State of the Hastings track for $200,000 feature key to starting prospects of outstanding mare.
Under normal circumstances Stephen Ramsay would be a fraction too young for grey hair.
We'll see if that's true at Hastings this afternoon.
Yesterday it was far from normal circumstances for the co-trainer of outstanding mare Guiseppina, one of the real chances in today's $200,000 Makfi Challenge Stakes if the track is reasonable.
And that's where Ramsay's problem lies - what will the state of the Hastings track be at 4.31pm today.
Guiseppina was yesterday quoted at $12 - if the track was firm she'd be a lot closer to $3 favourite.
The decision on whether the high-class mare even makes the trip to Hastings this morning will be taken only after a 7am track reading followed by a call by Ramsay to senior owner Peter Vela in Portugal. That will be tidied up just before the 7.30am scratching deadline.
"If the track is still slow in the morning, will it get back to dead by 4.30pm?" asked a frustrated Ramsay when the Weekend Herald called. "She's a real chance on a dead track and she'll be hopeless if it's still slow.
"If we make the decision to go and she proves hopeless in the conditions if the track doesn't improve we'll look like idiots. Everyone will be saying: Why are they there?
"And, if we decide not to go and the track improves through the day we'll be idiots as well.
"We're in a tight spot. If she doesn't run she won't be able to run in the mile [the 1600m $200,000 Windsor Park Plate on September 22].
"There is Melbourne. The Bobby Lewis [group three] is at Flemington next Saturday. James [McDonald] is adamant the straight 1200m at Flemington will be her ideal race.
"But then the weather in Melbourne hasn't been great either. I'm sick of looking at weather forecasts - they keep changing every day."
The frustration of having perhaps New Zealand's finest racehorse of her type and not being able to race her is not lost on Ramsay.
"Her work has been fabulous, but she's got to have decent ground."
One who won't mind if the conditions do not improve back from the slow 8 posted yesterday is Foxbridge Plate winner Fleur de Lune.
She has shown a great adaptability to cope with almost any track surface and, equally, to display a courage that makes her very difficult to get past in the closing stages of her races.
Given her lack of full fitness on the day there was something a bit special about her Foxbridge Plate victory.
Mufhasa shortened into clear $4 favourite yesterday ahead of Ocean Park on $5, Fleur de Lune $6.50 and a drop to Xanadu on $9. Guiseppina was a weakening $12 with Green Supreme and He's Remarkable at $14 and Fritzy Boy on $16.
Gary said he had no real idea how Ocean Park would perform if the track was slow.
"It's an unknown. I have been happy with the way he's galloped between races on raceday, but that's different to tackling a group one."
Hennessy says he's committed Ocean Park to an Australian campaign to the point he has pulled him out of the other two legs of the Hastings treble.
"He's going to Australia so he has to go around in this race. I'm hoping the fact he's stronger this campaign will help him get through the ground."
It meant a lot to Japanese jockey Masa Tanaka that it was James McDonald he fought out a tight finish with to land Danvega a winner over the favourite Del Mondo at Matamata midweek.
Tanaka only recently returned from a three-month riding stint in his native Japan and was keen to billboard his first return victory.
The underrated horseman had a tough job on his hands because the erratic Danvega needed plenty of help in the final 300m.
"He kept grabbing onto one rein," said Tanaka.
The popular horseman says it took a bit of again getting used to the security/integrity practice of locking jockeys up the night before the races.
"Where I was riding at Ooi, they generally race Monday through to Friday, which means if you have a ride every day, you are locked up from Sunday night to Friday afternoon."
Tanaka is looking forward to being reunited with some of the better horses he rode last season from Graham Richardson's Matamata stable.
The most interesting release from NZ Thoroughbred Racing this week was a document headed "NZTR Horse Welfare Guidelines".
The key tenets of this are:
(1) Reasonable steps should be taken to prevent unnecessary pain and distress of racehorses in breeding, racing and training by ensuring adequate care, a suitable diet, the ability to exhibit normal behaviour, appropriate housing, and protection from injury and disease.
(2) While horseracing carries risks, reasonable steps should be taken to prevent avoidable risks and research should be undertaken to reduce risks, and to share this information between participants in horseracing.
(3) In the context of these responsibilities it is recognised that properly conducted euthanasia can be a humane option for racehorses; for example, for individual horses with severe or chronic injuries, or where care would be inadequate and long-term pain and distress is likely to be the result.
There is nothing new in all that - most experienced trainers would regard that as going back to school for Year 1, but at least it spells it all out.
Which is all well and good, but where were the authorities who wrote the above when this writer penned a column asking for mercy for the great Sir Slick.
This column had so many "good onya's" for that, but a few smarties laughed behind their hands in ignorance and they can now hang their heads in shame after Slick - who should have monuments on every racecourse - went out a sick horse the way we hoped he wouldn't.
It's wonderful NZTR has guidelines for horse welfare, but it would be 20 times better if they action them.