One Of The Great Touches

December 13th, 2015 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

It was around 4.30 this morning that I submitted the text for my Winter Bulletin Book for layout in time to be with the printer on Monday. The book will then be back in our office ready for despatch to clients on Thursday.

This is logistically quite a challenging operation – especially at this time of year. I was having to rewrite sections into the early hours to accommodate late news and take into account the racing action on Friday and Saturday, while at the other end of the process we have to hope Royal Mail deliver the books on time.

Anyway it’s all done now and I look forward to seeing how my designer manages to squeeze 37,000 words into our maximum 80 pages. I imagine the font may be on the small size.

There is much to talk about from the last few days but the thing that most intrigued me was the gamble – allegedly a double – on two horses trained by Charles Byrnes at Tramore on Saturday.

The first thing to say is that the meeting was by no means certain to survive the weather. In fact the last two races were abandoned after the second leg had gone in, so one wonders where the horses would have run had the meeting been lost.

Secondly, it was not as if the two horses were running off favourable marks in handicaps. The first was in a maiden hurdle and the second in a beginners chase. Now they may not have been very good races, but Rosie Alice had run twice since 1 November and been beaten about 16 lengths and on his latest run by just over 63 lengths, while Cyprian Prince had run eight times under rules, all over hurdles and beaten almost 40 lengths when last seen on 1 November having finished tailed off on his final outing last season in March. He had won a point-to-point in his younger days.

I am not sure what odds were available for the horses beforehand – they were priced respectively at 16/1 and 8/1 in the Racing Post – but the each won effortlessly at 0/30 and 11/8. The improvement they showed since their last runs was quite extraordinary – in the literal sense of that word – even though their races on Saturday were of poor quality and at a low-grade venue.

The trainer conceded afterwards that a wager had been landed, adding that it was very hard these days to get significant money on. Whatever the case this was a remarkable touch the like of which I have not seen for a very long time, if ever. It was not so much the profile of the horses, but the type of races they won and the ease with which they did so.

I know that some people struggle during the winter months – and you will be more than aware of what we’ve been going through here in the Lakes – but it is about now, and during the first few weeks of the New Year, that low-grade horses are lined up, especially at the all-weather meetings.

I have no doubt that, even as I write, races are being plotted for floodlit meetings up and down the country. We must not forget that it was almost a year ago that I saw a horse win a maiden at Wolverhampton on a quiet Saturday evening over Christmas. I remember someone telling me beforehand that this could be just about the best prospect in John Gosden’s yard – and his name was Jack Hobbs. I don’t suggest that was a touch, but it just goes to show that you have to keep your eyes open at all times – even on a damp dreary day at Tramore.

Bye for now