Saturday, June 26, 2010

Little Boys!, or a Day to Remember

25 June 2010. A landmark in my ‘career’ in the world of harness racing.
Yes, I’ve been distracted by restaurants and trips and parties and people these last few weeks, and the blog has wandered away from the racetrack, but, all the time my babes have been building up their careers … up towards… well, as it eventuates, towards 25 June.
If my French adventure seems to have fizzled out – Rosy retired with respiratory probems and Tenor, after his win, crumbling into something similar -- both the New Zealand and the Australian ends of the Gänzl und Gerolsteiner Empire have – while I’m over here, of course -- been warming up nicely.
In Melbourne, little 2yo Livia brought her record to 4 starts: 1 3rd and 3 4ths, before, this weekend, tackling the big girls in the VicBred Superseries. Alas, a lousy draw left her stranded out, she was last on the turn, and though she made ground coming home, 7th of 10 was her lot. She will, I know, do better ... and she’s due for a decent draw soon!
Over in New Zealand, as Elena prepares to come back to racing, little Seppl made his debut. Looking likely to run in the money at his very first start, he had a wee frightened gallop short of the post, but next up he very nearly took the bacon, being just pipped in the finale, after leading all the way, for a promising third.
His little buddy Fritzl, after a couple of nice placings a month or two back, has been having ‘time out for growing’, but yesterday he was back, ready to start again, in Race One in Ashburton. And one of his rivals there was … Seppl! The two ‘little boys’ of Gerolstein – the first foals I ever bred there -- taking their togetherness to extremes as rivals for a night.

Seppl had attracted the odd eye with his two dashing runs to date, and to my horror he was top pick in the press, but a brilliantly-bred filly (out of former star trotter Merinai) was rumoured to be a starlet in the making and she duly went out warm favourite. My two little fellers were fifth and sixth choices in the field of sixteen.
Fritzl began well, and was quickly up behind the leader. Seppl began – as his mother used to – superbly and, from his wide draw, zoomed across the track to go smoothly past everyone and take the front after 200 metres. And there he stayed, trotting beautifully, and looking such a dapper little hero, until, on the last lap, the favourite loomed up outside his cart. But, round the last bend, Seppl was still going strong and the favourite wasn’t coming at him. Out wide the second favourite was running on from too far back, but my little boy was cruising … and he ran to the line, seemingly untested, to win by more than two lengths. And behind him, powering past the favourite, from a three-deep spot on the fence, came Fritzl!

Gerolstein one-and-two! My first ever quinella! And, even better, the first victory by a horse bred and born from the ‘Gerolstein family’. Truly, a landmark in my racing career! Uncle Seppl and Nephew Fritzl ... the little boys, no longer little but grown up racehorses.
Ajay from Race Images sent me these pictures – Seppl steaming solo down the straight, and the finish .. see how clearly he won, and yes, number 5 is Fritzl. But there’s another one of Seppl back in the birdcage which I must get. He’s standing up like a straight and sage little angel, steam swelling from his body, but its his eye .. so bright, so perky .. you almost believe he was smiling. Well, I was!

I listened to the race in the wee small hours, here on the other side of the world, and there was no going back to sleep after afterwards. As my email and facebook lurched into life, congratulations flowing from even folk I hadn’t seen in years, I got ready for an exceptional day. And it was. Somehow it was the day that even folk who don’t follow racing chose to get in contact, there were reviews and articles to write, plays to read, and come 5pm, off I rolled with my friend Debby to a vernissage at Sandown’s ‘Boojum and Snark’. A dozen local artists had each contributed a work inspired by Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ which, did you know? was written in Sandown. I didn’t know, and in fact I have never read the poem. But there was a copy there, so I dipped in. The works: a couple of ‘sculptures’ great fun, several pictures interesting, the usual percentage not. But a grand idea, and an appealing enterprise.
Since I had been brave enough to drive Red Fred to Sandown, I had been wary with the wine, so we decided to stop for a meal once back in Ventnor. Ventnor has provided me with pretty lousy food up till now, so I was delighted to be able to reverse my ‘thumbs down’ after a delicious supper in the lobby of the Royal Hotel. Tasty, fluffy, Gallybagger Cheese soufflé on a bed of perfectly prepared Waldorf salad (no lettuce!) and a crême brulée, accompanied by little cold Muscadet and a wizard piano recital of songs from my era of shows, in the true Palm Court style. A perfect end to a perfect day …
Well, not quite the end! My computer, left to its own devices, had, in the four and a half hours of my absence, accumulated another vast volley of horsey hurrahs and other delectable missives … I don’t know what time I fell into bed. But I’m sure that I dreamed not of Snarks nor even of cheese soufflé, but of my little boys. Seppl and Fritzl. Fritzl and Seppl. God bless ‘em.

PS Michelin must be out of their minds. The Hambrough has a star and the Royal doesn’t? Balderdash. Balivernes. Bêtises …

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