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18th June 2020

Plus 13 and very very wet when driving in

We have had 72mm of rain so far and that is just under 3 inches!.

There were plenty of heavy thunderstoms around yesterday as I drove to Brinkworth.

Bizzare weather as I drove through floods and then there was heatwave when I arrived near Brinkworth to see two horses of Alan and Deb McDowell's yesterday afternoon. David Bass helped show them off..A lovely 3 year old fillies with a good pedigrees.. if you fancy buying..ring me?

Cilla Wills was here mid morning to see her KBRP horse Voyburg

A Royal winner at Royal Ascot is always popular and probably more so this year than ever.. There was nearly a double for Her Majesty.

Mat and My selections for todays racing are..Maori Knight, Sir Dragonet, King Leonids, Modern News, Technician, Khaloosy and African Dream

Mark Hudson has kindly taken up the mantle of the Kim Bailey Racing Community spirit.

I was moved to pen this by the resumption of racing this week in the UK.  It perhaps was not the most exciting racing ever seen on tv at Newcastle, but after the carping about it being a toffs’ sport, it was wonderful to see this industry, that employs tens of thousands of people and gives pleasure to millions more, take its first steps back to some degree of normality. 

When I used to commute up to the City every day, Kim’s blog was one of the first things that I would look up on the 06.36 to Cannon Street.  I know that there were those sitting next to me who were disappointed it wasn’t the website of Kim Basinger or Kim Kardashian, but Bailey’s Blog is always informative, amusing and totally honest about the highs and lows of racing.

I am writing this in my study at home.  This is actually unusual, since I moved to the UAE in 2018 to work for a bank.  My commute is now a quarterly one back and forth from the UAE, with my darling wife Marion (Mrs H) joining me regularly. 

I came back in early March this year to see the family and to sort a few things out, and was all set to fly back on the 19th of that month, when a travel ban was imposed for residents: I have been stuck here ever since, hopefully returning very soon. 

Mrs H and I are in a wonderful, rural part of Kent and have got on fine during lockdown, particularly after she insisted that I shave off my beard or I would be self-isolating with the stable cat in the barn.  In her defence, it was getting a shade out of hand.  Mentally, I always saw the beard as making me look like Roger Moore in ‘North Sea Hijack’.  I was brought rather crashingly down to earth when my daughter-in-law, Sophia Dale, informed me that I actually looked like Alan in ‘The Hangover’.  Sophia is always right.

There have been daily calls with children and grandchildren, which keep the spirits up.  This is not a time for politics, but, despite being a news junkie, I gave up watching all tv news early on during the pandemic.  As for the BBC, enough said.

My earliest racing memory was going to the Tweseldown P2P when I was 18 with my closest friends from school.  The passage of time (and the alcohol on the day most probably) has meant that I recall little of the racing other than I managed to back the winner of every race and ruined the day of the poor bookie who was at the receiving end.  It has to be said that it is a feat that I have not remotely emulated since that day, although I did come close to it about a decade ago at our Kent course of Folkestone.  Twenty minutes down the road.  A bit spit and sawdust, but with a lovely, local atmosphere.  Now very sadly closed.

So how did I get involved with Kim Bailey? 

It was the 2012 November Open meeting at Cheltenham.  I was introduced to him by a mutual friend and, after a couple of glasses of red (might have been more), it was agreed that Mrs H and I would visit Thorndale the next day.  Mrs H has had horses all of her life.  Our children (Charlie, Lue and Ellie) have all done Pony Club and hunt.  As for yours truly, I am far too uncoordinated to ride a donkey, let alone something more sophisticated.  Off we went the next day and, long story short, we bought a share in Milord.

Milord will always occupy a special place in our hearts.  He was not a big horse, but he gave it his all every single race.  The 2013 Cheltenham Festival saw him come in 4th in the Fred Winter.  To be honest, we had no idea how we would do, but to be in the winner’s enclosure (not 1st, but who the hell cared?) was just incredible. 

Milord had a cracking set of owners too, many of whom became friends. 

After the Cheltenham high, he developed a rather frustrating tendency of falling over, normally when 10 plus lengths in the lead.  He finally won at Wincanton on his 14th attempt over hurdles.  Not a dry eye in the house.  He won twice more before retiring in 2018, and Kim and Clare found him a really happy new home.

Next came Sunblazer.  Probably the most enigmatic horse in which we have had a share.  And the most laid back.  One thing he did not like was hurdles.  He did win one at Newton Abbott, but the owners all decided eventually that hurdling was not for him.  It is always a worry what happens next to a horse.  In stepped none other than Norman Carter who bought him outright and set him out on a new path on the flat.  And what a success Sunny was there.  Winning became almost a habit for him.  Norman deserved every minute of that success and the joy that Sunny brought him.

