Lovely warm day at Perth yesterday and more competitive racing, a slightly flat sort of day for team Kinneston with Dance of Fire failing to progress and finishing 6th of 11 in the opener, he’s much better than this but is complicated, Christmas in USA made up ground nicely in the back straight but faded to finish 11th of 15, there’s something stopping him and I strongly suspect it his wind which we will hopefully sort in due course; Landecker ran a very honest race and whilst 5th of the 6 runners was beaten less than 3 lengths by the winner at the end of 3m 2f, his new found consistency is becoming his undoing as the handicapper won’t relent to allow him to win again. Back up to Perth today, forecast is good and it promises to be a very special day with the Hunter Chase being run in memory of my late stepfather John Dudgeon and Brian Harding retiring.
Brian started in 1992 just as I started to involve myself seriously in the game following the death of my Father, he’s always been there and recently has very much been our go-to jockey when Lucy has been injured, he’s ridden many winners for us and has been a fantastic coach, role model and mentor in the weighing room – all at Kinneston certainly wish him all the best and thank him for his massive contribution to the sport.
We have five declared runners starting with two in the mares novice hurdle at 2pm, Final Reminder (Lucy) and Just Brooke (Grant Cockburn), there is a couple of good mares in this race that our two will struggle to compete with on what they have achieved so far but I am hoping Final Reminder will improve for the better ground and Just Brooke should benefit from her first time tongue tie.
A pause then until we run Marlee Massie in the Highland National at 4.15, this is a very competitive race but he goes into it at the top of his game, he will need to improve again of course and whether the extreme trip brings out that improvement, or not, is the big question.
Finally we have two runners in the Hunter Chase at 4.50, Top Cat Henry (Kit) and Bertie Milan (Crawford), Top Cat is well but has to prove he can be at his best at 3m having never won beyond 2m 5f, he also isn’t the biggest to carry 12st 6lb and give weight to the whole field. Bertie Milan is very fresh and well but would prefer softer ground.
Crisp and bright at Perth today but thankfully the wind dropped and a decent crowd enjoyed an exciting afternoon of competitive racing. Kinneston fortunes were mixed with everything happening too quickly for Left Back in the opener, he’s a 17hh chaser in the making and the good ground and sharp track caught him out, his day will come. Jet Master ran right up to his very best in the feature chase beaten less than a length by the winner, he’s an exceptionally versatile horse running so well here in a 3m chase having won a 2m hurdle at the track earlier this season, not bad for an 11yo and a joy to have in the yard.
Andhaar gave Crawford a great spin for his first ride finishing mid division but Calivigny disappointed in the novice chase, I’m not sure why as I thought everything was right for him today, he’s been in for a long time but I don’t really want to use that as an excuse, I think maybe like a lot of horses by his sire he is a bit quirky and we might try some headgear next time to make him focus on his job. Back to Perth tomorrow where we have three declared runners on ground that might just end up on the quick side of good after another drying day, we start with Dance of Fire in the first race at 2pm, he is gradually getting his act together over hurdles and whilst he is likely to find a few of these too good for him at this stage I hope he will run well, Lucy rides and 12 run.
Then in the 3.05 Christmas in USA has to shoulder top weight in a competitive enough looking 16 runner handicap hurdle, I’d quite fancy him if he was at the other end of the weights as I imagine a few will be better off than him but he should still run well enough back at this minimum trip having not quite seen it out at Kelso last time, Lucy rides.
Finally we run Landecker in the conditionals race at 4.45; runner up in this race last year off exactly the same mark he should run well again but I guess he probably needs to be a bit lower before he can win again, Blair rides and 8 run.
Exceptionally cold for the time of year with a bitterly cold North wind blowing in occasional flurries of snow. Not what we expect for the spring Festival that opens the season at Perth tomorrow; we have four declared runners on ground that has been well watered and is likely to be on the soft side of good which should be perfect.
