Ashforth's Angles: students and slow horses not dissimilar


Some horses take time to reach their peak

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

 By David Ashforth 5:50PM 15 AUG 2016 

WHAT on earth have they been doing all this time? It’s over three years since Electrify, Flower Of Love and Trishuli Rock were born, with the idea that they’d soon be running around in circles fast enough to reach the winning post first.

Now, at long last, they’re about to make their racecourse debuts, in a maiden fillies’ race at Kempton (2.45).

What is supposed to happen is that a bloodstock agent tells a client that he’s found a lovely foal/yearling which it would be a crime for his client not to buy and it’s jolly wise and clever of his client to have bought it. He then submits his invoice and repeats the process.

The proud owner pays for the horse to have a personal trainer and, rather like a student loan, when the horse has learnt enough to be able to go out to work it repays the loan by providing entertainment, winning prize money and, ideally, qualifying for stud duties. It can take an awfully long time and, like student loans, racehorse loans are often not repaid; well, hardly ever.

As autumn looms, a stream of unraced three-year-olds gingerly leave home for a day trip to Wolverhampton (see Gamrah in the 8.00) or Tipperary (ditto Orinoco River and Persian Red in the 5.20) or Kempton (see above).

Have they been backward and needed time to mature, been afflicted with what professionals call “niggles,” gone missing, or suffered from bone idleness and an inability to run up the gallops faster than their trainer? Are they now appearing because they are ready to rumble or because they feel guilty at having eaten morning and evening for three years without paying for as much as a bowl of oats? Or is everyone agreed that it’s about time the horse at least put in an appearance, ready or not? Otherwise what’s the point of having given it a name, even a silly one?

The post-mortem

When the 2.45 at Kempton is over there will be what is known as a post-mortem. Horseracing is unique in holding post-mortems while the subject is still alive, although its career may have expired.

Expressions such as “she was very green”, “she will come on a lot for that”, “she’ll be a lot better when she learns to settle”, “the draw didn’t help”, “she needs further”, “I think we’ll drop her in trip”, “I’m inclined to try her in blinkers/a visor/cheekpieces/ a tongue tie/an electric shock strap next time”, “she’ll make a better four-year-old”, “she looks like a jumper to me”, and “I thought that might happen when Libra was in the descendant” are commonplace.

On the other hand, expressions such as “the trouble is she can’t run fast enough,” or “I told you to sell her” are rarely heard and regarded as unseemly and liable to offend both the owner and trainer. The horse doesn’t really care one way or another but wishes they’d stop chattering and take her home for dinner.

Let’s hope they all run well.

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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