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     Christmas Wishes from Pond House

It has been a frustrating week since last writing with the weather wiping out all the jumps racing and therefore any runners from Pond House. I read an article in the Racing Post with Gary Moore venting his frustrations on the jumps season so far, saying it has been one of the most difficult since he first took out his licence in 1993. They, like us are having a good season on the winner’s front but the weather is just making everything difficult. We have had such a dry winter so far and then the frost has caused so many abandoned fixtures it is difficult for everyone involved. The work continues at home but it has been very difficult to make too many plans with so many question marks caused by the weather.

As we all know, there is not a lot we can do about Mother Nature bar cope with it the best we can. Temperatures dropped to minus 8c a couple of nights last week and temperatures didn’t get above freezing on some days. While we are very lucky with our facilities at Pond House everything is just more hard work for everyone. Our stables have automatic drinkers but when the pipes get frozen, out come the water buckets and that is a time consuming job. When the thaw comes we also have to watch out for burst pipes but thankfully that has not been too much of a problem as the temperatures rose during Sunday. While we didn’t have any snow, tractor man Mike and travelling head lad Bob worked on our gallops through the night on the coldest days to ensure the wood chip and the sand gallop could be kept in use. They did a great job and the horses were kept to their normal routine. We do have our indoor canter as back up but it was not needed in the last few days. The horses wear exercise sheets in this cold weather to keep their muscles warm and the staff have plenty of layers on to!! We do access our woodchip gallop by going on the road for about 1/3 of a mile but we salt that ourselves and this did not cause any issues.  In general, I think the racecourses have done well during this cold spell. Communication has been good and early inspections do at least mean we all know where we stand, even if it is not what we want in an ideal world!

This week

Looking ahead to this week hopefully we have a few runners. Red Happy returns to calmer waters and runs at Ludlow on Tuesday while on Wednesday we have three at Lingfield and five runners at Taunton.  Extra meetings have been put on Hereford on Wednesday and Ffos Las on Thursday due to all the recent abandonments and while we did have entries at Hereford we did not declare any of them to run in the end. I think this is great to have them on but still don’t fully understand why we can’t do it a bit more like they do in Ireland. They lose a meeting and literally the whole card is re-arranged for a few days later, just look at Punchestown on Monday. While I know things aren’t always as simple as they may look from the outside, I do wonder why this cannot be done more often. While it is great they saved the Long Walk hurdle from Ascot’s Christmas meeting and it will be run on Boxing Day at Kempton, why can’t more races be done like this? We have lost a lot of good races in the last couple of weeks and for some horses they do not have many opportunities. A bit closer to home, Thomas Mor was due to run at Cheltenham in a nice 3 mile novices hurdle which was lost. Believe it or not, there are very limited races now available for him. The handicapper will not give him a rating and wants to see him run again, the Cheltenham race was ideal. There are hardly any races over his distance coming up and they did put on a normal novices hurdle on in the extra Hereford card but he had to carry a double penalty and it would have been tough to give weight away at a course which is probably not ideal. We decided not to run in the end and so he may step up in class for the Challow hurdle at Newbury at the end of the month.

Jockey Retirements

It would not be right not to mention the big news of the weekend which was of course the retirements to top jockeys Frankie Dettorri and Davey Russell. Both came as shocks but is probably not surprising given their ages. Frankie is having a kind of farewell tour and will ride in 2023 while Davey retired with immediate effect having partnered Liberty Dance to win at Thurles. While one is probably more well known outside of the racing world than the other , both our top class horse men who have done wonders for our sport in their different disciplines. While their career records speak for themselves I have the pleasure of knowing Davey and he is a thoroughly nice chap. Frankie Dettori had one ride for my father, over hurdles would you believe!! The horse was Gold Medal, and Frankie finished fourth on him over hurdles at Chepstow claiming seven pounds!! It was a jump jockey’s v flat jockeys hurdle race in October 1992 and Frankie wore the colours of the Martin Pipe Racing Club - the same silks we use today for the David Pipe Racing Club!! A bit of racing trivia for you all!! 

Lapland

Leanne took Sophie and Martha to Lapland last week to see Father Christmas and they had a great time. Jack and I stayed at home as we have been before but it was Martha’s first time and she loved every minute. We thought it was cold here but it was -30c on one day that they were in Finland but that did not hinder their fun. A reindeer sleigh ride and husky ride were particular highlights. Myself and Jack had an evening tenpin bowling one night the girls were away. Jack gave me a good run for my money but I showed him how it was done, although I’m sure it won’t be too long before he is beating me!!

Christmas Party

This week there are nearly 50 of us heading to a local Wellington restaurant for our Christmas meal on Thursday. We have pre-ordered our food and it as great we have a good turnout. I am sure everyone will have a good night and I shall report back next week how it all goes!! 

Christmas Timetable

Christmas falls on a Sunday this year but the yard will continue to operate pretty much as normal in the coming days. Christmas Eve will be a normal half day for the staff. There is no racing and so everyone will get finished up at lunchtime and then probably head to the pub for a drink to celebrate Gerry Supple’s birthday!! The staff who’s weekend to work will be back to do evening stables and then on Christmas morning, about half of the staff will be in to ride the horses and get all the jobs done before it’s time for Christmas Dinner. I for-see a very busy Boxing Day on the runners front for the stable and so it will be all hands to the pump very early on a Monday morning. The same goes for the bank holiday on Tuesday 27th but we all work hard for these big days and if we can get a winner or two over the Christmas period it makes everything worthwhile.

Happy Christmas

This is my last writing before the big day and I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading my blogs and supporting Pond House throughout the year. I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas, eat, drink and be merry!!