’s always ex-racehorses. I was sad to hear about the passing of one called Babysitter. He won two ‘points for Fergal O'Brien before he trained under Rules, a hurdle at Wetherby for Nigel Twiston-Davies and a chase at Market Rasen for Jonjo O’Neill, and spent eleven blissful years in retirement with Jemima ‘Jimbob’ Clarkson. In fact, Jimbob looked after ‘Baby’ during his time ‘pointing and followed him down the road (literally) to Twiston-Davies’ to look after him there as well. She kept in touch with his owners so was able to take him on in retirement in 2012. Throughout their sixteen years together, they swapped the gallops for the dressage arena and bridleways, competing, happy hacking and doing fun rides. Baby was a cheeky, chubby bright bay with a handsome head and the shiniest of coats; he was always a Playboy in the field, loving to roll and stir up the herd.

Jimbob’s and Baby’s story portrays how much racehorses mean to grooms – that, when given the opportunity, we take on the favourites we used to look after throughout training. Baby lived until he was twenty and couldn't have had a better retirement than with Jimbob, husband Gordy and their twins Charlie and Phoebe.

The end of the month was a washout with more rainy and cloudy days than sunny ones. We were pulling on our raincoats a lot more than we should have been in July but it reminded us that the winter jump season will be here in a jiffy.

A break in the rain

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