A fine evening after a disappointingly wet start to the day, horses seem well though and it’s been a busy week with full access to all the facilities appearing a bit of a novelty, long may it continue and at last we were able to school properly again yesterday, we took full advantage of the situation with Brian Harding here to coach a few of the team – invaluable and I learn plenty as well.
A blank Saturday for the North but luckily there is a point-to-point to entertain us and the team at Lanark must be delighted with the strength of their entries – up 37% on last year and some exceptionally competitive racing in store. We will be well represented with six runners for four different riders, Royal Chatelier & Allthekingshorses (Jamie), Frankies Promise & Left Back (Crawford), Rossini’s Dancer (Kim) and Thomond (Kit) – let’s hope they all run well and come home safe and sound.
Nothing for us at Carlisle on Sunday and a bizarrely blank week then until Wetherby on Thursday where we have few entries then Carlisle next Saturday where we hope to be strongly represented – we have a lot of horses ready to run and could do with more opportunities now that conditions have improved.
Another fine day, at home this morning and down here in Yorkshire where Christmas in USA was disappointing, appearing not to stay the 2m 4f on tiring ground but he blew hard and I fear that the impact of the weather on his recent training may have been greater than I expected. Let’s hope that’s not the case for our four runners at Haydock tomorrow where the drying ground will again be tacky, soft with good to soft places only tells half the story.
We start with Eagle Ridge making his handicap debut in the 3.50, he’s a nice horse who should rate higher in future and whilst he will appreciate the step up in trip his opening mark looks stiff, Grant rides and 10 run.
Then we have two runners in the 4.20, Buffalo Ballet (Grant) and Top Cat Henry (Kit), the former has been going close recently, should appreciate the better ground if it isn’t too tacky, and has an attractive mark – he wears first time cheek pieces to aid concentration in the closing stages, let’s hope they work!
Top Cat has been rerouted from Wetherby today following their decision to bypass six of the fences, he’s meant to be a steeplechaser not a flat horse! We were very happy with his debut at Kelso over Christmas and you can ignore his last run in desperate ground at Carlisle, hopefully he will go much better tomorrow and finish 2nd to Buffalo! 9 run.
Finally Up Helly Aa King runs in the 4.55, he’s taking a big step up in trip on this handicap debut and going straight into open handicap company off what doesn’t look like a very attractive mark, again he should rate higher in time but has a stiff task against these much more experienced rivals – Grant’s on board and 8 run.
Oh what a difference the weather makes, after the grimmest of weekends forcing abandonments up and down the country including three more key fixtures up here at Newcastle, Carlisle and Kelso today I was just about at my wits end then the sun comes out to produce a glorious day today and against all odds racing is on at Wetherby tomorrow, all smiles again now! Will be proper glue-pot ground but we will settle for just about anything and we have two declared runners starting with Top Cat Henry in the 4.10, Kit rides, 8 run, we will see how he is in the morning.
Then Christmas in USA runs in the 4.45, Grant rides, 11 run and blinkers replace the visor, he ran a great race at the track to be 2nd last time out and if he turns up in the same form should be thereabouts, he’s missed a few engagements since then due to the weather but he seems in great heart and the step up in trip should suit.
Blowy and on the chilly side down here in the Cotswolds, fantastic racing, fantastic horses, fantastic people, the usual maelstrom of emotions, oh to have runners at this most extraordinary of race meetings – one day I hope.
One more night in the pub and then we will hit the road home in the morning and one runner tomorrow up in the Northumbrian hills at Hexham where the ground will be heavy. McGintys Dream in the 2.25, making a quick reappearance after Carlisle last week, he’s been fresh and well since then and this is an excellent opportunity for him, a repetition of his course and distance effort in November should see him go close, Grant rides and four run.
Fine and mild today, a slow Sunday, whilst it was disappointing to lose Kelso again it’s been a blessing to have a quiet day in the office catching up ahead of a busy week.
I have to admit to feeling a little battle weary as I headed out to the yard this morning; after the awful weather we have then been very busy racing and with the horses running well we ought to have had a winner or two but for various reasons we didn’t quite – anyway I was quickly cheered up by the energy, chatter and laughter bouncing off the team as they set about their day – I came back in much happier.
