We’ll Meet Again, Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When!
The battle against the dreaded Coronavirus has been compared to World War 2, though on this occasion every single country in the world has united in the quest to conquer this invisible but deadly enemy.
Those who have been forced to self-isolate have already been in one battle, but take away the inevitable boredom and it is a struggle that none of us can afford to lose, not just for the sake of the sport of horse racing but, more important, for survival itself and for the huge debt which we owe every one of those brave NHS workers.
It has been a torrid time for racing, what with the wettest winter on record being followed by this killer virus and while we counted our blessings that we managed to get through Cheltenham before the BHA brought the curtain down, Alan concedes that the last jumps season was one which he will gladly forget.
And it is not as if we can brush ourselves down and declare it is “onwards and upwards” as who knows when racing will be given the all-clear to resume.
In his final Racing Post Weekender column this week, Alan said:”It is very strange as it is impossible to guess when we might be back in business, but we are exercising the horses and carrying on as normal.
“You cannot just lock the horses away and forget about them – they still need to be looked after and when racing does eventually start back we have got to be ready to roll.”
The spirit at Barbury is A1, and the attitude of everyone is hugely positive, with social distancing a refreshing sight, and though none of us wanted racing to be shut down, one look at the outside world and the escalating numbers of lost lives meant that it had to come.
Reflecting on the truncated 2019-20 jumps season, Alan said:”Goods riddance would be the two words that spring to mind. It was such a miserable winter – the wettest in my time as a trainer – and horrible testing ground virtually from start to finish.
“We never really got going through the whole campaign, and we were about 100 runners down as we kept a lot of horses back so that they would be fresh for a spring campaign on good ground, which never materialised and obviously won’t happen now.”
Harambe‘s Greatwood Hurdle success at Cheltenham in November was one of the few highlights, and it was good to hear that he might even race again this season.
Alan added:”He was on the heels of the leaders when he got brought down in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February, and, though he returned home somewhat bruised and battered, he is fine now and has been cantering away for the past few weeks.
“Harambe was never going to be ready in time for Cheltenham, but he would have made Aintree and we will keep him going just in case there is a resumption in May.
“We have yet to decide whether to stick to hurdling with him next season or switch to fences in the autumn, but I feel he’ll definitely make a chaser when the time comes and he is one to look forward to for next season.”
Sceau Royal left Barbury to return home for his summer holidays on Tuesday, but you can write off his season as it seemed that every time Alan entered him the heavens would open. Fingers crossed we get a drier 2020-21 campaign.
Another good ground horse is Talkischeap, who had a wind operation early on last season and was then unlucky to encounter a mudbath everywhere he went.
The abandoned Grand National was always the prime target for Talkischeap and will again be so next season, while also Aintree-bound will be Dingo Dollar, with Alan taking the view that his bold jumping and aggressive style of racing would make him ideal for the National fences, though in his case the Topham Trophy over the shorter trip is the ultimate target.
And Alan plans to find out whether Dingo Dollar is up for the challenge of those big Liverpool fences by running him first in the Grand Sefton Chase at Aintree next autumn.
Alan also thinks that Deyrann de Carjac, who fractured a knee at Cheltenham but whose prognosis suggests he will make a full recovery, could be a smart two and a half mile chaser next season, while he also put in a favourable word for Lisp.
Earmarking the Paddy Power Gold Cup as a possible early target, Alan said:”Lisp took well to chasing and for a novice he ran very well in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham, though he was always in top gear there and looks the sort who will do better when he goes up in trip. Remember, he has only run four times over fences.”
Meanwhile, Alan, who enjoyed such a lucrative Flat season last year, will have plenty of runners on the level when racing resumes, including The Glancing Queen, who will go down that route, having been denied the chance to win another Aintree bumper.
Alan said:”The Glancing Queen went through the stalls last Saturday and will be ready to roll when racing gets the green light. She has plenty of speed and could be quite exciting, and we made the same switch successfully with Elgin a couple of years ago. He, too, will return to the Flat before he reverts to jumping, and he could be interesting as I am sure the engine is still there.”
So for now it is farewell. Here’s hoping it will be sooner rather than later before we can welcome racing back, and when the sport we all love so much does return everyone at Barbury will be raring to go.