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The ups and down’s in racing, My Best Valentine and an Appleby a day….

My Best ValentineWell, unfortunately for us all it was time called on Hiddon Coin’s winning run. I noted Ron’s comments from the young rider David Bergin’s post race assessment in that he “hated it, hated it, hated it!”

Well as we know, the horrible weather conditions were the same for all three in the race, just as it was for all three jockey’s and afterwards it was no surprise that the only senior jockey of the three won the race. While the first two had both won on the fibresand our fellow hadn’t which backs up the marmite theory regards the Nottinghamshire track…horses either love it, or hate the place. The kick back is bad there and if you get in behind the horses can soon down tools, which was seen there yesterday as they were coming home well strung out. I did ask Ron why, bearing in mind the stamina doubt about the other rivals, did he not send him forward. One – that would have obviously tested them two – he would have kept clear of the kick back.

By all accounts, the lad couldn’t get him to go forward which is a swine as the horse obviously had made his mind up! However, had it been Gibbo or Danny riding, I’m sure it would have been a different outcome as the older head and strength in the saddle would no doubt have made the boy’s mind up for him!

Obviously he would have been carrying the full 9-7 so it’s a case of not having it all ways. I don’t like criticising jockey’s but I felt it was definitely experience in the saddle that won the day but the young apprentices have to start somewhere though and day’s like yesterday is all part of their education. From a positive view, I felt he handled the surface ok and it was maybe him getting worked up that didn’t help so at least it keeps options open for him.

One person who will not be complaining about the arctic conditions at Southwell is Mick Appleby, having saddled another double to make it 6 from 6 since the track reopened. His Our Ivor obliged for us last Sunday, albeit at a skinny price, but he was part of a terrific treble that Appleby landed. As mentioned in last week’s piece, Appleby is one to take note when any of his are supported at Southwell so I hope that some of you will have taken notice and backed some of his “super six” from the past week!
Appleby is looked upon as a talented trainer on the up, having 40 winners on the flat in 2012 with the highlight undoubtably been Art Scholar’s victory in the November Handicap on the last day of the turf at Doncaster. With 7 winners already on the board, he looks like he will be breaking that 40 barrier this season.

I’m writing this as I look at all the valentines cards (I’m taking the mick!) on the mantlepiece, which made me think about my best valentine…..no, not an old flame, a card or a gift but the equine version. My Best Valentine was a Group One winning sprinter which saved the very best til last, winning the Group One Prix De L’Abbeye under Ray Cochrane on his final start at the grand old age of eight. He started out with Peter Harris, making his debut in August 1992. He had two more runs that year before getting put away. His seasonal debut was a winning start to 1993, landing a handicap at Beverley with further wins coming again at Beverley and Redcar. Harris won one more race with him, that was in 1994 in a Epsom handicap over 7 furlongs before ending the year with trainer John White, who initially bought him to go hurdling. Having made a disappointing NH debut he had one more go over the hurdles when running a decent second at Aintree under Norman Williamson. That second was his best effort on the track in 1995.

Still under the care of White, he started the 1996 season with a win at Brighton under Tony Whelan but that was it for the year. If someone was to tell the connections that their animal was to join the roll of honour at Longchamp I reckon they would of sent for the men in white coats as any sign of it was a million miles away. In fact, he ran over 6,7 and 9 furlongs that year….hardly the profile of a high class sprinter!

In 1997 he had some moderate form in handicap company and was a tailed off 17 of 18 at Chester before running a gallant second in a 6 furlong listed race at Lingfield, he followed that run in an Epsom handicap which was his last run for White as he joined the stable of Vic Soane.
Soane sent My Best Valentine to Sandown for his stable debut over 5 furlongs and with a new jockey in Ray Cochrane. The pair won in nice style before following that run with a second in the ultra competitive Stewards Cup at Glorious Goodwood. He disappointed in the Great Saint Wilfred Handicap at Ripon when a well backed favourite before bouncing back to form with a close third in the Portland Handicap, he would of probably have won that day too had it not been for a slow start. He went on to make his Group race debut in the Diadem at Ascot before returning to winning ways in the listed Bentick Stakes at HQ. He then returned to handicap company, winning under topweight of 9-7 in a Newbury sprint handicap & winning in convincing fashion. He finished a successful 1997 with a neck second in the listed Wentworth Stakes at Doncaster, then he had a well earned break before his final campaign.

In 1998 he raced exclusively in Group races, with two seconds at Deauville & Newmarket the highlight of the season. That was until he took to the stage at Longchamp. Going off an unfancied 33-1 shot he totally blitzed the field to claim his first Group win in the Prix De L’Abbaye. Some people may put the late in life success down to the expertise of the trainer Soane or jockey Cochrane but full credit to a very gutsy horse. He went to stud, standing in Epsom at Woodcote Stud but he didn’t have the long retirement he deserved, as he died at the age of 14.

Ray Cochrane, is a fellow agent these days. A fabulous jockey in my eyes as I was a big fan and he’s a great bloke too. He famously pulled Frankie Dettori out of the wreckage the day his plane crashed, a very brave act indeed. He books Frankie’s rides, along with Mickael Barzelona’s. I’m sure when Frankie returns that his phone will be red hot!

As well as Ray, other current jockey’s agents to have ridden My Best Valentine are David Harrison and Nicky Adams, with current stewards Chris Rutter & Tony McGlone also having ridden him too.

Vic Soane packed in training just two years after his big day in Paris. With his stable star retiring straight after he found the training game difficult enough without an owner landing him £20,000’s worth of debt. He got out and went to live in Spain.

Totally soured by the experience, and anxious not to leave himself similarly exposed again, it was a case of starting afresh in another profession.

Needing to make things happen quickly, he says: “I had to go out and find work, so one Monday morning I knocked on the estate agent’s door. I explained that although I’d never sold a house, I’d sold a few horses in my time.

“The manager reckoned that as it must be more challenging selling horses, I could start the following day.”

What ever Vic Soane is doing nowadays, my guess is that every year when February the 14th comes around he’ll have a smile and his mind will go back to that great day in Longchamp 15 years ago and My Best Valentine!

Looking ahead, I hope Rosie goes well on Friday for you all and of course the racing charities that she races for. Mark Johnston’s Broxbourne is obviously the one to beat but i’m sure Rosie will push her all the way. DANGEROUS AGE should get the night off to a winning start in the first race. I’m told the John Hills camp like her and I feel that she’ll confirm recent placings with Magic Ice. I hope you managed to get on the bigger prices for Dashwood the other day. The Carson camp very rarely leave their money behind and this fellow won in the manner of a horse that will follow up.

Those of you going to Wolverhampton, have a great time and a safe journey.

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