On a Sunday without any racing we have five of the team in, they make sure that all 42 horses in work have a 40 minute spin on the walker, are mucked out, fed watered and rugged up; some are turned out (not so many in current conditions), plenty of minor wounds to tend to, medications and treatments of various sorts to administer and a chance for a good tidy up – their approach is fantastic and by the end of Sunday it feels as if we are well set up for the week.
Pleased with our Ayr runners, all made the winners enclosure apart from The Rogue who fell, he’s fine thankfully and yesterday Bertalus took another step back in the right direction to be 3rd and Elvis Mail gave plenty of cause for optimism in the bumper, fingers crossed he will be a very nice horse in time. Minimal action on the racecourse from here as all eyes turn to the Cotswold’s but we intend to be busy again at Newcastle on Saturday then Kelso, Wetherby and Haydock through the first half of the following week – hopefully all our gallops now back in action as we give 12-14 runners their final preparation. I will be speeding down to the Cheltenham for a couple of days – like these 48 hour declarations, need to go to the pub to study in peace, unbelievably good racing, enjoy!
Cold and wet this morning, the East wind back, at least its not snowing, always look on the bright side…. back to Ayr today where the ground is soft though may ease if the rain arrives as forecast. We have two runners, Bertalus in the 2.45, a step back in the right direction last time and his last win was in similar conditions off a much higher rating, blinkers on for the first time so will hopefully run well, Grant rides and 7 run.
Elvis Mail is declared to run in the bumper at 5.35 though he may be withdrawn if the ground goes heavy, he’s wearing a hood having run too free last time and is a nice long term prospect, only 4 runners but they could all take a bit of beating including the favourite who won as he liked last time.
On to Kelso tomorrow with three declared runners, ground heavy and raining so meeting subject to inspection today. A somewhat reluctant declaration for Buffalo Ballet in the 4.20, he’s been running well enough to be runner up on heavy on his last two starts but I’d prefer not to be asking him again on this ground but the opposition aren’t in great form on paper so on balance I felt we had to have a go, he’s very well, Grant rides and 5 run.
Slightly similar scenario with Silk or Scarlet in the 4.50, didn’t really fancy it on the ground but small field countered that, he will improve for the step up in trip and I’m not sure any of the field will be at home in the conditions so again worth a shot, Grant rides and 6 run.
Then Christmas in USA runs in the 5.20, 8 run, he won’t mind the ground at all and the form of his recent Wetherby 2nd has worked out very well so we travel with high hopes – Grant rides.
Our four runners at Ayr all ran well though we didn’t have a winner – The Orange Rogue put in a bold display up from and was disputing the lead when stumbling on landing at the 3rd last, Lake View Lad was just done for a turn of foot and stayed on to finish a close 2nd under top weight, Massini’s Lady’s jumping was found out by being in among a bunch of seasoned handicappers on her 3rd start over fences – she ran well enough to be 4th in the circumstances but we will look for a novice chase again for her next time and Another Mattie put up much his best effort of the season to finish 3rd, only beaten 3l by two good horses. Team Kinneston excelled themselves with all four runners winning best turned out which at £100 a pop is well worth having.
Snow slowly disappearing but in no hurry and frost this morning unhelpful. Off to Ayr tomorrow with four runners, ground soft with heavy places, and we start with The Orange Rogue in the 2.50, 7 run and Grant rides.
He’s been disappointing this season and didn’t really appear to stay last time at Wetherby, back in trip today and slipping down the weights so could run well if the recent hold up hasn’t affected him.
Then we run Lake View Lad in the feature race on the card at 4.00, conditions should suit and he’s on pretty well the same mark as he won off at Haydock three weeks ago, he should go well again if this doesn’t come too soon.
