Yesterday morning, I went along to Kempton to watch a few horses trained by Amy Weaver. Some were out to be sharpened mentally, others to be prepared more specifically for forthcoming breeze-up sales.
I like to do this now and again. It is always great to talk to trainers away from the pressures of raceday. In effect, the racecourse is their office and they tend to behave in a corresponding, conservative fashion.
Sometimes, a significant insight comes from these settings, either about the person or their methods. This may even help to improve the intuition of a writer in general - the process I described with regard to Tom Segal in the last post.
Most of all, meeting Amy reminded me of how determination can come in different packages. Some trainers are extroverted in this regard - a good example being Jeremy Noseda. They wear a bristling ambition and exhibit a sharpness of mind which is expressed through highly focused behaviour.
Others, like Amy, have what I would describe as a more subtle drive and fluid interest. They present themselves as being easier to engage in ideas common to more than one experience of racing.
You can read about her background here and find a young woman who has impressed at the various stops during her racing education.
During our conversation, she told me she owned copies of both Bioenergetics and Handicapping Speed and was fascinated by both. You may find this rather startling from one of the training profession. It speaks of a genuinely lively mind open to learning not just from the received wisdom of trusted peers but also through the channel of her own, separately nourished intelligence.
As a result of ordering Handicapping Speed, Amy has even begun an e-mail conversation with the author Charles Carroll. She is more than bright enough to apply some of Carroll's brilliant and esoteric ideas appropriately to her own situation. But, whether she will migrate to the plains of New Mexico and start training quarterhorses remains to be seen.
Amy also said that her fellow Newmarket trainers have so far been helpful and friendly, naming Michael Bell and Henry Cecil in this regard. That is good to hear and contrasts sharply with my experience in a different profession - some of the established racing journalists were hostile at every opportunity when I was 28.
These are tough economic times for a young trainer - even with a business model suitable to the reality of the market. There can be no guarantees of success with the volatility of results to which every small string is prone.
Moreover, there are so many other factors which can inhibit the growth of a new business. I would not pretend to know any of them, only that it would frighten me to operate in the system which racing in Britain presents.
I am no fan of boycotts. (Not even Geoff Boycott anymore, after the offensive rubbish he spouted about Michael Yardy's depression.) But, I cannot help feeling that the stance on minimum values made by such as Sheikh Mohammed and Richard Hannon is needed to impose more of an economic reality on British racing.
Trainers and their staff depend on prize-money contributions and there has to be a climate which makes it possible for smaller operations to have a chance.
So, best wishes to Amy and her highly motivated staff. Some part of the game depends on the willingness of youth to pursue their dreams. Especially when, given the breaks we all need in life, the intelligence needed to make a lively contribution is evident.