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Chapter Two

The season of mellow fruitfulness is upon us and it feels like we are entering stage two of our adventure. We have settled into a training routine which suits us, the horses and more importantly produces results. We are even comfortable with the morning étiquette on the pistes. The rule is that you say “Bonjour” to everyone you pass or meet for the first time that day, if you come across them a second time, it’s ok to just smile and keep stumm. The trouble is remembering who you have said Bonjour to and who you haven’t. Also if you pass a string of 20+ horses, 20 Bonjours in quick succession is a bit of a ball ache so a slow “Bonjour” has been developed which can count for 3 or even 4 passing cavaliers.

The teething troubles we had in the beginning are but a distant memory, even the time when Jack Duern and I ventured over to les Aigles, the posh end of town if you will. We did a couple of easy canters and were heading back towards the tunnel under the main road to take us back home. We were on a wide sand track with no other horses around and decided to slow hack up to the trees ahead. Out of the trees popped a famous blonde haired lady trainer, frantically waving her arms and shouting at us that this was a walking only track. We had committed a cardinal sin! I hasten to add that this wasn’t the nice lady who trains Treve, this was another one. A quiet word to the newcomers was not an option as this lady obviously does not have a good side of the bed to get out of, of a morning so we were promptly denouncéd which is a French passion and means to shop or dob in.

Plod arrived shortly in the form of Monsieur Stirnemann, head of training tracks for France Galop. He was very stern indeed, our papers were not yet in order and the horses were banned from the gallops forthwith, they must not leave the yard ! Two days later it was all sorted out though, in time I may name a horse after the incident, “Old Bag des Aigles” perhaps.

Monsieur Stirnemann however, is now always very pleasant and smiley when we meet and indeed he wins the prize for the best French stab at “Hollinshead” pronunciation, his is not bad at all but normally we are “Ollinsheeed”.
Talking about pronunciation the horse Doesyourdogbite is a massive problem for the French, made worse by the fact the last bit of the name means something very rude indeed in French. When he won last time, he was in contention from a long way out but the commentator couldn’t bring himself to say the name until he had to when the race was almost over.

Doesyourdogbite thus became our 4th winner of the year that day at Craon, which was made even more special as family friend George Smith from Upper Longdon came along for the ride and kept the trainer awake on the journey home. We were invited for a glass of bubbly afterwards and even chatted to the Mayor of Craon, it is twinned with Oakhampton don’t you know!

Doesyourdogbite and Alexis Badel wins at Craon
Doesyourdogbite and Alexis Badel wins at Craon

Doesyourdogbites future I’m sure lies over hurdles and as he doesn’t qualify for French bred premiums we have put him in Newmarket sales at the end of October, he has a poor slot in the sale but if he sells it will enable us to invest in the next generation. As for the other horses, flag bearer Flying Cape will have one more race, possibly two before some well earned grass rest ready for next season. Tree of Grace and Final Attack will come back into training shortly and will be prepared for the winter season in Cagnes Sur Mer. New horse King of Rock is training well and will debut at Compiegne on October 26th. Dear Essanar is out at grass and will come back in the new year. Whitby High Light has a leg problem and we will find him a home as a riding horse. Vesking’s first two runs have not been great but he will get there, he is currently on the naughty step. Rictrude has knee problems and will now go to the paddocks.

Autumn sales are beckoning, we need to bring in new blood to bolster the team and we are looking forward to going to Cagnes again next year, it has a great holiday atmosphere at an otherwise dull time or year, and cheap flights from Luton.

Son Jack made his first visit the other day, it was great to see him and Great Aunt Berys. Hope he stays longer next time.

P.S. It was great to have Ebor winner Litigant as a lodger for a few days before for his intended run on Arc day. It was a brave call to withdraw him having come so far because of the ground! I’m sure it was the right decision though and Joe Tuite and his team seem really professional and his owner delightful.

À bientôt

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