That would also be a concern for Massini’s Lady who won last time out 16 days ago at Wetherby, she’s also got a 9lb higher mark to contend with and this is a better race, so a follow up will be tricky but she seems in great heart and should like the track, going and trip, Brian Hughes rides and 7 run
Finally we run Another Mattie in the race he won last season at 5pm, Kit rides and 6 run, this looks a better renewal but he should been trained for the race – so far as we could manage! Today at Carlisle McGinty’s Dream ran a little better to be 3rd, remains a frustrating horse though and we will see how Killer Crow goes later in the 5pm.
Milder today, thank goodness, like everyone we have had a really tough week weather wise and the team have done a marvellous job of keeping the show on the road in some of the worst conditions I can remember, no fun at all and the farm and gallops are now a complete mess with remains of snow drifts, ice, water and mud everywhere compromising our ability to train the horses as we would like.
I’d guess it will be another week before normality returns and we can work the horses as we would like; plenty of runners coming up in next few days and I wonder if they can perform to their best with such an unorthodox preparation. We saw the weather coming so everything worked on Tuesday of last week, since then it’s been tricky with us being unable to ride at all on Thurs & Fri and restricted to steady cantering thereafter….. diets are adjusted of course and it is interesting to see which horses have put on weight, particularly those that are running over the next few days, inside information? There are certainly a couple that I am concerned about.
So Carlisle tomorrow, ground heavy, two runners starting with McGinty’s Dream in the 2.50, Grant rides and 6 run – hmm, a nice race for him – ground, trip, track and company should all suit – fingers crossed he is up for it because we were very disappointed with him at Newcastle last time.
Then Killer Crow in the 5pm, Kit rides and 4 run, outsider of the field I see, not sure why though he does have 8l to find with the fav, back in trip today & hood off, think that gives us at least a chance of reversing the places. After tomorrow hoping to be at Ayr on Friday and Saturday and then Kelso on Sunday prior to the annual pilgrimage…
As with much of the rest of the country we are experiencing extreme weather at Kinneston with sub zero temperatures, gale force winds and heavy snow. The conditions are due to ease slightly but no significant improvement expected until next week. I trust you will bear with us as normal communications from the office are suspended as all efforts are going into looking after the horses – water, feed, warmth and whatever exercise possible. On a brighter note I am delighted that Little Glenshee gave birth to her first foal at 11.40pm on 27th February… a filly by Blue Bresil.
The most glorious of late winter afternoons driving back up the A68 from the Tynedale point-to-point, just as well really as I could be forgiven for feeling a little battered. We had been on a bit of a roll recently but we were brought back to earth sharply with heavy falls for Lucy yesterday and Jamie this afternoon.
At Newcastle Clan Legend was working his way nicely into the race when he made a rare mistake at the first fence in the home straight, putting down then chesting the fence throwing Lucy over his head and then kicking her in the face when she was on the ground. I’ve no idea what caused this most uncharacteristic blunder but prior to the race I had been struck by how illogical it had been for the race to be delayed whilst the stewards inspected a fence facing South whilst paying no regard to the home straight where all the fences faced straight into the setting sun, the protocols on this issue need tightened up as it still all appears amateur and arbitrary. Earlier in the afternoon Off the Hook ran a tremendous race to finish 2nd again, her time will come soon with any luck at all and there should be plenty more to come when she steps up in trip, its just such a joy having her around at all as she was on death’s door this time last year.
Today at Corbridge Royal Chatelier was running his best race for a long time and bang in contention among the most progressive young horses in the North when taking a purler of a fall at the 2nd last firing Jamie straight into the ground, not good for the senior man of the weighing room but after a few worrying minutes he rose to his feet and was helped into the ambulance, very groggy he will need a quiet week. As will Lucy who was in A&E in Newcastle until 10pm undergoing some repairs, Rose and I shared the joy of 5 hours in a busy city hospital on a Saturday evening – a reality check if ever there was one, we came away full of admiration for the NHS staff but wondering how anyone can work for long under such pressure, the present situation is simply unsustainable and hence very worrying. Nearly 1am when we returned home but I had no problem at all heading back down to Northumberland this morning for the point-to-point today which attracted a huge crowd, masses of runners from all over and very exciting racing including Kit only just being denied in the Men’s Open on Robert Miller-Bakewell’s For Yes at odds of 33-1!
