Love At The Races
Ascot’s fixture on Valentines Day seemed somehow appropriate as three horse who I love were on show.
We saw another brave, battling performance from Lough Derg.
If horses won prizes for sheer guts then he would be head and shoulders above the others.
He seems to save his very best for Ascot but wherever he runs you know you will get maximum effort, especially if Tom Scudamore is on board. The pair of them together show the ultimate fusion of man and beast.
Lough Derg’s performance at Ascot on Saturday was the perfect illustration of his sheer guts over, arguably, the minimum trip for him.
Attacked on both sides in the final stages, after once again leading all the way, he still would not go down without a fight. Many horses would have folded in the circumstances but he just doesn't know how to give up.
In the closing stages he managed to get his head back in front of Dancing Tornado when headed by him and I am pretty sure given a few more yards he would probably have had a bl**dy good go at the eventual winner Serabad as well.
It is good to see connections campaigning him more sensibly this year. Last year in a quest to win the Order Of Merit he was over raced. It is full credit to the horse that last seasons really hard campaign did no long term harm to the horse.
Having eulogised about him so much I still cannot see him winning the World Hurdle at Cheltenham - I would rather see him go next to the Aintree Hurdle.
Of course should he go to Cheltenham and win the World Hurdle there will be nobody at the course with a broader smile than me, indeed I may even have a tear or two rolling down my cheeks.
Two more of my favourite horses were running at Ascot yesterday.
The first is Carruthers, a real star for the future and one to watch.
The other is the one who is probably destined to be my all time favourite horse ever – Voy Por Ustedes.
Voy Por seems to be a horse many are happy to slag off. OK he will never be a Kauto Star, a Dessie, Red Rum or Arkle and probably isn’t even worthy to nail on their shoes. However within his one sphere he is a consistent star.
He doesn’t have a brilliant strike rate, winning 13 of his 29 starts, it is better than most however. More importantly he runs to form and it is relatively easy to work out which races he will do well in and which he will not.
A champion at two miles it now seems his forte is around two and a half miles. He has fallen one and unseated twice in a 29 run career. He has run on going from good through to heavy, although good to soft looks to be his ideal.
Where he has been beaten it has been by runners such as Kauto Star and Master Minded.
Before the 1996 Arkle at Cheltenham I got on many peoples nerves by telling anyone who would listed to back Voy Por – luckily many did and I was quite popular for a few weeks. My bank manager was pretty happy as well.
The following year I was just as bullish about the Queen Mother Champion Chase and couldn’t believe the SP of 5/1. I must admit one of the advantages of following an unfancied horse is you can often get a decent price.
Last year he was trying for a Festival hat-trick. This time he was 5/2 favourite and we all know what happened next – he met this awesome beast called Master Minded, probably a once in a generation horse. Although next time out he turned the tables over 2m 4f.
Last Christmas he ran in the King George, coming third to Kauto Star and Alberta’s Run over a distance that was clearly too far for him.
This time, at Ascot, he was back down to 2m 5f but on, theoretically unsuitable, heavy going. He sluiced home in, what to my eye, was probably his best performance yet. His jumping was fluent and he seemed to be absolutely spot on.
Next time out will be the Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival where is 7/4 to record his third festival win. I am lucky I was on him, a few weeks ago, at a far better price.
Bring it on at a course he loves.
Isn’t it lovely to follow a sport where the participants find such a place in your heart?