A fine mild evening down here in Cumbria where I am overnighting between Carlisle and Wetherby. Back down to earth today with two runners that failed to sparkle, mildly irritating as Top Cat was meant to run at Ayr last week and when that was abandoned had no choice but to come here, we didn’t think the track would suit and we were right, patience next time please. Road to Gold also failed to handle the track or the ground, at least it’s another run under his belt but he is yet to convince as a chaser, both back in one piece which always the main thing.
We will be hoping for better at Wetherby tomorrow where we have two runners on, guess, yes, heavy ground. They should be ok on it especially if a little overnight rain keeps it wet rather than sticky. Christmas in USA starts us off in the 2pm, Grant rides and 9 run, we were going to step him up in trip next time but this race on this ground appeals and I hope he will run well in a first time visor.
Then in the 2.30 Massini’s Lady runs in the Mares Novice Chase, she jumps well at home and has point-to-point and chasing experience to bring to the table as well as two good seconds on her last two hurdle starts so she should be competitive if she is in the right mood.
A grey day today but a thoroughly heartwarming one yesterday at a number of levels.
A memorable win at Haydock for Lake View Lad, he’s a very special horse – honest and talented – and he gave everything to win by the narrowest of margins after an exemplary round of jumping for a novice – fingers crossed he has a big future and what we learnt yesterday I think was that 2m 4f is really his minimum trip at this level and I suspect we will step up next time.
Back down the M74 tomorrow to Carlisle where we have two runners in the 3pm on ground that should be no worse than soft. Road to Gold (Lucy) was rusty on his comeback run after injury last month and I suspect he will need it again tomorrow, should show some progress.
We were very pleased with Top Cat Henry’s seasonal debut at Kelso in a decent Class 2 race, he should build on that and appreciate being back down in grade, track an unknown but will hopefully run well.
Whilst it should always be regarded as a privilege training horses through a winter like this in Scotland can occasionally feel like a bit of a slog especially when carefully laid plans are continually thwarted by the weather. One hour yesterday afternoon reminded me why I love this sport so much; Donna’s Diamond won the Rendlesham at Haydock, we won our race there and then in an extraordinarily poignant moment our old ally Brian Hughes won the Grade 1 Ascot Chase for Ruth Jefferson only 24 hours after her Father Malcolm’s funeral on the aptly named Waiting Patiently. Malcolm was a good man and a wonderful trainer and for his memory to be emblazoned across our sport in such a way was simply fantastic and hard to believe that events could align to produce such a tribute. If there was one trainer that I would seek and strive to model myself on it would be him, I flew home back up the motorways – Haydock has been kind to us this winter.
Not a bad day at all, cold still, but no frost/snow/gales/hail/rain for a change. As I suspected no winners from our five runners over the last few days but they ran well and I think their placing relative to their odds suggests they are generally running above expectations- 2nd @ 18-1, 3rd @ 33-1, 4th @25-1, 5th @ 10-1 and 7th @ 80-1.
Particularly pleasing was the bounce back in form of Dutch Canyon at Musselburgh, Catch has put a lot of effort into trying to turn this horse round and it was great to see that rewarded, also very pleased with Killer Crow who also looked on the way back to his best.
The winners slot needs filled though and we have one chance of doing that this weekend, Lake View Lad in the 2.45 at Haydock tomorrow where the ground is heavy.
He’s in the form of his life and should relish the conditions of what is a decent four runner affair – ground/trip/track all fine but will he prove the best horse in the race – hope so! Back at base on Sunday but then hoping to be at Carlisle on Monday and Wetherby on Tuesday….
Snowing as I write, forecast fine though for racing this afternoon and tomorrow. One declared runner at Musselburgh and four at Kelso but may struggle for a winner, unlike yesterday of course when we would have had lots! Good to soft for Dutch Canyon in the 4.30 today, reverts to hurdles and not sure the trip and track ideal however takes his chance of a very low weight due to lack of other opportunities and will run better than the market suggests as is fine form at home, Grant rides and 11 run.
Likely to be heavy at Kelso tomorrow and our first runner is Eagle Ridge in the 1.55, 10 run in what is a decent enough novice hurdle, this is a lovely horse for the future over further on better ground and I still expect a decent enough display in the circumstances – Lucy rides.
We then have two runners in the 3.35, Landecker (Lucy) and Another Mattie (Kit), Landecker has won all his races round Kelso and is up 5lb in a more competitive event over a shorter trip all of which are likely to conspire to stop him winning, he should still give a good account though. Another Mattie has been out of form but this is his time of year, is slipping down the ratings and is further aided by Kit’s 5lb claim, will hopefully run well, 10 run.
Finally Killer Crow is one of 5 runners in a particularly competitive looking little Hunter Chase, he ran a lot better last time when only just being denied by a decent horse in an Open point-to-point and needs to step forward again tomorrow to be involved but there’s every reason to hope he can do that so fingers crossed.
Whilst I am the first to applaud Kelso for their progressive approach to their programme and pursuit of quality I do think they need more balance in the chases they stage, it’s a bit ridiculous that the course will be complaining about lack of runners in their chases at the same time as the Trainers are complaining because they can’t find races for their chasers! I think I say this every year….
Cold again, snow showers, frosty. A profoundly rewarding winner for Crawford at the Berwickshire point-to-point on Left Back, this horse hasn’t been straightforward but Crawford has ridden him most days at home over the past few months and to see them gel together and make all with an exhilarating round of jumping was brilliant – well done and more to come from horse and rider.
Conditions were pretty well unraceable at Ayr yesterday with waterlogging, snow on the track and blizzards but despite that Bertalus put up a much more encouraging display to finish 5th. The course was completely trashed in the process of course and with more rain and snow due tomorrow’s fixture has inevitably been abandoned.
We had six declared runners who all had good chances, three of them had been very specifically prepared for this meeting and my ability to remain stoical in these circumstances is being tested to the limit. That is 14 of our core fixtures that have been abandoned over the last 8 weeks, aside from the demoralising affect on the team who are working so hard I can’t bear to think how many winners we have missed and the consequent impact on returns to owners let alone our jockeys’ earnings and staff percentage money. Still, this is horseracing and we must maintain perspective and remember how blessed we are to be able to work in an industry such as this when there is so much misery in the world so on we go, back to the raceplanner! Hopefully back in action at Kelso on Thursday and Haydock on Saturday but only with a couple of runners as these fixtures aren’t structured to appeal to the majority of horses.