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The Smart Set Open Day

Karen and I set out very early to make sure we were at Bryan Smart’s Hambleton stables in plenty of time for the first open day of the new season.

A pit stop taken at Starbucks on the motorway (Hartshead), we had a really clear run through and arrived just before 8-30am.

A promise had been made when Vicki and Bryan had looked after our members last year, when Karen and I could not get there and they can now enjoy a decent Rose and should a gin and tonic takes their fancy…it’s covered.

The one thing you can guarantee when you go to the yard is a warm welcome and I swear the brew was on before we got out of the car. The kitchen is where it all happens here and we sat down, coffee, a chat, and waited for the others to arrive.

I’d be praying for good weather and we had it. This place is situated where a sunny day lends itself to wonderful views and a great environment to work with horses. I can imagine it’s hell in winter!

The pastries arrived not long after us and Vicki put them into the oven to warm up whilst Bryan, Karen and I talked horses.

The first thing I did was thank him for the tip regarding BLACK HAMBLETON. He kind of rolled his eyes and said everything had gone pear shaped early doors because the first time he ran he had the same problem as SPRINTER SACRE in that his heart was all over the place following what looked a disastrous run.

Bryan explained he was given time to recover from that and the second time he ran was simply to see if he had the all clear so, if you bet him on either occasion, you had little chance of success unfortunately.

Then came January and the win @ 25/1. Bryan doesn’t gamble himself unless he and his friend can get what he calls “our price”….25/1 or bigger. Even then, it’s a tenner and no more. He got 33/1.

He bolted in but came back with an abscess in a hoof and the farrier…who no longer works for him….made an unholy mess of it and it’s taken a lot of recovery time.

I asked him if he had another BLACK HAMBLETON for you and he said, “stick with him. He’s still plenty in hand and will win again. Another you can have is FLASH OF WHITE. He’ll improve again this season”

So, there you have it in black…and white!

The members of the syndicate were now starting to arrive and being invited into the kitchen and, as it filled, the warm pastries were piled onto the plates on the table, more coffee and tea were brewed and we got talking racing politics.

I asked Bryan why he thought the NH season just finishing had been so poor in terms of field size and quality. His simple answer was, “a lack of horses and bad prize money”.

Brian told those sitting around the table what he wanted to do about it, but he was called something rude by someone you’d not have expected it from…or perhaps you would….and it didn’t happen.

To then emphasise his point Bryan opened his Racing Post at the declarations page and highlighted Southwell in midweek as an example of what he meant. Five races had already been reopened because of the shortage of runners and I noticed that a top class race at Aintree this week coming has also been reopened.

It is something that those in the industry are all well aware of but seem powerless to do anything about because not everyone will pull in the same direction.

Time went quickly by during this conversation and I’d love to sit down with Bryan to discuss it further and hopefully I will.

The kitchen was now full to bursting and so it was right we all went out into the yard to see the horses parade, before going up onto the gallops.

There is plenty of room for viewing the horses as they are led around but getting a picture without a human head in it is difficult unless you have a “front seat”. I missed the break and so, I have heads!

The difference in the three horses since we last saw them is amazing. LADY HELLYN is still slightly up behind but she has depth to her now and looks like a racehorse. She is huge and has earned herself the nickname, “The Police Horse”.

HELOVAPLAN, my favourite, has turned into a real looker and he gives me a genuine chance of winning a bottle of scotch off John, the member from Dorset who has bet me that our grey girl turns out to be the best. Even he though took one look at HELOVAPLAN and said he thinks he’ll owe me a bottle!

After the parade we took a slow stroll up to the gallops, where our horses were set to come flying past us.

One by one they shot past us and as LADY HELLYN chased up the veteran of 27 races KYLLACH ME and Bryan let out a “wow” and declared that was the best piece of work she had ever done.

After they’d worked up their sweat we all walked back to the yard to see them parade one last time and Bryan declared himself really pleased with the work of LADY HELLYN.

She is a lovely grey and will give us some fun days out this season, as will ROYAL CELEBRATION, who whilst the smallest of our trio is not at all without some ability and as Bryan says, if he can find a couple of races for him to win this season, everyone will be happy.

The star of our show though will, I’m sure, be HELOVAPLAN and he showed what a lovely stride he has when flowing past us on the gallops and he was the one that drew most comments when parading.

Over the next few days I’ll update each horse page on the website with a a picture or two and some text regarding them.

Can I suggest that if you can make the next open day, you do so. A wonderful setting and in Vicki and Bryan we have two people that will make you feel welcome and appreciated.


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