Good morning all,
I hope this article finds you all safe and well, and hopefully not moving much from the confines of your own home, as Boris has told us that staying in is the new going out. If it helps defeat this wretched virus quicker and we can get back to some semblance of normal life, then I'm all for it.
As promised, I'll write once a week, and you'll see the first of my articles tomorrow, but as a bonus, my good lady will also do a weekly article on her favourite racing topics – pedigrees and bloodstock. She has been a little reluctant but with so much time on her hands, she has finally been persuaded! I hope you enjoy her articles over the coming weeks.
I’m not sure if you’d call it cajoled, coerced or mildly harassed but the fella has finally succeeded in making me write something!
It’s not that I hate writing, you understand, or even that I can’t string a sentence together. But I’ve never been terribly good at writing under pressure, to a deadline or because someone told me I had to – as sadly proved by my shoddy English degree – and that isn’t ideal for this task either! However, we live in strange times and so, currently jobless and unable to find enough other suitable diversion tactics, here I am.
“Write about bloodstock,” he said, “That’s your area of expertise.” He overstates this somewhat drastically but okay, yes, I’ve always been fascinated by the breeding angles of our great game and am guilty as charged as an amateur pedigree nerd. When asked at times over the years what my ideal job would be, the answer has invariably been Lottery Winner or, only slightly more realistically, matings planner for one of the major stud operations. Where have you been all my life Juddmonte/Coolmore/Darley?!
I grew up reading Tony Morris’ column in the Racing Post and learnt so much from him, not only analysing the pedigrees of many equine stars of the 1980s and 90s but also explaining other aspects of the breeding industry and what happens behind the scenes to enable the rest of us (until last week at least) to sit in front of the telly and enjoy a feast of racing day in day out. From nicks to the genetics of colour and markings in Thoroughbreds, Tony was my guru and the ultimate authority. His articles in the Post (Wednesdays, if I recall) were a must-read and one of the highlights of my week. All included in your bargain 25p a copy back then, even if you did have to trek to the local newsagent’s to pick it up! Pretty sure I was the youngest and most unlikely subscriber at ours in suburban Plymouth! I even wrote to Tony once or twice back in those days about a couple of things, I can’t remember what now but he did very kindly write back and answered my questions in all seriousness. I still have his letters somewhere…wow, letters: remember those?
Later the Post also brought in another weekly bloodstock feature, I wish I could recall who penned this because I loved and absolutely devoured it each week ! It was less about pedigrees and more about the workings of the breeding industry and life on a stud farm, and it opened up the secrets of a magical world to us, the great uninformed. How to transition a champion racehorse to a young stallion; how to get a mare in foal successfully; fertility issues; weaning; sales prep: basically all the stuff you wondered about and plenty more besides. I’ll never forget the article which focused on the previously-unimagined role of teasers, and how incredibly sorry I felt for them, even as a shy teenager! Those poor, patient, disappointed souls! As has been said on many occasions, if only there was some way of explaining to young racehorses why working hard and running fast is in their best interests in the long run, there’d be far less jibbers and geldings in the world!
As an aside, we enjoyed a fabulous tour of the National Stud last summer. It was the off-season apart from a few southern hemisphere-timed boarders so their stallions and teasers were on their hols. As we drove round the stud we saw a number of the latter out in their paddocks grazing, and some clearly – very clearly – still had plenty of interest in getting back to business as soon as! Just goes to show that there will always be a place in the (bloodstock) world for randy buggers!
Of course these days there are any number of resources out there for the casual fan, what with the internet and social media. It makes me feel a bit stone age comparing what was available then and now! If I can keep up with my homework for once, I’ll share a few more memories with you in the coming weeks about some of my favourites over the years and see if they stir any memories for you too.