Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Looking For Signs of Spring

Isn’t the weather ridiculous? They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb; this year it seems to have come in like a hibernating hedgehog and gone out like an antarctic penguin. 

The cold weather is causing all sorts of issues at the racecourse. Not only are numbers down for the camping rally organised at the track by the South Lancashire District of the Camping and Caravanning Association (and who can blame them), but we are struggling to get the grass to grow. All manner of track improvements, including quite a bit of drainage work, were carried out in the Autumn. But we are still waiting for the grass to germinate, despite sewing an especially hardy seed which is supposed to take root at temperatures as low as 2 degrees. 

In the meantime, I expect that many racehorse trainers are tearing their hair out too. One of the noticeable things in the parade ring at Cheltenham two weeks ago was how many horses still had their winter coats. As Spring approaches, horses lose their longer hair – leaving a glossier shiny, short, coat underneath. The changing of a horse’s coat often coincides with an uplift in its well-being, so it is an important factor in assessing the relative merits of horses as they parade before a race at the track. 

While some trainers have their horses jumping out of their skin, others are struggling to find their form and I suspect that the prolonged cold weather in some areas has something to do with it. Compare the success of Nigel Twiston Davies (13 placed horses, including 5 winners, from 24 runners in the last 14 days) to that of Donald McCain (4 placed horses and just 1 winner from 20 runners). I confess that I’ve backed horses trained by both trainers for the Grand National in just over a week’s time: Imperial Commander and Ballabriggs. I’ll be watching the runners from both yards very carefully over the next few days. 

One northern trainer that I know used to swear that his horses started running better when the daffodils came out in his valley, which was usually around mid-March. The daffodils at Cartmel are still tightly wrapped in their buds and there is no sign of flowering. Here’s hoping for a change in the climate before we start racing in May!


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