Over The First Hurdle

After two National Hunt flat races Frodo (Whiskey Chaser) made his debut over hurdles in the Croxton Park Novices’ Hurdle race at Leicester on the 21st of January.

I’m happy to say that I finally got to watch him run in the flesh, and I wasn’t the only Syndicate member who travelled down to support him. A great turn-out ensured our jockey Henry Brooke wasn’t stood on his own in the parade ring.

One of the benefits of ownership is free entry to the course where your horse is running and use of the owners facilities. Usually this includes preferential car parking and entry into the owners suite. I’ve been to a few racecourses in my time but this was my first visit to Leicester, it’s safe to say the racecourse isn’t on the same level as Aintree or Cheltenham but it does have it’s own charm and I was impressed with the course and friendly staff.

My drive down to Leicester was slower than expected but I did arrive in time to watch Frodo pre-parade. As The Croxton Park Novices’ Hurdle was the first race on the card there wasn’t much time to look around the racecourse or get my bearings, I joined the other syndicate members in the parade ring to get a briefing from Jockey Henry Brooke. We enjoyed a joke or two about Henry’s recent acting exploits, you may have seen him in a TV commercial for this years Grand National! Thankfully, Henry is a much better jockey than he is an actor.

We couldn’t have asked for a better pair of hands to partner Frodo in his first hurdle race, Henry Brooke is the Conditional Jockey of the Year and the current Champion Conditional. His pre-race briefing was excellent and Mike Foster the Racing Manager from Deva Racing was on hand to answer any questions the owners asked.

In no time at all the bell rang signalling the riders and horses to make their way down to the start line. We made our way to the stands and took up a spot opposite the winning post (we’re an optimistic bunch!). However, our confidence was soon tested when the course announcer informed the crowd that one of the horses was running free, it felt like an eternity until the horse was named – it wasn’t ours, phew!

It’s difficult to explain the sense of nerves and excitement you’re subjected to as an owner, I can only liken it to watching your son take a penalty in a school cup final. Deep down you know this isn’t the World Cup Finals and it doesn’t matter if they miss, but you really want them to score.

Once the loose horse was remounted the race started and Frodo was soon up with the race leaders. After a few sketchy jumps on the first couple of flights he found a rhythm and was soon running past us in the stand, trailing the leaders but still going well. As the horses disappeared on the far side of the course I hoped he might stay on and land a place, we caught sight of them again as they turned into the long home straight. I heard the announcer mention ‘Whiskey Chaser’ and assumed he was still in the running, which he was. Yet, as they hit the two mile mark the leaders kicked on and put plenty of distance between them and Frodo. We watched as Sam Twiston-Davies on Cogry hit the finishing line first, followed by Saffron Wells, Come On Laurie, De Kerry Man and then Whiskey Chaser.

The general feeling amongst the owners after the race was really positive, after his slip in a NH flat race at Towcester it was great to see him get over the first hurdles. Henry was pleased with his run and said he would improve next time out, for now we’re all happy that Frodo is over that that all important first hurdle.