Remember the excellent set of articles provided for us by Phil Boyle the owner of the Nicky Henderson trained Oscara Dara? By his own admission it had been a bit on the quiet side from him at the back end of the season with regards blog articles but if I’m honest I wasn’t too surprised by that. Oscara Dara went from a lengthy period of inactivity to a 6 week spell where he slotted in 3 runs, consisting of 2 wins and an excellent 4th place in an Aintree Grade 1. The whirlwind period of activity gave Phil little time to put his guest-blog-posting-hat on!
The dust has now settled, Phil has come down from his Oscara Dara induced high (well only slightly!) and is back in the guest blogging groove.
Phil has gone for a rather different approach to his previous blogs and personally I think this makes for excellent reading, a sort of ‘in my shoe’s for a day‘ approach.
Over to you Phil…
Owners Insight – End of Term Report
When I last wrote a piece, I promised some other articles contrasting life with a small v’s a big trainer and the preparation that is undergone by a top jockey. I am afraid I got a bit overtaken by events. Oscara Dara had three runs inside about 6 weeks and there were masses to do in sorting out racing arrangements and keeping all the partners informed of what was going on.
On top of this, things went crazy at work and I started playing in an amateur golf tour which has taken me away for several weekends. Thankfully the four day Jubilee weekend has allowed me to make a dent in the to-do list and I thought I would break radio silence.
As you might be aware we had an exciting if compact season with Oscara Dara, visiting Sandown Park on Grand Military Day and then Aintree on Ladies Day and Punchestown on the Friday of the festival.
I have hatched a bit of a plan here to put you all into my shoes for the day. I have recorded the bare facts of the day in race reports on my website, but I thought it might be fun to try to use a different technique to capture some of the emotions of the day. Not so much a ‘what was happening’ as much as a ‘what I was thinking and feeling’ about what was happening. Not sure how well this will work, but hopefully some of you might be interested?
All feedback gratefully received, leave me a comment below and thanks Ben for giving me the opportunity to share this with you…
Friday 9th March – Sandown Park – SSAFA Forces Help “National Hunt” Novice Hurdle
All season long I have been looking forward to the Cheltenham Festival and now here I am five days before the Champion Hurdle and thoughts of Prestbury Park are far removed from my mind. That reminds me, I read a funny “Cheltenham Glossary” yesterday and the entry for “Prestbury Park” read “name used by pretentious people as an alternative to Cheltenham”. I especially liked the entry “National Amphitheatre – see Prestbury Park” – that made me chuckle! Anyway like I said, not even thinking about it, as Oscara Dara makes his seasonal debut in the novice hurdle at Sandown this afternoon…
What was I thinking, coming to work this morning was obviously a big mistake. I am spending more time trying to drag my head out of horse racing and into my job and just as I think I have achieved focus, someone pops round to my desk to ask “how are you expecting the horse to run this afternoon?”…
Lunchtime… Finally! I thought this morning would never pass, I am sure the clock was on go-slow! Off to my mate Tony’s house to get some bets on as my wife Sarah needs another hour in the office. What’s this, one of the tipsters I get emails from has tipped Oscara Dara. Surely he can’t know something I don’t…. can he?
Can’t get over receiving a tip for my own horse! Especially so after Nicky made it pretty clear a couple of days ago that he does not expect us to beat Zama Zama, his other runner in the race. Too funny – perhaps I should drop the guy an email and ask what he is playing at?
Here we are then, Sandown Park… So this is what the inside of the Owners and Trainers looks like! I was a member here for years and never got to come in here. Now try to drink this coffee calmly without letting the nerves take over. I don’t want to be walking around with coffee down my front all afternoon. Perhaps it is a good job I have bought a new long black coat. At least it might hide coffee stains!
Wow – Princess Anne is doing presentations. Maybe I will have a photo of me mixing it with the Royal’s later. Here I go again dreaming of what might happen instead of expecting the likely. Get a grip son; keep building your hopes up and you are only going to be disappointed.