Oddly there will be a fraction of the number of horses and people at Ayr tomorrow despite solid prize money and we are heading there with 5 runners on ground that will be sticky but hopefully not much worse than soft, has to survive 8am inspection for frost, pleased to see they have frost covers down. They are all likely to be long odds and for good reason as none of them especially want to be there but they all now missed several engagements and with the forecast as it is for the next week I really feel we need to get them out for a run – not what I like doing but there we go and hopefully they will run well enough and hopefully might sneak into a place.
We start with two runners in the novice hurdle at 2.15, Eagle Ridge (Jamie Hamilton) who is a lovely horse but needs further on better ground and Up Helly Aa King (Grant) who is working his way back from a serious injury last year, hopefully both can build on their previous starts, 9 run. Gold Opera (Grant) runs in the 2.45, a hesitant declaration as had been looking for a hurdle for him as he has lost his form over fences since running well on seasonal debut, will like ground and track and could run well if he stays as will appreciate this drop in class, 6 run. Finally we have two runners in the handicap hurdle at 4.55, Silk or Scarlet (Grant) and Jolie Crickette (Kit), both would prefer better ground, Silk or Scarlet is making his handicap debut off not an obviously appealing opening mark, I am sure he will prove better than that in time but guess will be over further, Jolie Crickette is coming back after a year off and will hopefully be going over fences after this, she also looks to have plenty of weight. After a weekend like this home safe everyone please!
Another fine day, farm drying up nicely but forecast not good at all – a productive week and horses seem fit and well. Yesterday was a wonderful day for the yard when we were honoured to win the inaugural Lycetts Team Champion Award at a well attended National Trainers Federation AGM at the Institute of Directors in London; the idea is to celebrate yards that have a strong team ethos and work hard to develop a team based on the highest standards of employee management practices.
For what we do here to be recognised as the best in the country against so much stiff competition was genuinely humbling and a tremendous reflection of the way we work. All the credit is due to Catch for both the effort she put into the nomination and her day by day commitment to implementing the standards we aspire to; well done to all the team and I’m delighted that as well as the lovely trophy, peer group recognition and fantastically positive media coverage we also have a significant pot of cash to spend further improving the conditions for the team here – really well deserved and I’m very proud.
Back to business and two runners at Newcastle tomorrow where the ground will be holding, drying sort of heavy with some slightly better bits, not ideal but same for everyone and our two should be fine on it I hope.
First off is Off the Hook in the 3.20; she has a bit to find with the two winners in this mares’ novice hurdle but she is improving and will hopefully give them something to think about, Lucy rides and 8 run. Then Clan Legend runs in the 4.30, we’ve won this supporting handicap chase on Eider day a couple of times in recent years with Wicklow Lad (2014) and Gold Opera (2017), Clan Legend has a chance of making it three but top weight on this ground off a career high handicap mark?
He will have improve again to produce a personal best to win, sounds tough to me but you never know – we will give it our best shot, Lucy rides and 8 run. A couple of runners at Corbridge point-to-point on Sunday (Allthekingshorses, Royal Chatelier and possibly Thomond) then four or five at Ayr on Monday so busy we shall be, hope so anyway.
A glorious morning, cold and crisp but a hint of spring in the air, shortlived as sadly I fear winter has a sting in its tail. London bound this afternoon, it is Awards Season and I’m delighted that we are one of four finalists for the Lycetts Team Champion Award, winner due to be announced after the NTF AGM tomorrow – whatever happens it is a huge credit to the team and Catch in particular to have come this far.
As I had hoped things went rather better for us at Wetherby than they did at Carlisle and we came away with an excellent 2nd from Christmas in USA and a splendid first win for Massini’s Lady. It was great to see Christmas travel strongly throughout the race in a first time visor, his jumping was first class and he should build on this; Massini’s Lady thoroughly deserved her win having been runner up on her last three starts bumping into a couple of particularly well handicapped horses latterly. Her jumping was very mature for her second start over fences (and a year since her first) although she became a little lonely late on as she drew clear causing a couple of erratic late leaps, very rewarding for her owner breeders Mark and Jane Fleming who have had to be extremely patient and had plenty of cause to doubt this good looking mare with a mind of her own. Next runners Newcastle Saturday I hope, possibly Corbridge Sunday and Ayr Monday, wether permitting of course….
