John Ryan parked his car and began walking towards the sales complex. The grey horse was one of the earliest lots in the and he hoped that most bidders would be keeping their powder dry.
As luck should have it, a lot of people seemed to have been held up at the racecourse, where the last race had been delayed. The place still seemed pretty deserted.
Such are the narrow interstices between luck and judgement where he was already accustomed to plying his trade.
It was April, the start of his fourth season as a trainer. Ryan and his wife had already decided that it may have to be his last.
“Last autumn we sat down and said that if things didn't pick up this year, we'd have to fold the business,” he said.
“What was the point of banging your head against a brick wall? We didn't want to get into a position where we'd be endangering house and home.”
As he neared the sales ring, he noticed a screen updating bids. They were already onto the grey horse. Evidently there had been several withdrawals. Ryan broke into a sprint and burst into the ring as though his career depended on it.
The gavel was raised. The colt by Haafhd, £10,000, last call. Ryan frantically waved his catalogue at the auctioneer. Five minutes later, he was signing a chit for the last bid, £16,000.
“I'd shown a right turn of foot from the car park. Obviously it was one of those things that are meant to be,” he said.
Ryan has just ten horses in training Last week, however, he took the grey horse across town to the July Course and won one of the most prestigious juvenile races of the season. Silver Grecian had already cruised home in his first two starts, and now here he was, impudently sweeping from last to first.
And what of the yearling, the one snatched for a grand? Iver Bridge Lad has won his last two races, latterly a listed race at Sandown. This looks suspiciously more like judgement than luck.
“I've no right to succeed,” Ryan said. “It's only through bloody-mindedness.”