Winker finally returned to action, but it was a disappointment. He was seventh out of 16 in the Prix Jean Prat – a strong race, not disgraced but frankly I was hoping for a lot better.
There were excuses. He lost a shoe coming out of the stalls – he subsequently lost 3 or 4 lengths going round the bend. Pete’s first thought was that he just didn’t handle the bend, but Jamie Spencer subsequently suggested that the reason he didn’t cope with the bend was the lost shoe. If he had held his position he could have finished in the ruck for the minor places.
All a bit theoretical and there are no prizes for excuses. We’ve lost our unbeaten record which is a shame – it’s all the more important to come back and win now. It was asking a lot to come out and win a group 1 after such a long lay off.
I’ve had a fairly busy week so far. On Monday I played in a pro-celeb golf tournament – I played with Gabby and Kenny Logan and Chris Hollins. Other celebs included Dougray Scott, Ronan Keating, Jodie Kidd, Willie Thorne, Di Stewart, Rob Brydon, James Nesbitt, Gianluca Vialli and Johnny Vaughan.
I actually played quite well, and after 18 holes we posted comfortably the best score of the 18 teams. I assumed we’d win, but for some reason the winner was determined by a three hole play-off for the top five teams with only the best score counting. It was a rather odd way to do it – we got three pars but came fifth.
On Tuesday I had a board meeting at Stats on Sport. After this I headed off to Euston to catch the train to Crewe with Mick. We were picked up at the station by Nicky Vaughan, who drove us back to Manor House Stables.
Nicky is the installed trainer and runs the show, but the stables are owned by Michael Owen. Michael wasn’t able to come down as he is in pre-season training. Nicky gave us the full tour.
They are building two american style barns, each for 23 horses, to a very high spec – they already have one large barn, and this will take them to capacity for 80 horses. They weren’t quite finished but they were magnificent, built in traditional red brick. They were starting work on a third building, which included a substantial second floor lounge for owners.
We had a look at the seven furlong all-weather gallop and a large field where they are laying out a series of grass gallops. We went back to the house for dinner – we were greeted by Forrest the sheep that the Vaughans have adopted as their pet (with their two dogs).
Forrest was quite a character – not as bright as some pets but with plenty of attitude. Lynn, Nicky’s wife, explained that all of her attempts to house train him have backfired, and he does the exact reverse of what he is supposed to do. When they open the back door Forrest bolts through and immediately shits on the floor. Truly a sight to behold.
In the morning we watched the work. Lilac Moon had her first full gallop since her win, working with Rio L’Oren. She did it nicely, moving fluently and showing a good action. She’ll be out again soon, possibly over a mile and a half and on the turf. Shepherd’s Warning is recovering from a minor muscle problem and is just trotting at the moment – she’s not the biggest or the bulkiest, but she looked a very different horse to the weakling I claimed last year. Effingham is recovering from a variety of issues, including a gelding operation which he is over now. He has a residual problem with one of his hind legs and he doesn’t trot well – we’re hoping he’ll gallop ok with it though. He’s not over big but he has a lot of muscle – he could make a speedster if he can get it together.
We left around lunchtime and headed back to London. It’s an impressive set up and it’s nearly finished – I’ve no doubt they will deliver results when it’s fully functional.
I’ve had a bet in the Open on Graeme Storm. I think he has enough talent and I’m hoping the timing is right for him to come into the tournament with the right attitude.