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.
A fine day, sun, no frost to speak of and plenty of work done with the horses on all the gallops ahead of a busy 10 days, forecast a bit iffy but nothing too extreme hopefully, our aborted trip to Sedgefield has made this week feel rather long so trust weather will behave now.
3 runners at the Berwickshire point-to-point tomorrow, Allthekingshorses (Jamie), Left Back (Crawford) and Thomond (Kit) – Crawford and Kit should have a few other rides between them as well so looking forward to heading down there after working horses here first lot when we are also expecting plenty of visitors which is always fun, most especially on a Saturday.
Only one runner for us at Ayr then on Sunday, Bertalus in the 5pm, ground just a bit too heavy there for a lot of our horses at the moment (bet you never thought you would hear me say that!) and we do have five horses pencilled in to run there on Tuesday. Bertalus has a lot to prove after a couple of disappointing runs, he seems fit, fresh and is working well so hopefully he can find his form again back at his winning course/distance and going.
After that hoping to be at Kelso on Thursday then Haydock next Saturday. Have a nice weekend everyone, today’s photos taken in the snow earlier this week by our brilliant in house photographer – Danni D!
Snow back and now very cold, -5 forecast for tonight and and an abortive trip to Sedgefield today which was called off at 11am after 3 inspections. Amy wasn’t back from Newcastle until 9pm last night and was back in for 5.45am this morning so for racing to be called off just after she arrived at the course after another 4 hour drive was tough, I had stayed over and was in Durham when I first spoke to the track at 6.15am, raceable then but the snow came in, nothing serious but just enough to stop racing.
Bad luck all round, a lot of indignation on social media but I fully support the course’s actions, we lose enough meetings without starting to call them off based on forecasts, inconvenient as it may be. Back to the drawing board then with Final Reminder and Top Cat Henry, Carlisle also off tomorrow, weather due to ease by the end of the week but its turning into quite a winter. No joy at Newcastle yesterday, the two fillies ran much as I expected them to in the bumper showing a modicum of ability, we will see how they jump before deciding whether to go for another bumper. As I feared Gold Opera was outclassed in feature chase, he needs some help from the handicapper as his jumping goes to pot when he is out of his comfort zone, Titian Boy ran to his best looking like he was going to win jumping the last but not quite seeing it out on the holding ground, McGinty’s Dream was disappointing- I really thought he would run better.
Back at base for the rest of the week prior to a busy weekend at the Berwickshire point-to-point on Saturday and Ayr on Sunday.
Colder tonight, making me nervous, had enough frost, Newcastle hopefully be OK tomorrow, Sedgefield Tuesday and Carlisle Wednesday look very iffy. Despite a reasonably full programme it is surprisingly difficult to find the right races for horses – grade/distance/track/going – and when you pinpoint a race for a horse and prepare it accordingly it is rather frustrating when the weather interferes – and that has happened to the team dozens of times over the last 10 weeks, one then ends up forced to compromise and often disappointed. Never mind, the weather can’t be helped, nice problems to have in the bigger picture of things I suppose.
So, it is soft with heavy places at Newcastle, an 8am inspection due to frost but they sound optimistic and I hope they are right because we have five runners declared and they will be on the road early. The first two have missed numerous engagements due to the weather already but appear fit and well to make their racecourse debuts in the mares bumper at 1.40, this is being run on Newcastle’s tapeta all weather track which should suit Accost (Lucy) and Sueno Toms (Grant), they both have a lot to learn and will hopefully have a nice introduction tomorrow, 13 run.
We run Gold Opera in the feature chase at 2.45, Lucy rides and 6 run, after a very promising seasonal debut he disappointed twice, I’m hoping there were reasons for that and we will be hoping for better tomorrow though I suspect he would be seen to better effect with more weight in a lower grade as these are very decent horses he is taking on. We then have two runners in the 3.50, Titian Boy (Brian Hughes) and McGinty’s Dream (Lucy), 10 run.
