Tea’s brewed. Racing Post at the doorstep and downloaded), car is ordered, passes waiting. Newmarket, Heathrow, Chepstow (just over the bridge) and back to Newmarket. My kind of day. Luca Cumani’s horses walk and graze just outside my window. My kind of town. A doorstop of a catalog for the Tattersalls Horses-in-Training Sale, mostly 3 and 4-year-old turf horses with pedigrees which would make Federico Tesio salivate. My kind of sale.
Valdez makes his reappearance in the 4:45 at Chepstow today. Why do I like British racing better than American racing? You know what time your race goes, no matter what, and they’ll stick to the schedule. You can walk the dog, weed the garden, take a nap and know without a doubt that the race will go at 4:45. Today marks the return of National Hunt Racing in my mind, strong cards on offer at Aintree and Chepstow while turf racing fills out its final days until next year with cards at Newbury and Doncaster, 2-year-old racing filling out the cards for the most part.
Valdez won his first three starts over fences last year, finished fifth in the Arkle at Cheltenham and finished his season with a deflated second at Ayr when he jumped badly to the right and was beaten a long way. Hopefully he’ll return with the same flare as he began last season after a good long summer break. We have penciled in a tilt at the Grand National at Far Hills in 2015, but I jump ahead, it’s about Chepstow today. He carries top weight today, a whopping 161 pounds after claiming 5 pounds for jockey Tom Bellamy’s apprentice allowance.
Trainer Alan King’s first call, Robert Thornton is on the mend from a fall last season and his second call, Wayne Hutchinson, went back to the bench after a fall this week. Tough game over here, well, anywhere, but especially here when the jumpers run every day of the year. The champ Tony McCoy returns today, after a brief stint on the shelf, he’s trying to win 300 races this season. Yes, 300 jump races in a season. They’ll never be another one.
Today, we worry about the ground conditions as Valdez does his best running on good ground, rather than soft or heavy. It’s listed as soft, hopefully, it’s not too soft, but it’s Wales and even the British say it always rains in Wales. With a handicap mark of 152, Valdez doesn’t have many options so we’ll lug top weight against 11 rivals. At 7, he’s one of the youngest horses in the race with just low weights Filbert and Umberto D’Olivate younger. Again, my kind of racing.
To put the race into perspective, when Valdez ran in the Arkle, I bounced out of bed at 4 in the morning, sat down on the floor of my guest room at George Baker’s house at Manton and started clattering the keys. My wife, Annie, heard the tick, tick, tick of the words and saw the glow of my laptop, she pulled the covers over her head, “You’re crazy,” and went back to sleep. Today, Annie’s in America and I clatter, but it’s late, almost 7, I guess that’s the difference between Cheltenham and Chepstow.
Today, it’s a free day, we’re going racing. Tomorrow, we pay, we’re going to the sales. We have made shorts lists and shorter lists to narrow down the 1,539 horses. Hopefully we’ll narrow it down further to find the next Demonstrative, Alajmal, Awesome Pearl or Cornhusker. Or better yet, the next Obviously. Let me know if you want me to look for you (first and only sales pitch of this column).
We’re off to Chepstow.