Un Ace.  It was over a fairly punchy lunch at Wilton’s restaurant in London that Kim persuaded me to look at buying into an exciting new horse from France.  Mrs H and daughter Lue picked him out as one to get into at Kim’s open Day.  After winning on his stable debut at Doncaster, Un Ace put in a very creditable performance at the 2014 Festival in the Supreme. 

Not always the most straightforward of rides, he tucked another couple of decent wins under his saddle before heading to Ascot on 29th March 2015 for the Waitrose Novices’ Handicap Chase.  It was an incredibly windy day with bits of furniture flying around the place.  That is what put paid to a potentially decent performance previously at Aintree.  Still, turning for home, forget it.  No chance.  What happened next demonstrates why Sir A.P. McCoy will probably be the greatest jump jockey ever to walk the earth. Many better commentators than I have described the performance, but Un Ace won at the line. 

If I live to be a 100 (which is frankly a shade unlikely), I could watch that performance every single day.  Un Ace never quite recaptured that form and has since retired, but with a day in racing history as McCoy’s last ever winner at Ascot.

We have met many people through racing that we would never otherwise have met.  Russell and Leslie Field and John and Sue Stanley asked us to go in with them on Bandon Roc.  Judging by his early performances, we rather thought that Abandon Ship would have been a better name.  A large horse who seemingly was not destined for the winner’s enclosure. 

Then came 10 days in 2017.  Taunton.  Then Huntingdon.  Then Towcester.  Three outings and three wins.  An incredible piece of judgement by the trainer and the yard. 

Before Towcester, I thought Kim might have lost the plot to try for a hat trick, but he was right and that is why he is a highly successful racehorse trainer and I am not.  Bandon Roc was just able to plug away in appalling weather and conditions when other horses gave up.  He had real stamina.  Another win over hurdles and one over fences, and he decided that he had had enough of racing.  He is now happily retired with our son, Charlie.

Younevercall is one of two horses that we still have in training at Thorndale.  Peter Kerr messaged me about him and essentially said: don’t ask, just buy into this incredible horse.  Mrs H, who is a better judge of most things than I, agreed, and so we did.  YNC had a win at Uttoxeter on his debut.  He sadly then fell at Huntingdon when he should have won and that knocked him.  He then had a break and stormed back with back to back-to back wins at Huntingdon and Kempton.  See below for Punchestown, but he came back for a great second at Perth and then another win. 

One of the downsides to living in the UAE is the tv channels.  Dubai Racing is great at one level, but you might want to watch your horse jump race somewhere, and are instead faced with the prospect of camel racing at the Jebel Ali racecourse. 

Fortunately, we have made two great friends in Gerald and Carina Oxley in the UAE, who invite me round to watch their far superior racing channel.  Gerald is an ex jockey and trainer, and won the Grand Military Cup four times!  It was there that I watched YNC –so impressive under David Bass – win the Best365 Select Hurdle at Sandown in 2019.  Whilst I was having kittens watching the race, Gerald called it for YNC about half way round.  Such a shame that he was not able to defend his title there this year.

Finally, we come to Espoir De Romay or ‘Rocky’ as he is colloquially known.  Mrs H and I were asked to buy into him by our friends, the Foreman Sisters.  Tessa and Wink truly know their horses.  Rocky is, to put it mildly, enormous.  A horse set for chasing rather than hurdling.  Despite this, he has raced five times since March 2019 and won two, probably could have been three.  He went to Cheltenham in March this year and looked like playing a leading role as they came down the hill, but he rather ran out of puff.  A creditable performance and more to come over the bigger things.        

So, favourite course?  I know that it is a cliché, but it has to be Cheltenham.  Why?  The quality of the racing is excellent.  The facilities are first class.  It is where we meet up as a family and see so many great friends there.  Ian Renton et al. just run it superbly. 

A close second would have to be Punchestown.  Three years ago, we were at the Greatwood Charity Day (recommended for all who love horses) and Mrs H successfully bid on an all-in trip to Punchestown.  As I recall, it was a bit of a steal actually.  Certainly better than the previous year when – owing to my inherent technophobia – I managed to bid against myself for a Johnny Beardsall hat that I eventually won for Mrs H at an exhorbitant price.  I think that she has worn it.  Anyway, back to Punchestown, where YNC did not really enjoy the race, and developed another one of his issues.  Still, he has recovered and there is more to come from him.

This pandemic has been such a terrible time for so many.  We can only hope that the worst is behind us.  But to end, as I began, with racing.  I am hugely looking forward to visiting Thorndale with Mrs H and hopefully to seeing our horses on the track.  Kim, Clare, Peter, Matt and all of the team are the best in the business.  They deserve our support. 

And I shall raise a glass (or three) tonight to them and to all involved in the sport that we love. 

Thanks for that Mark.. See you before you return to the UAE I hope..    

Todays non virus video nasty..