LIKE any aspiring racehorse trainer, Rebecca Menzies is more than prepared for long days – and long nights. This is not a vocation for the weak-willed or faint-hearted.
However, little could have prepared the 26-year-old, a protégé of former Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer Ferdy Murphy, for the sight that greeted her on Christmas Day, torrential rain flooding her stables in the foothills of the North Yorkshire Moors and washing away her gallops.
This was just the beginning of a frenetic and, at times, frightening 48 hours as Menzies and her stable staff battled the elements to ensure that their string of 20-plus horses did not come to any harm, a rescue operation made even more difficult by the telephones going down in an area bereft of mobile phone coverage.
Their efforts were rewarded when the tenacious Tomkevi won Haydock’s concluding fixed brush hurdle on Wednesday to provide Menzies with one of the most satisfying of her 21 winners to date.
Under a positive ride from her ‘right hand man’ Tony Kelly, this new acquisition – acquired in France by the aforementioned Murphy and his bloodstock agent son-in-law Guy Petit – just clung on, with rapidly diminishing reserves of energy, to deny the fast-finishing Hainan from the in-form Sue Smith yard.
Another five strides and the outcome would have been different.
“Wins like this, it definitely lifts the spirits,” Menzies told The Yorkshire Post in an exclusive interview.
“Compared to York, Tadcaster and the surrounding area, we’ve been incredibly lucky.
“For 24 hours from Christmas afternoon, we had water coming into five boxes and we were having to move horses and clean out all the bedding.
“On Boxing Day, and the next day, it was really dodgy. The fields just flooded. It felt like us against the world. We were all shovelling water.”
However, it was only when the rain relented, and the national media descended on Yorkshire, that Menzies saw the scale of the damage to the gallops she uses at her Brandsby stables owned by former Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer Peter Beaumont.
Up to eight inches of sand had been washed away from several sections of the all-weather gallop; a dispiriting blow to the trainer who now has to drive her horses to the yards of rival trainers, or the gallops in Malton, to prepare them for their races. It is time she can ill-afford to lose.
“We’re trying to get it sorted,” said Menzies. “If it had happened in the middle of summer, it wouldn’t have been a problem.
“Yet, until the ground dries out, we can’t assess the damage and get a digger in to put down some more sand. It was upsetting – it all happened so quickly – and then you put on the television, read the newspapers and realise that losing a few tonnes of sand is not a big deal.”
As such, Menzies hopes this formative experience will make her yard, and team, stronger as they prepare for the next phase of their career and look to acquire horses – Flat and National Hunt – which can compete at a higher level.
For the first time since taking out her licence on October 31, she has a clutch of Flat juveniles and young National Hunt horses with the potential to be worthy successors to those stalwarts that helped to establish the training operation.
And then there is Tomkevi who was winning for the first time in the UK since being purchased by Helmsley couple Robert and Joanna Oliver, plus Peter Howe.
Just five years old, Tomkevi is likely to have one more race before a long rest following an arduous campaign in France that saw the gelding compete with distinction at Auteuil, the top Paris racecourse.
“We’ll find a race at the end of January and then he will be having a long, long rest with his owners,” added Menzies.
“When he comes back, we will go handicap chasing.
“It will be nice to have one or two horses that can take us to the bigger meetings on the bigger days.”
Micky Hammond feels Tullamore Dew can put up a good show when he goes for the £100,000 32RedSport.com Veterans’ Handicap Chase Final at Sandown today.
Hammond’s stable star Just Cameron also makes his seasonal reappearance in the 32Red Casino Handicap Chase after his planned comeback in Wetherby’s Castleford Chase was sunk by the weather.
Both will be ridden by Sheffield-born Joe Colliver.
Bob Bishop, who owned top class steeplechaser Cue Card with his wife Jean, has died four days after his horse of a lifetime won a thrilling King George VI Chase at Kempton to add to stirring successes in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase and Haydock’s Betfair Chase. He was 83.