Oh, the price of passion. If only I could be more blasé about having a winner, maybe the losers would not hurt so much. And then, perhaps, our family holidays could stop being discombobulated. Because it is sod’s law that every time we go away to some remote island, one of our horses runs, writes Charlie Brooks.
For 14 long months, we have been nurturing a beautiful gelding by King’s Theatre. He had a few colds, so we wrapped him up warm and left him in bed. Then he got a sore shin, so we gave him a rub. We loved him so much, we called him Tinkers Hill Tommy. Then he chooses to run while we are abroad.
He has always been a bit on the fat side, but that certainly did not stop Australian spinner Shane Warne in his heyday. And, boy, can this horse walk. Good horses always walk well. And his trainer, Tom Lacey, had mentioned promising workouts, pigeons caught on the gallops and corners turned. All music to our ears.
I was off my food on Wednesday and Thursday with nerves and expectation. What if he wins by 20 lengths? What if he runs like a hairy goat?
Tommy’s debut at Fontwell Park last Friday coincided with my attempt to inject funds into the Greek economy. The Germans, Adonis the barman assured me, do not drink anything like enough to bail them out. So, my efforts were most welcome.
I tried to persuade Adonis to walk to the top of the hill with me to watch Tommy’s race. It was the only spot on the island I could find with iPhone service. But attached as Adonis had become to Tommy, his days of active exercise involving anything more extensive than his right arm are long behind him.
It was a hell of a long way up that hill, in the searing heat, armed solely with an increasingly warm bottle of beer and propelled by the collective good wishes of the bar crowd and their bank managers – if they still have any. I suspect Adonis and the gang may have invested via their cousins in Athens.
My chances of watching the race hung on the whim and the prayer of my mate Pip Pop being able to borrow an iPhone in London and then Face Timing me from a betting shop with his phone secretively filming the race. He did not let me down.
I did point out that the quality of the picture from Fontwell Park left something to be desired. Pip Pop grunted a few words that sounded like ‘spoilt and ungrateful’ but I cannot be sure as they were drowned out by the commentator informing us that the starter was calling them in. I was a bundle of nerves.
Our colours are a camouflage of pink and manure. We need to change them. The jockey, Richard Johnson, seemed to be in a good position halfway down the back straight. And then the screen froze. When life breathed itself back into my phone, the winner was crossing the line. And it was not Tommy. He was nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, on the evidence of his debut, it now transpires that Tommy can walk faster than he can gallop.
It was an even longer walk back down the hill. But news reached me that Johnson was very complimentary about Tommy after he finished a distant sixth of seven. Apparently, his penny has not dropped yet and we can expect a lot of improvement next time. It also sounds like he was blowing harder after the race than Adonis does when he is changing the beer pumps. So, all is not lost.
I was not the only person who got a kick in the teeth at Fontwell. Sheikh Mohammed’s right-hand man, John Ferguson, saw his odds-on favourite Amirr get turned over in our race. He must have felt even worse than I did. I would imagine he was walking around Deauville looking as sick as a parrot. But no doubt he will pick himself up and be back in the winner’s enclosure with the Godolphin horses on the Knavesmire this week.
This is not a game for the faint hearted.
I also have good news. We bought three more nags in Ireland last week. Magnificent looking individuals by top-class jumping sires – Milan, Flemensfirth and Midnight Legend. Out of cracking good mares. And boy, can they walk. The only way is up.