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23rd March 2020

It was minus 1 first thing this morning.

Mothers Day has passed for another year. Clare was unable to see her Mum even though Cilla lives only 4 miles away, but at least Facetime helped.

It also helped when talking to son Harry in Sydney early yesterday morning. He too is worried.

No pub lunch and like all the effects were felt

Racing has carried on in Ireland behind closed doors and ITV4 were good; difficult to watch as frankly I was jealous that they were able to race when we cannot.. it was still a good programme to watch. Good viewing figures suggested that there were a great many bored folk like me wanting their racing fix.

Nick Luck carried the racing world again yesterday with his programme Luck On Sunday and with the help of Cornelius Lysaght it was an excellent 90 minute view.

My day was spent with Archie and Clare.. Yes the backgammon set was out and Archie thankfully still has not beaten me.. I do worry that if we keep playing for hours on end it will not be long before he does..Don’t for one second think I am competitive!

Monday morning and some bloody fresh horses to exercise..

Racing is a funny old game and I never quite know why people go into it.. Thankfully they do and as much as I love my sport it is an interesting world; it encompasses so many different people from so many different backgrounds..

So on that note I am showing you this letter which was sent by Wayne Butcher.. It is a very good read...

'To the team at Thorndale,

What a difference a week makes, from the glory of Cheltenham Festival success with Imperial Aura to a different world where joy must be sourced in simpler modes.

Given the changing picture, I have written this letter to hopefully bring some light to the team at Thornedale in what I recognise must be very difficult times.

Last week, you made a dream come true, not only for me, but for all involved with Aura and it was great to enjoy this with friends and family. For me this was the pinnacle to an interest in racing which I have had since childhood. I have been into racing since I could walk and talk, much to the confusion of many at school, for whom racing was a fascinating mystery.

After much begging, my Dad Steve took me to my first Cheltenham Festival in 1997 and witnessed Make A Stand make every post a winning one for the dominant duo of the time – Pipe and McCoy. And if you are thinking “what about school?”, I did have a dentist appointment that I didn’t quite make it to that day…

Secondary school continued and it felt like I had hit the jackpot when finally finding another person who was into racing – me and Scott have been best friends ever since for well over 20 years now and it was great to have him there for Aura’s success a few weeks back.

Following exams and University, owning a racehorse was my next big ambition. After some minor successes on the flat, I replied to an advert on Twitter for Imperial Racing in 2015.

30 minutes with Ian on the phone and I was sold... a small share in an even smaller horse Iora Glas. Iora Glas was a solid, loveable horse who you could set your watch by. 3m, good in the ground description and a mark in the low 120s, and he was incredibly reliable. This reliability yielded a success at the Cheltenham April meeting in 2017, though unfortunately due to work commitments I was not in attendance so whilst watching on my phone, I missed out on the Cheltenham walk back in which was a bit disappointing.

As Iora was just starting to reach his full potential (he came third at Aintree and won at Bangor after Cheltenham), he sadly injured himself at Perth. Paddy Brennan did a brilliant job in saving him that day and he now resides in Dorset with Fergal O’Brien’s sister.

From Iora to Aura, Imperial Aura.

I purchased my share in January 2017 and after a charm offensive, also convinced my neighbour Brian to take the splash too. Brian had never owned any racehorse and I remember the evening when I went around to sort the paperwork and money out, his wife Bernie clearly thinking “what’s this he’s getting involved in?!”.

The fact Imperial Aura didn’t run for a year probably meant poor Brian had to keep responding to the question “when’s this horse running?” but the time did eventually come in February 2018 at a bright but chilly Kempton. This was the first time I met Kim and I was particularly impressed at how Kim took time to come and speak to each one of us individually. A small thing but I really valued this. Aura ran a race full of promise finishing third, sandwiched between subsequent good horses such as Commanche Red, Beakstown and Getaway Trump.

We moved onto Ludlow and a win in a bumper, before going novice hurdling in 2018/19. We were all present for a debut hurdle win at Carlisle and a really enjoyable day. Unfortunately, sore shins meant we didn’t see Aura again until February 2019 at Newcastle but he once again delivered. Patience had been key to this horse and all involved realised this would deliver greater results in the longer term.

During this time, we met Matt, who happens to be a Forest fan (that’s 3 and counting in this letter with me and Dad also reds). Matt’s banter with Scott (who is a Derby fan) is particularly entertaining and I remember seeing Matt one day at Newbury with Lauren and Rocky’s Treasure.  Matt shouted to Scott “watch that step” as we walked from the parade ring to the stands and Scott chuckled, acknowledging the humour with a raised eyebrow.

Lauren, one of the loveliest and most humble people I think I have ever met, has been a constant in Aura’s journey. It’s heartwarming to see someone with a genuine love of horses being in the business and I particularly appreciate the time Lauren invests in Aura’s owners which we all take for granted given how busy everyone is at the yard. I can only imagine how rewarding Aura’s success has been this season.

Onto this season…Chepstow, Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle and by this time, the Aura bandwagon on twitter was moving through the gears and the horse’s following saw him made favourite. A great run to be third in a slightly odd race but we were all over the moon. A trip to Fakenham saw Aura get off the mark over fences and subsequently it has all been about Cheltenham.

A great run at the December meeting told us that given Aura’s aggressive style, 3m plus was not quite right at this stage and following the trials meeting, we learnt that we need to ensure that the final stages didn’t become a sprint (though who knew at the time the one to outsprint us would be the plate winner, Simply The Betts). In this time, I also had the pleasure to meet Kim’s wife and mother in law, again both delightful to be around and plain to see how much enjoyment they were getting out of our enjoyment!

Then onto the festival…I won’t lie I did have a bet at 25/1 to win any race, 33/1 when the racing post tipped us for the novice handicap and told a few people between January and March that we had a horse with a real chance if he brought his ‘A’ game to the table. However, anything can happen on the day and just to be there was a great achievement.

After meeting the rest of the syndicate before the previous race, we all went down to the pre-parade and parade ring. Aura looked fantastic, a testament to the hard work of all the stable and staff, a fine specimen trained to peak on the day. David then came out to see us, and as we shouted good luck to him as he jumped on board, this all became very real. I really did feel quite sick…

However after settling into a rhythm, I had no need to feel sick and rounding the final bend, David kicked for home and we all knew that it would take a very special horse to give Imperial Aura a 3 length head start with just two fences and the Cheltenham hill to climb. No horse was present in that race, and as Aura crossed the line, it’s fair to say we went nuts!

I haven’t mentioned Mr Bass much but again, a gentleman who is down to earth and gets on with the job in hand. For me, him and Aura have learnt things about each other in every race and that has contributed to the rapid progression throughout the season, culminating in Festival victory.

After the race, I ran up to him asking for a photograph and he obliged, very much the professional and seeing this as “just another day at the office”. From me David, you delivered and should be very proud.

So, as the end of this chapter of the story nears, we now have a new chapter which with the current circumstances, is unsettling and brings fear for many. However, the hope and joy that racing brings is something to hold onto and I can only wish that the team at Thorndale is able to see this as I wish them the best for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

A truly grateful owner..'

Talking owners.. This was sent over..and not for the young to look at. But imagine Sandra with the help of Phillip washing their hands...

To finish.. Happy 65th Birthday to my Lambourn mate Oliver Sherwood..Ollie and I are both Essex boys..