Sunday 18 March 2018

Patience pivotal as we bid to start firing once more

Snow covers the track at Kempton racecourse yesterday as a shortage of ambulances forced last night's meeting at the all-weather track to be called off
Snow covers the track at Kempton racecourse yesterday as a shortage of ambulances forced last night's meeting at the all-weather track to be called off

Tom Taaffe

Post Christmas should be all about Leopardstown and the now MCR Hurdle, formerly the Pierse/Ladbroke. I actually won four of them as a jockey so they must be easily won! Unfortunately, Sunday's card was in the lap of the gods (isn't everything?) all week and finally fell yesterday, but, with a bit of luck, it will soon be rescheduled.

We are trying to move on from the "recession" word and no better way than to be in our domain on Christmas morning because, wherever Santa is from, believe me, there is no recession... Pat, almost eight, and Alex, six, don't give a s*** about the recession and obviously their mother, Elaine, doesn't either! In fairness, that's what it's all about -- health and happiness.

So Happy New Year and Happy Birthday to all horses. Our horses have been running poorly and, despite blood results and lung washes being okay, we still have a problem. The best solution in these instances is always patience and time mixed with some boosters to the horses' systems.

Given that they are still shaking off the effects, the big freeze couldn't have come at a better time for us. All we are able to do at the moment is a bit of trotting and hacking on the gallops, and make use of the horse-walkers and indoor arena to keep them ticking over.

That suits us fine for now, so the loss of the race meetings isn't disrupting us too much. Hopefully, we will fire again from February onwards. There are always a few horses that escape from under the clouds and, once we have any races being run, they will be out again.

With three inches of snow on most of our gallops -- hence the quill in my hand! -- we don't start proceedings at present until 9.0 each morning. As you can imagine, the staff are happy with a lie-in, and to get the work done and finish a little earlier as well. We are lucky, Elaine and I, as we have a good staff who deserve their little enforced rest -- and snow fights as well.

Whether Arkle or Kauto Star is the better horse seems to be the main source of debate at the moment, and it also seems to be the question most frequently asked of me lately. They are two different horses in two different eras and both are true champions, trained and ridden by special people.

Yes, racing has changed and training methods have also, but we should realise that these horses don't grow on trees and enjoy all of their brilliance while we can. Being from the Taaffe family, naturally I have heard all about Arkle since the cradle -- literally. I was born in 1963 and his first Gold Cup win was in 1964. Indeed, having sat on him at four years of age, I always felt he was the best horse I ever sat on.

He ran 35 times, won 27 and was only unplaced once in his whole career. He gave weight -- two-stone and upwards -- to a number of very good horses on six or eight occasions and came home alone.

Kauto Star is brilliant. Watching Kempton, seeing him win by 35 lengths, was special and what Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh have achieved doesn't happen by accident.

Ultimately, changed times and modernisation of racing and race-planning mean that more level-weights races are now available, so we will never again be able to properly compare any horse or horses to Arkle. But one thing is for certain, if your name was Taaffe, and you heard all the stories from the yard and the jockey, you would be pretty sure that there was never going to be another Arkle.

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