Weblog: The wife of leading all-weather trainer Alan McCabe with her weekly diary.
Upping the pace as old favourites leave the yard
IT has been quite some time since I last wrote a blog, although it doesn't really feel that long to me.
The festive season came and went without great incident and 2012 has begun well enough. We have had a decent number of winners and a good few runners who have been placed or exceeded expectations on the track.
We are currently operating a reduced string, having sold a number of horses recently, many of whom have been among our tally of winners this winter.
It is a shame to have to sell winners, but the market for them is a little better than in recent years and sometimes cashing in the chips is the only way to go.
Things have been stepping up in the yard too and lots of those who have been resting over the winter are well and truly back in work. The two-year-olds we have are doing a good bit now and beginning to sort themselves into the precocious and the not-so-precocious.
We have a couple who are impressing us as early types, but I won't be backing any when they do turn pro because early two-year-olds just can't be trusted.
I really like how some of last year's two-year-olds have
matured over the winter. Sehnsucht and Sans Loi look magnificent, as does Caspar who coped with being forced to take a holiday quite well although he is far happier to now be back in work.
Alex was very pleased when Babu returned from his holiday two days before Caspar was due to resume work, because riding him was a task she feared may have been delegated to her.
Caspar is very lovely and we all adore him, but nobody else would have been putting their hat into the ring to be the
one to have to ride him - he was a little bit fresh and Babu's quiet, confident handling of him is a hard act to follow.
One horse I have been sorry to see go recently was Desert Strike who has gone to Charles Hills and raced at St Moritz a couple of weeks ago. I was really pleased he ran well for his new connections, finishing third on the snow and following up with a good second at Lingfield a week later.
He was a particular favourite of mine and, had I not needed
to, would not have sold him at all. There is no profitability in owning the horses in your yard - they are expensive creatures to keep and it would have been hypocritical of me to have nagged Alan to disperse his interests but hung onto my own.
This is our business, not our hobby and there is little enough money to be made as a trainer without using your meagre profits to subsidise keeping horses of your own because then you
will quickly find a deficit in your balance sheet. It is the fastest
way to put a trainer out of business as, sadly, many before us have discovered (and many more will).
I can understand the trainer's reticence in letting someone else buy his or her horse - trainers live in fear of selling a potential Derby winner for a paltry sum or (worse) to someone who takes it away from them to win races for another trainer.
However, for every one good horse that slips through the net, there will be dozens of moderates who eat the same amount of food and rely on the same number of staff to care for them and this is not conducive to longevity in business.
On a different note, the prospect of Cheltenham looms large and, although we are unlikely to be represented with runners ourselves, I have made Alan promise that we will go this year.
I love Cheltenham and feel it embodies all I love about racing. The heroics of horse and rider cannot be bettered and every race stirs the soul, reminding us that this is a sport, not just a betting medium.
As far as I can remember, I have never cried because I won a fiver on a slot machine, but seeing a driving four-way finish up the hill at Prestbury Park with each battle-hardened equine warrior refusing to admit defeat is something that moves me every single time, regardless of financial investment.
We worship these heroes of the turf, we wear scarves in their colours and make up songs about their races. Inevitably, I will
come home with less money in my pocket but I will still be far richer than before. Bring it on.