Things have been a bit rubbish for me in general over the last few weeks (perhaps even months) and I felt like I had lost my way in life a little bit. I found myself asking 'what's the point?' more and more, in a whole variety of daily situations. In essence, I lost my mojo.
Thanks to the following horses and people, I think I'm on my way to getting it back.
With the 2017 season just around the corner, and workouts due to start in the next couple of weeks at York Harness Raceway, I thought now was as good a time as ever to introduce our team for the year. Some of the horses (and people) you'll recognise if you've been following my blog religiously (I'm still kidding myself on that there's at least one person out there in the big, wide world who reads every single post I publish); some are new. Some are thrown in to the mix just for good measure.
|Bill Cardno photo|
Cassius Clay is a 6 year old gelding by Hasty Hall out of Mattys Romance, by Jimmy Long. He won his maiden last year at Corbiewood with the Gaffer in the bike having been a runner up at Musselburgh on his second start of the season. Following his win, he caught a cold that was sweeping around our stable and being the total wimp that he is (despite being a solid 16'1hh) he never got over it in the time off we gave him so he was turned away for the year.
For Christmas I treated our horses to some new cooler rugs for the summer - a nice little deal on Ebay meant I was able to stock up on various different sizes (5'9, several 6'0 and a 6'3). This week I went looking for a 6'0 rug to put on my 3YO filly Amy, only to find the 5'9 and 6'3 rugs in the box. I had previously asked Smarty where the safest place to put them would be so that they wouldn't get half-inched by the Gaffer; clearly it wasn't a safe enough place. Having committed the trim pattern to memory, I went and had a look at the under rug Cassius had on under his stable rug. Sure enough, it was one of my rugs. Clearly too small for the horse. So I did the right thing - I swapped it for the 6'3 rug which fitted him perfectly and recycled the 6'0 rug for another horse, which also fitted perfectly.
Oh to be the only person capable of fitting rugs correctly at our yard!
If you want a recap of Cassius' win from last year, watch it here.
|Bill Cardno photo|
Another returning campaigner, Ace is our now three-year-old filly by Cams Card Shark out of Vain In Spain (Artsplace). She competed in all of the top juvenile stakes races last year, finishing in the money on most occasions and winning on her final start in the SHRC 2YO Futurity at Corbiewood in a time 2 seconds faster than the colts division. After a couple of months off, she returned to her winter home at Corbiewood just before Christmas to be trained by Mark and Karen Kennedy who had her for the first part of her 2YO season and came back to Crosshill 4 weeks ago to begin her fast work with us.
She's coming along nicely. She isn't without her quirks but her and I have always had a good relationship and thankfully Smarty is letting me take the lead with her in terms of her care and management which appears to be doing the trick. Time will tell! She's very particular about things; she likes her hay in a haynet, not on the floor; she likes to have a drink from the hose before you wash down her legs (and during, and after) and her 'sweet spot' (the spot on a horse which if you scratch sends them to sleep) is under her forelock.
Ace is heavily staked for this summer in all of the major 3YO events in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland so fingers crossed for another summer of touring the UK and Ireland and taking part in all the top races!
If you want a recap of Ace's win from last year, watch it here.
|Bill Cardno photo|
|Bill Cardno photo|
Since then she's been out with the herd, probably thinking that was it for her and she wouldn't have to do any sort of work again. Now 8, she's only had 25 lifetime starts, having raced at 2 and 3 in many of the stakes races, before her campaign as a five-year-old. We're not done with you yet Eternal.
Eternal is Cassius' half-sister, by The Firepan out of Mattys Romance. They both inherited their mother's colour (light bay) but that's where the similarities end. Where Cassius is enormous, Eternal is much smaller and more compact. That's The Firepan coming out in her, as Matty was a big, rangy mare herself which was enhanced by Hasty Hall when producing Cassius.
Eternal LOVES her work. She is a notoriously crabby mare with a whole range of faces she can pull over a stable door (photographic evidence guaranteed to follow); she doesn't seem to like anyone except for the Gaffer (and some days she doesn't even like him). She'd have you thinking she's a monster. And yet, as soon as she's out on the track jogging, she's a delight. She behaves impeccably, she would happily jog all day long. At the races, she's a far more friendly horse at the lorry and to put on and off the track. Where some horses get attitude at the track, she drops hers. Some racedays she even convinces me she doesn't hate me. Then when we get home everything reverts back to normal.
She's also fat right now. I keep ribbing the Gaffer about this. He gets very defensive. Because she's compact, she carries and keeps on weight easily. She's a 'good doer'. I'd call her robust, so as not to hurt her feelings. Not that it makes any difference; she doesn't like me anyway.
Here's a new one!
Crosshill Amethyst, aka Amy, by Mypanmar out of Coalford Tracey (Coalford Laag), is our 'other' three-year-old filly. Unlike Ace, she was not staked and our plans had been to break her in as a 2YO and then leave her until she was 4 to race as a maiden. This was mainly due to the fact that we have so many horses to train of racing age and so few stables and such little time to train them all. Therefore we've developed a kind of rota of sorts, where they all get a turn in time.
