LAST SATURDAY, the day I had been planning for months finally arrived.
I have found organising the point to point this year a serious drain on my limited time, but thankfully the day went smoothly enough and was a success. The only dampener was the weather. It poured with rain unforgivingly, by the last race the thousands watching had dwindled to a soggy few.
Fortunately racing was competitive with more runners than we have attracted in years and it was great to see trainers from other counties had brought runners for the Ladies feature race, won by One Capricorn for owner John Nellis. It was a relief to get the day over.
Back at home we started the new jump season campaign at Sedgefield on Tuesday with my three favourite boys - Jesus (Cara Court) Sherbet (Houndscourt) and Herbie (Urban Gale). It never fails to surprise me how similar these horses are to people. Jesus is an arrogant Lothario who grows bored quickly. We have spent two years, 35 races and 25 visits to the winner’s enclosure conning him into thinking life is just a game.
Last winter I had implemented changes to Jesus’s work routine which involved hunting, attending the odd show and competing in the hunt charity race at Skipton on Saturday before he headed to Sedgefield on Tuesday. The plan worked and he ran with renewed vigour finishing second in the marathon three-and-a-half mile race under jockey John Dawson.
John is getting married in a few weeks to Alice Petch, the leading novice lady jockey in Yorkshire. Looks can be deceiving and this humble sweet natured attractive farmer’s daughter is also a champion sheep shearer. The Dawsons and their flock of 1,500 sheep can’t wait for her to join the family. A bitter taste was left when stewards handed John an early wedding gift of a seven-day ban for using his whip more than eight times aboard Jesus. The final two fences had been removed making the run in five furlongs long and far too distracting for our idle fellow who needed every bit of encouragement John could muster.
In the next race Sherbet was running. Three days earlier over a whisky after Skipton races I had sold a share in him to Jack Berry, the Injured Jockeys vice president, for whom we had been fundraising. It was a great stroke of fortune, Jack and his wife Jo are tremendous fun. All I needed now was a decent result for my new shareholders.
The jockeys arrived in the paddock for riding instructions before mounting, but Dougie wasn’t with them. A call was put out for him. When the runners cantered to the post Sherbet was still getting led round the paddock. I ran to the weighing room, he wasn’t in the changing rooms and none of the lads had seen him. As runners circled at the start I frantically knocked on the Steward Room door in a panic.
Slowly it opened to reveal serious looking suited gents facing a seated Dougie. “He is supposed to be riding my horse in this race,” I exclaimed when no-one looked up to register my presence. “Oh, is he?” came the surprised reply. “Well they won’t go to the start until he’s come out,” answered another suit.
“They’re already waiting at the start for us,” I said and stalked off. Dougie was released and when Sherbet finally got to the start the race was already late getting started. If the situation was reversed there would have been a hefty fine winging my way.
But all that was forgotten when Sherbet won his race. His third win from four starts at Sedgefield. The syndicate has been spoilt with such a superstar. My new owners were elated. It’s a cracking start to the season.