Left Back runs in the first race at 2pm in what is quite a good maiden hurdle for the time of year; we are putting a hood and tongue tie on as he was too keen last time out at Ayr and needs to learn to settle and focus on his hurdles so that will be the aim, 11 run and Grant Cockburn rides.
Jet Master runs in the 3.35, this is a competitive 3m handicap chase for a good prize, he’s had a long season but seems in very good form and I’ve been wanting to try him over this trip, again Grant rides, 8 run.
Then Andhaar runs in the 4.10, he will be Crawford Robertson’s first ride under rules, he is fresh and well and should give him a great spin in this 15 runner amateurs hurdle, Kit rides The Wise One in the same race. Lucy makes her comeback from recent injury on Calivigny in the 4.40, this is another competitive race but he feels well-handicapped to me and should appreciate the step up in trip.
Cool, breezy and remaining dry today with no sign of rain imminent, irrigators in action on the racecourses and would be no surprise to see them make an early appearance here on the farm after the driest April on record.
Ayr’s two day Scottish National Festival kicks off today and they have some fantastic racing lined up despite minimal representation from Ireland and no runners from Kinneston. As the leading trainer at the track this season it is disappointing not to be represented at their flagship fixture but the horses we had entered prefer softer ground, simultaneously stepping up in class on ground that would not be in their favour didn’t feel at all sensible to me; it is wise to be wary of having runners for the sake of it at the end of a long season on drying spring ground though Ayr will have been very well watered.
I am sure that the same will apply at Perth next week where we hope to be well represented at the Festival that opens their season, we will have plenty of entries and hopefully end up with a dozen or so runners, ironically with having had so few runners recently we have more horses down to work tomorrow than we have had since November, no rest for the wicked!
A profoundly bitter sweet day yesterday when I attended the thanksgiving service for the life of John Cockburn with Mrs A, Lucy and Kit; a lovely service triggering so many happy memories but just so very sad at the same time.
John was a lifelong family friend who rode point-to-pointers in the 1960’s for my Father and latterly owned horses here at Kinneston, not to forget that he was an extraordinarily brave test pilot for Ferranti & BAe Systems pushing fighter jets to their absolute limits in the skies above Europe, enjoy his obituary here, he died following a heart attack at the Berwickshire point-to-point having just won the Borders Hunt Club Members race with Always Tipsy – he was particularly pleased to see his own name on the trophy in 1960 and 1964, life’s full circle…
Cool today, a strong North West wind has been blowing for a few days and due to continue, conditions are now exceptionally dry and watering the racetracks prevails. The upside of all that is the farm goes into the growing season in great shape and we have our “riverbank” gallop back in action a month earlier than usual; the few horses we have for the summer are upping their work on that and going well.
A wonderful atmosphere at Kelso on Monday with recent Grand National hero One for Arthur being paraded before racing to a most appreciative crowd, a mixed sort of day on the track for team Kinneston with most of our horses running well; Landecker was a close 3rd closing in all the way to the line, he will now step up in trip at Perth in two weeks, Dutch Canyon also gave us plenty to look forward to with a solid effort to come 4th – his first completion over fences which is a big relief.
Dance of Fire took another step forward, travelling strongly and jumping well until perhaps just failing to see out the 2m 2f but he wasn’t beaten far behind some decent horses, he will either drop back in trip or be ridden with more restraint next time. Clan Chief is frustrating, whilst he ran well enough to finish 5th he could have been so much closer with a slicker round of jumping, when he meets the fences right he is brilliant but he’s awful when he doesn’t – we will keep working on this and maybe adopt different tactics, a drop back to Class 5 races would no doubt help as well.
The disappointment of the afternoon was Benny’s Secret who was sent off warm favourite for the last but pulled up before the last, a post race scope found him to be full of mucus, this has been a recurrent problem with him this season but at least should be fixable though I think we are now on about Plan F in our attempts to do so! Whilst we have entries at Haydock and Carlisle on Saturday it looks as though the going will be against us so an opportune time to catch up in the office for a few days after a hectic couple of months.