Just met Nicky [Henderson]. Am I imagining this or is his suddenly more bullish about our chances than he was earlier in the week? I’m sure I am not imagining it; he definitely indicated that Oscara could certainly win if he is straight enough and earlier this week he was pretty adamant that he would need the run. Are these other races ever going to finish? Last race of the day seems such a long way away.
Finally time to head over to the pre parade ring! Our lad, Alex, is fairly buoyant and thinks OD will give a good account of himself. Starting to feel a shade optimistic now, but I still think he is plenty short enough given that everyone is in agreement that he will improve for the run.
I have just been introduced to Michael Buckley in the paddock. He jokes that his horse is only there to make the running for Oscara Dara! Michael seems like a really nice guy and I must admit that I am a bit surprised that someone that has so many horses still comes to Sandown on a cold Friday afternoon to see a single runner in a fairly ordinary novice hurdle. I am impressed… he must really enjoy his racing, especially as he has a few bigger fish to fry in the next week! I hope Finians Rainbow can give him the Grade 1 success that he deserves next week in the Champion Chase.
David Bass is instructed to settle Oscara Dara and to follow the leaders and then let him run his race. No hard time to be given if his chance is gone. Nicky admits that he thinks the favourite is a good horse and the only question is whether our lad is fit enough and classy enough to be even better. With that David is legged up and off to the start. Owners disperse to favourite viewing spots and I am left with Sarah, my sister Cath and our friend Simon. Not sure what to expect or what a good performance will look like, here’s hoping I will know after the race, as the tapes are up.
Oscara follows the leaders in midfield for most of the way and moves smoothly round the outside on the final bend. They are in the straight and things are looking encouraging, surely he is certain to be in the first three and that seems a decent result. Heading to the second last and Zama Zama is under pressure. Cousin Khee the favourite and Oscara are still going well. Second to a decent horse will be even better!
They are over two out and David looks like he asking Oscara Dara to quicken, we are in with a real shout here… suddenly I am struggling to believe my eyes, this is starting to look like not ‘could he win’ and more like ‘how far could he win by’!? Please don’t fall at the last, don’t fall, don’t fall, HE’S OVER! Jumping up and down like a madman, hugging Sarah and trying to get rid of the lump in my throat and the tears welling up in my eyes. Relief mixes with jubilation – I persuaded all these guys to get involved in ownership… surely they will now feel that this makes it all worthwhile?
Down to the winners enclosure picking up BG Racing owners along the way, “Not bad was it?” is exchanged as we all attempt measured and calm when the grins and quiet fist clenches give away true feelings. What a rush! David reports that Oscara Dara travelled really well and could have probably produced more if needed. 20 lengths to the good and there was more in the tank! Nicky seems shell-shocked, I get the impression that he thought Oscara was going to be a good horse, but he was not expecting him to show it quite so emphatically today. The phone is going crazy. Some of the callers and messages are from people I would not have expected to notice or care and it is really touching to receive their support. I call our former trainer and now my good friend Alan who is chuffed to bits and already talking of pitching him into decent company straight away. Nicky seems to be of the same opinion, not much of the season left to run, but we certainly need to find one or two more opportunities for him now.
The course has gone quiet save for a few hardened drinkers, but the photo stand is still doing good business as the BG Racing owners all want their memento of the day! One by one they leave all thanking me as they depart. It does not seem right to point out that I am as thrilled as they are and that I played no part in the victory, so I just tell them that they are welcome and that I will see them soon.
About two hours since the race and I am still buzzing. We should be off home, but Sarah feels the same way as me, so we join Tony and his wife Vicki who are meeting some friends that we also know in the pub in Leatherhead. The group are keen to hear our story, but around the pub other groups are enjoying a post work pint or are meeting for a night out. Normal people doing normal stuff, on a day that feels about as far from normal as I can imagine!
Brilliant stuff from Phil I’m sure you will all agree. There will be more from him on the Oscara Dara experience soon.
Thanks as always to Phil for his excellent article and there is more on the BG Racing partnership on Phil’s own Blog – http://bgracing.wordpress.com