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The Weekly Blog

Fish, Frogs and Good Horses

The paddock at Cartmel

There’s a saying on the West Coast of Scotland, that it only rains twice a year – once in April through to August and again from September until March.

2017 will go down in grounds-men’s history as one of those horrible years when the rain just keeps coming, the abandonment of the three-day Ayr Gold Cup Meeting creating a blank page in the form book for ever more. The fact that Ayr managed to race again this week, on Thursday, is a great achievement – but it will be no consolation to the ground-staff.

At Cartmel this week they misplaced the rain-gauge, lost beneath the flood in the Parade Ring. Fortunately there is also an electronic gauge on the roof of the grandstand, which remains above the waterline – much to the relief of everyone that works in the racecourse office.

But at least it isn’t raining frogs and fish, a phenomena which has been witnessed in many parts of the World and was first reported by Pliny the Elder more than two thousand years ago. Each year, in May or June, the people of Honduras host a special festival celebrating the raining of fish. According to Wikipedia legend, a Spanish priest witnessed how poor the locals were and prayed for three days and nights for God to provide them with food. Fish rained from the sky and have continued to do so every year – now the Festival de Lluvia de Peces is celebrated with a carnival and parade.

Despite God’s over-enthusiastic watering of racecourses in the west of the country, the wet Summer has not been without some benefits – although none that involve free fish suppers. The ground in training establishments all over the country has been soft enough for racehorse trainers to crack on with the schooling of horses over obstacles. And the going at Winter tracks has been ‘Good’ or softer without the need for irrigation – all of which means that the National Hunt season is fully underway and the best horses are already making an appearance.

When Forest Bihan won the two-mile chase at Kelso Racecourse last Sunday, he was one of six horses in the eight-runner field with an official rating of 140 or more and one of two sharing top-weight with a rating of 156. There’ll be few better chases staged before Christmas.

This weekend we’re taking a group of Kelso annual members down to Newton Abbot and Chepstow, where we’ll see one of last season’s top novice hurdlers, Finian’s Oscar, make his chase debut. The selection though, is River Frost in the Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at 4.10 pm.

The forecast for Chepstow races is for a dry day with sunny spells. But if it’s raining cats and dogs, we’ll just have to be careful not to step in a poodle.


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