mardi 17 janvier 2012

Sunrise, claimed

Annie Casteu and Sunrise at Deauville, January 2

Today, I have another lesson to learn in horse racing: how to let the horse I appreciated most leave the stables. Satwa Sunrise came from the fall sales at Newmarket in October especially for the winter season in Cagnes-sur-Mer, like Fortunateencounter for Annie before her, and, like Fortunate, she was claimed before she had a chance to run for Gina and Annie on the Côte d'Azur. However, while Fortunate was claimed right before she was to leave, Sunrise was claimed in her third race on French soil, the last claimer in which she needed a place to qualify for handicaps after a promising 9th place showing in a strange finish at Deauville on December 21, a run to a thrilling second place in Deauville again on January 2, and, then, yesterday, on the opening day of the winter season in Cagnes-sur-Mer in the Prix des Bouches du Loup, a 2400 meter claimer at 15,000 and 20,000 euros for horses 4 years old and older in which she placed a very decent 5th. 

Gina had put her in at the higher price, which put another 2 kilos on Sunrise's back, for a total of 3 more than she carried in her second place finish, the rule of thumb being a place a kilo, and she beat Dolce Bambina all over again, and outpaced some horses valued at 38 and over. got it pretty right their their comment to betters: "Il a manqué de peu sa cible pour ses premiers pas sur notre sol."

Sol qui est, après tout, le sien.

Dolce Bambina, Deauville January 2

The fact that she hadn't missed her target by much in her first outings back in her native country didn't escape many eyes, including those of Senonnes trainer Patrick Monfort, who claimed her for 21,355 € yesterday. A healthy sum, when you consider that she was sold for barely 2,000 € as a "bleeder", trained in England on Lasix, and has recently brought home winnings of some 6,300 €, without the drugs. Add it all up, and Sunrise has far more than paid her two months training expenses at 55 € a day, and, suddenly, Monsieur Montfort has become a lot more interesting to me. Not because I intend for him to train any horse in which I might be so fortunate to have a participation -- no, Gina will do that -- but because he will be carrying on the training of this horse Gina felt sure could run to win, and do it in good health.

Leaving Deauville after champagne, Annie said to me, "They won't claim Sunrise from me, not after what happened the last time," the "last time" being Fortunateencounter. Unfortunately, Annie was not clairvoyant.

Fortunate has gone on to have an impressive career in steeplechase, with Gina having the rueful experience of being known as the trainer who spotted and lost this horse before she had a chance to do anything for her, and, now, Patrick Montfort and whoever her new owner are are the ones who will benefit from Gina's eye, horse sense and training with Sunrise.

Monfort has some 70 horses in training for some 35 owners at his yards, and he has just added Sunrise. I can't help wondering if it weren't Gerard Augustin-Normand, whose horse Bearheart ran to a fairly disappointing 8th place finish in the first race of the afternoon at Deauville the day Satwa Sunrise took 2nd by a nose from Dolce Bambina. Gina told  herself and me that day that Sunrise wasn't likely to be claimed. "The French," she said, looking back at me over her shoulder as we passed the rond de présentation heading from the scales room to Sunrise's box , "are cautious. They like to see how the horse will do in a third race before claiming him."

I'd say Gina were prophetic, except what she is is just plain smart.

I had that to think about while I walked with Fia back from the garagiste, where we'd just left the Fiat for a diagnosis of its many ills. It's time, once again, for the biennial contrôle technique, and, this time, it might just not be worthwhile to fix her up for another two years on the road. I hope not, though. I am a little attached to it. It makes me feel not like I am too poor to have a nicer car in which to toodle around town, but that I am young and too poor to have a nicer car in which to toodle around.

It was cold again this morning. Colder, perhaps, than even recent mornings, when the temperatures have been well below zero for the first time this particularly warm and clement winter. It happened the morning Gina climbed into her car and drove down to Nice. Again, I'd say that she is prophetic, except that what she really is is just plain smart.

Still, I love winter. I'll take frost if I cannot get snow.

Fia and I quit the roads and her leash as quickly as we could and cut across the fields up on the ridge, shimmering with frozen dew in the low morning sun. Fia surprised a hare and chased it through the tall weeds, but Fia is no Saluki, and, so, certainly no match for a hare. No sooner had I started after her up the short, low rise beyond which their two pairs of ear disappeared than I saw her reappear, bounding toward me from the bright light, her mouth, as I expected, empty of hare. We continued on our way, Fia darting about, sniffing at the trails she might follow with her sharp nose, had I not set our course for the pleasantest shortest route home, I wishing I had brought my camera. I had, instead, chosen to leave it at home, telling myself Just for once, enjoy your walk rather than photographing it.

But, I could have argued back, I enjoy my walk, photographing it, but I didn't. Instead, I walked on home, got my camera and loaded Fia into the BMW wagon to go and photograph that most wintry and loveliest part of our morning walk, and I thought about Sunrise, and how I had nearly been prophetic, stopping often at Sunrise's box the night before she left Maisons-Laffitte for Cagnes. We had our chance to say our good-byes, Sunrise pressing her nuzzle into my own, and blowing softly into my ear.

I wonder if Annie got her ride.

So, 'bye, Sunrise. I'll be following you, and don't be surprised if some heart-shaped sugar arrives for you in Montfort's yards, from Annie, or from me.

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