Tarryn, Tim and Michael mentioned “relieved” when asked how it felt to have 80+ horses loaded and on their way to Johannesburg, additional trucks carrying no end of feed, tack, door boards, and staff close behind the massive semi trailers that pulled out of the Summerhill gates on both Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Others on the Ready to Run team said they were excited as the horses would soon be sold and bets were on as to which of the lots would be the top price for the farm.
Still others said they could now look forward to seeing the horses run, and they hoped it would be ‘their’ horse that they had looked after.
Whilst I am looking forward to the sale and the future race results as these horses embark on the next stage of their career, I confess I went against the grain and felt somewhat sad as I drove home and saw the open stable doors in the 4 blocks, staff emptying straw and scrubbing names from the door plates. The silence in the yards was eerie. Only 12 hours earlier I had been leaning on a stable door and watching one of the colts - Russian Revival ex Flying Magic. He had wandered over to assess who was annoying him and to accept a pat and I had tickled his nose with some rye grass and spent a long moment admiring the shine on his coat which was overwhelming even the gloom of the late dusk.
Ultimately I am just an outsider in the Ready to Race prep. I don’t work with these horses, educate them, ride them, nurse any injuries they may get, frown at their exuberance, curse them when they step on my foot, delight at their daily development, linger in their stall to give them an extra pat, and develop such a bond with them that I am reluctant to hand over the lead rein.
Having said that - and readily accepting that this is ultimately a commercial enterprise - when you write about a group of horses, see them everyday (even if just on their way to the track in the morning as you are returning from a meeting), photograph them frequently, and just spend time alongside paddocks and stables observing them and those who care for them it is very easy to be drawn to the personalities and the allegiances - and let’s face it, the hopes and dreams that attach to each of them.
As I photographed one of the strings walking to the floats yesterday one groom admonished me for not taking his horse’s photo.
“This horse will be a champion,” he said. “And you missed the chance to take a picture.”
It may well be a moment I live to regret.