jeudi 16 février 2012

A Surrey Storm rolled into Cagnes-sur-Mer

Strictly Rhythm and Fabien Lefebvre
Cagnes sur Mer, Feb 2, 2012

What did you say? What's that you say?
Milly ran a good race today?

Yes, Strictly. She did. Your stablemate acquitted herself with aplomb and stuck a peg in the wall and drew herself up closer to the mark set by her illustrious lineage. Papa Montjeu aurait eu un oeil larmoyant pour sa fifille, la petite filly Milly. The Fleet Fairy (my nickname for her; she belongs to a group of three others) had made herself worthy of her eponymous paternal great grandmother, dam to her sire's father, Sadler's Wells, Fairy Bridge's pride this time, feet flying over the fiber sand.

Well, I'll be.

And so will I, Strictly. So will I.

Milly, as she's known in trainer Gina Rarick's yard in Maisons-Laffitte, drew the inside spot on the rail. She made a good break from the starting gate, and Fabien let her out, working into her stride into third and then fourth on the backstretch, along the Mediterranean seaside drive. The horses were stretched out and she was on the camera side, affording a good view of her work. She looked lovely. With nice action, fluid, she made it look easy. She was holding her own, but they would head into the far turn on this 2000 meter race, and then things would start to get serious coming out of the last turn to the backstretch. 

I was on an important phone call. I realized I had dialed at the wrong time only after my director answered. I had to continue the discussion and pretend my mind was fully on the issue, and I lost track of her between the turns. Then, there she was, in the sudden traffic jam that's the jockeying for position (now you know from where that phrase comes) for the homestretch, still near the rail, but the horses behind were surging, making their bid. I held my breath and listened to my director talk, dying to call out to Milly. 

C'mon, girl! C'mon! Don't stop; don't let up! 

I listened to my director, my eyes on the screen, my breath sucked in and held. Milly. The pack was beginning to stretch across the track, several abreast. The lead horses had a clear path to the post. Would Milly not give up only to get stuck? There was a hole, a safe hole. Fabien raised his crop and brought it down on her withers. I held my breath.

The surge around her continued; it was chaos, my director spoke, and I willed myself to concentrate better on two wholly separate and simultaneous things; Fabien brought the crop down again against her withers, and I swore I could see Milly, Surrey Storm, make a decision.

Once more, and she was clear, running, head down and stretched forward up the homestretch. I was answering my director, willing Milly, she was there with another horse, just behind the leaders, and then another horse drew up along the outside in the last 100 meters. She wasn't slowing down; she was running harder, if anything. It almost looked like she would pass the post in clear fourth position. 

Milly! I cried to the horse on the TV. I spoke to my director on the phone.

The horse on the outside, it had to have been the number 6 horse Tangoka -- I'd have known, if only I could have paid proper and full attention -- was pulling ahead and still Milly was leaning into her bit, giving up nothing, giving everything she had, and they crossed the post. I listened to my director, speaking now, and I was certain I had seen her in fourth position, just a nose ahead of Tangoka. I typed "4TH" to one of her owners in California and hit send. It was 5:30 am there. Then, Equidia posted the results: 1 - 2 - 5 - 6 FF 7.  I typed "FF" and hit send. And then the last two numbers reversed. Milly was officially fifth, a half a nostril behind Tangoka, and within two lengths of the winner, IX Elle, ridden by Ioritz Mendizabal. I typed "5TH" and hit enter and finished my conversation. 

I had a race report to write for one of her owner's, his eyes en France devant le téléviseur, when I cannot be at the track.

"Looks like we have us a race horse" came the reply.

Looks like it. It does indeed.

Milly with exercise jockey, Agata
Maisons-Laffitte, Nov 26, 2012

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