We did all of the groundwork with her before sending her over to Corbiewood to Mark and Karen Kennedy to get her going in the cart back in the autumn. We collected her home at the same time we dropped Ace off, just before Christmas. At that point she was turned out with the herd and we didn't plan on doing anything with her until 2018.
However, when you own and train horses, plans can change at the drop of a hat and we found ourselves with an empty stable to be filled. Amy was the lucky candidate to be brought back in for the 2017 season. For a short while we 'put her in storage' over at our friend, public trainer George Carson's, along with her yearling half-brother as we had brought a mare up to the stables to foal. However, said mare turned out to be empty and the stable became available again so Amy (and her brother) came home.
Amy is a gentle soul who has shown hints of the temper her mother is fabled to have had when she raced. By hints, I mean she can stomp her feet in the crossties if you're not giving her attention. And I don't have time to be giving her all my attention. But to jog, she's a dream. Calm, relaxed, responsive to your voice. I like her. Her and Ace are so different and I enjoy the challenges each of them give us in their own unique way.
So that's the racing team for 2017. I've also made mention of Amy's half-brother, Crosshill Cadillac (aka Phil, by Yankee Lariat). He is one of two yearling colts we have, named after a horse Smarty and I met at Pompano Park last year called Cadillac Phil who was cared for by Scott Schwartz. After meeting the pair (and seeing Cadillac Phil winning on our last night at the track), Crosshill Cadillac seemed like a good name for our 'C' year. His nickname 'Phil' was an obvious choice after that!
The other colt is Crosshill Costa, aka Cliff, by Eagle Luck out of Saunders Beachgirl (Beach Towel). The two boys are turned out together now for the summer so hopefully if the weather continues to improve they will lose their winter fluff and I can get some nice photos of them to share with you all.
I've got two mares going to the stallions in the coming days and weeks as well, so it is literally all go at Crosshill Stables right now! Sometimes it takes writing it all down to realise just how much there is to look forward to. Starting with the opening fixture at York Harness Raceway on May 1st. As some commentator once said (😉), 'Be there!'.
Over and out,
P.s. before I go, I did say that things were on the up due to a number of horses and people, so I really should reintroduce the main characters in this story I call 'Life'. The afore-mentioned (and pictured) 'Gaffer', who has adopted the role of being in charge (note: he was not elected by the rest of us, he simply decided and none of us have contested it). He's mainly responsible for morning feeds, driving the lorry, heating up water on the gas stove at the races, sweeping up after everyone every five seconds, being brutally honest to people when they probably weren't after brutal honesty and looking after Cassius and Eternal. He believes all his horses are 15'1hh (ironically, after having measured them, all of his horses bar one are actually 15'1hh, but the one that isn't is 16'1hh so he's not even close) and should fit into 5'9 rugs. He dislikes untidyness and has a habit of parking our lorry AS FAR AWAY AS IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE from the gate onto the track at Corbiewood, so that I have to do a round trip of about 2 miles to get our horses on and off the track.
Then there's the 'Jockey', who is featured in the photos of Eternal above as he is our stable driver. Rather, he was our stable driver, until he decided to stick his left hand into a lawnmower which was SWITCHED ON last summer which resulted in the loss of a finger and damage to several others. Idiot. After that, the Gaffer decided he was driving his own horses (hilarious, although he did get a win) and Smarty and I had to source available drivers on racedays for our horses. I have no idea if he intends to come back driving this year; I suspect the Gaffer may have usurped him as driver of Cassius and Eternal at least. Just last weekend the Jockey was telling us he thought Eternal was jogging too fast and if he was jogging her she'd be going 'as slow as treacle', only for the Gaffer to come back in off the track and tell him she was 'already going too fast' for the Jockey to think about driving this year. #banter
Naturally Smarty features quite heavily in this blog, as he is my partner in crime. His favourite trick is to convince me he needs my help at the stables when I finish work because <insert job> cannot be done without me, only for me to get stuck in and then realise he's sat in the chair outside Ace's stable, on his phone. Either that or he hides in the feed room and every now and again bangs some buckets around so I think he's getting the next morning's feeds prepped. He's definitely better at giving instruction than taking it, although if I wave a pitchfork in his direction he generally does as I ask. In his defence, he gets the horses jogged while I'm in work and his mucking out skills are definitely improving.
Finally, there's our supporting cast - 'Halloooo Hen', 'Welshy', 'Mrs Welshy', 'Wee Welshy' and 'the Baby'. They don't come racing very often (well, the Baby has never been because he was only born last month), but when they do things are 100x more crazy. They are the non-horsey wing of the family, and all of my horses seem to pick up on this. Not in that way that nice horses go easy on people who are a bit uncomfortable around them. More like if they could sit in their lap like a dog they would. They become over-friendly. It's too much. These people just want to do the token stroke on the face and be away. Not with my horses you don't. No no, personal space goes out of the window with my lot. It's probably my fault, I mean, these horses only see the four of us at the stables and I often spot even the toughest of the three men giving them a little scratch on the neck or a rub on the face when they think nobody is looking. They've all come to expect that everyone wants to have them two inches away from their face at all times. #sorrynotsorry
OK, this time it really is 'over and out',