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25th September 2023
Morning, Nessie Chanter here, Clerk of the Course at Stratford and Worcester (flood expert).
I admire and fear Kim Bailey’s blog in equal measure, so it is a great honour to be asked to contribute to it. I must say, I do feel much braver this side of the keyboard, so I am probably in great danger of also becoming “old and grumpy” in my views on here, like I accuse Kim of being…..
This has been the most challenging year of being a Clerk. I love a drought, hard work, but you know where you are and what levels of irrigation are required to produce safe ground. No surprises and no curve balls. This Summer has been so unreliable, unreadable and inconsistent, heavy but localized storms are a Clerk’s worst nightmare. Take for example last weekend: We were forecast (by paid professionals) an inch of rain at Worcester (which we received in Stow on Wold), but we found only 3mm in the cup at the racecourse. Often we have made the decision to water the minimum to produce safe ground, ignoring the predicted forecast since it may not deliver. Then on occasions you pay the penalty when rain does arrive, and you are dragged over hot coals by the trainers with quick ground horses. If only they knew how often I wake in the night and flick on to the weather radar app to study the fronts currently travelling over Worcester and Stratford! Rightly or wrongly, I would rather be caught out by having ground too slow, than ground too quick. Is there a future in having Good to Firm in the going description of National Hunt racing? A bit tough on quick ground horses but there is a direct correlation - the quicker the ground, the higher the injury rate.
Changing the subject, it has been wonderful having a group of jockeys out hunting with the Heythrop this Autumn, so important for them to have a rare mental respite. Sam Twiston-Davies, Max Kendrick, Kielan Woods, Nico De Boinville and Richie Mclernon have been as regular as their rigorous timetable allows. One of the above decided to follow the trail over a more direct line than the rest of the field last week and took on a hanging metal five bar gate off the road. Things didn’t quite go to plan and only three of his horse’s legs rose high enough to clear it, resulting in a spectacular somersault. Both were uninjured, and the jockey went on to ride a winner that day, thankfully. It took place at dawn, so of course he blamed it on the low sun…. no comment.
I don’t know any decent jokes, but one of my favourite stories relates back to when Charlie Longsdon was assistant trainer to Kim, and Rupert Wakley was his Amateur jockey. Charlie and Rupert had enjoyed a Black Tie party in London and had a driver return them to the yard directly from the nightclub. They were so punctual that time allowed for a quick ten-minute sleep in the car before they got changed for first lot. They were winning at life….or so they thought. Half an hour later they were woken by an angry Kim hammering a stick at the car window….they were forced to ride out three lots in Black Tie that day!
I hope you are having a wonderful holiday Kim, we look forward to welcoming you back to your favourite racecourse on your return.
Wishing Kim, his owners and his team a very successful season.