Like Tears In the Rain …

December 7th, 2018 | Marten's Perspective

There have been many special moments in my life.

I have been very lucky, first to have been part of them and second, perhaps more importantly, to have been receptive to them. I am sure there have been people around me at the time who didn’t see, hear or experience the same as me.

Racing moves people in different ways. One of the blessings of social media technology is that it makes everything accessible, and I know from Twitter that there are many trainers, jockeys and stable staff who share their ups and downs with their followers.

What most impresses me is how, in the most limited of space, the affection and love they have for their horses comes through. Notably at times of loss or hurt. Some trainers are very good at passing on updated reports on their injured horses to their followers.

This is so far distant from the attitude trainers and staff had to racing fans many years ago. One now well-established trainer told me about 30 years ago to treat members of my racing club like mushrooms – “feed ‘em s … and keep them in the dark.” I can still hear him saying it as the members arrived to see their horse.

Nobody can get it right all the time, but I have a few guiding principles that steer me through difficult times and one of them is to always communicate. It doesn’t matter whether it is good news or bad, but in the context of racing the owners must be the first to know.

Recently we had bad news about our club horse Court Dreaming.

A call from my trainer at 2.30 in the afternoon was always going to be ominous, especially on a day when he was not racing. Having risen at around 5.00am that is when they take a nap before evening stables, and it was apparent from the tone of his voice that something was wrong.

To get to the point Court Dreaming had colic and was already on his way to Liverpool University Equine Hospital when the trainer rang.

Within a minute of taking the call Rebecca stopped everything to send an update giving the news – albeit limited, because we knew very little at the time – to our members. They were updated on a regular basis thereafter, thankfully with increasingly optimistic reports as the horse’s condition improved.

Through life I have found one learns more from adversity than triumph, and the experience encouraged me to acquire as much knowledge as I could about colic and the ways of dealing with it. Years ago that would have required a visit to the library or a chat with a vet. Now it is just the click of a keypad away.

So, thanks to technology, we were able to inform our 100 members of the situation within minutes of it happening. Also during the course of his recovery we were all able to learn about the treatment of colic and the aftercare.

Just a few days earlier Court Dreaming had won a competitive race at Kelso. It was a special moment, especially seeing my assistant Jodie – who had played such an important role in buying him – leading him back to the winner’s enclosure.

The point is that special moments do not always come gilt-edged. Kelso was special, but so was Liverpool.

Racing opens up a whole gamut of emotions. It was wisely once said that it is the ‘great leveller’ … there is hardly a day when someone doesn’t experience the highs and lows within a short space of time. A horse falling, or worse, and then a winner.

I have said before and will maintain until the day I die that I’ve never been sure if racing has driven me mad or kept me sane.

The conundrum and puzzle of trying to make your living by getting it right, all the time, through the medium of flesh and blood is a nonsense, but then I consider myself fortunate to have something in my life that stretches me intellectually and, at times, emotionally.

It’s easy to become cynical when things go wrong. I know of people … jockeys, especially … who refuse to be part of social media any more due to the abuse to which they are subjected.

The game can drive you mad. Perhaps it did to me once.

But I have had days when there has been no racing in my life. I have experimented recently, pretending to be retired, putting a silly hat on and flopping around the garden with a pair of secateurs. It can be enchanting but the hunger for a 0-50 low-grade handicap on the all-weather or a tricky maiden full of dark horses starts to gnaw away at me and, well you know the rest.

When I am writing my books, and on song, I am in a special place. It’s another special moment. Unfortunately they don’t come around that often. It helps if I’ve seen twinkly lights through cottage windows while walking down cobbled streets in my town on the way to the Ring O’ Bells. I write best in winter.

So, racing can give you anything to match the stormiest of relationships. If you want. You can become a pundit, wrapped up in stats and boring facts, or you can allow it to take you to places, albeit sometimes fleetingly.

The sight of a grey galloping towards the last through the low-lying mist. The round of applause from the crowd, who having waited patiently long after the race is done, cheer as a prostrate horse rises to its feet. The reverential silence that is respected at the track when one of our family has died.

Racing opens the doors of perception and can take you to places the world has never seen. Like the end of Bladerunner …

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain … ”

Just sit back and see where this game takes you. You could be in for a few surprises along the way.

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