Going track and trip should suit both of these horses and it is a shame they have to take each other on, they have different styles of running though and I would hope to see them both involved at the business end of the race. Seeing plenty of the A1 having been up and down to Alnwick today where Royal Chatelier and Frankie’s Promise ran very respectably to finish 3rd and 4th, can’t really say the same for Thomond at Musselburgh yesterday – he was disappointing, not suited by the track or rain softened ground but should still have done better, a work in progress!
A fine day, cold and bright but forecast ominous… hopefully no interruption to weekend plans with one runner at Musselburgh tomorrow and one at Alnwick on Sunday, also hoping to be busy at Newcastle on Monday and Sedgefield on Tuesday though a little nervous re frost for the latter.
Thomond is our runner tomorrow, in a strong looking Hunter Chase at 4.10pm, Kit rides and 6 run, he should have progressed from his stable debut a few weeks ago at Kelso but has plenty to find on official ratings with the two principals and I think he still has a bit to find fitness wise as well, still hope for a decent run, ground good to soft at present but the rain and sleet will no doubt ease it a bit. Lucy rides Titus Bolt for Jim Goldie in the 3.45, love to have more runners at this excellent two day fixture at Musselburgh; they have put up over £200k and have been justly rewarded with some of the most intriguing high class races I have seen staged in Scotland- including arguably the best novice hurdles run nationally so far this year, no doubt they will be a little disappointed with their field sizes as the silly way our races are funded punishes them for this but they shouldn’t be, quality not quantity must be the way forward for our sport.
On Sunday at Alnwick Jamie rides Royal Chatelier in the Club race and I’m also looking forward to seeing my old friend Frankie’s Promise running in our colours with Crawford on board in the same race. No winners at Ayr on Tuesday, hitting the crossbar with two seconds (Massini’s Lady & Buffalo Ballet), a 3rd (Calivigny), promising enough runs in the Novice (Eagle Ridge and Up Helly Aa King), a rusty out of practice sort of run from Road to Gold though after so long off one is just pleased to have them back in one piece and a below par effort from Peak of Beauty – ground conditions were particularly extreme and far from ideal for this team of horses and I would have to say I’m quite concerned as to how the ground at Ayr is going to be as we move into the spring, there are issues and I will try to walk the course before racing there at the next meeting.
Cold tonight and a pretty miserable forecast with heavy rain overnight turning to snow in the morning, not what was forecast at the beginning of the week and could do without it frankly. Already very heavy at Ayr tomorrow and one wonders how much more rain they can take but fingers crossed that they miss the worst of it as we are hoping for a busy day with seven declared runners.
We start off with two in 2m Novice hurdle at 2.05, it’s a decent little race so we are not expecting too much from our stable debutant Eagle Ridge (Lucy), he’s a nice horse, well bred and with decent bumper and point-to-point form in the book but I imagine we will see better from him over further on better ground as we move into spring. Up Helly Aa King (Grant) is also a nice long term staying prospect, he’ll be fine on the ground but this is really stage two in his comeback from the horrible injury he incurred last year, 7 run.
The mares hurdle is next at 2.35, we run Massini’s Lady who was a good 2nd on her comeback a few weeks ago, I’m not sure about the drop back in trip but maybe the bottomless ground will make up for it, 8 run. Buffalo Ballet runs in the staying novice chase at 3.10, he seemed to handle the heavy ground OK at Ayr a fortnight ago when only finding one too good, trip shouldn’t be a bother so he should run well so long as it doesn’t come too quick as he had a hard race that day, Lucy rides and 4 run.
We have two runners in the 3.45, Calivigny (Lucy) dropping back in trip after appearing not to stay 3m last time, he’s well treated now though that may not become apparent until the ground dries up. Road to Gold (Grant) might also prove well treated off this mark but he has been off a long time and will come on for the race, 7 run.
Finally we run Peak of Beauty in the 4.15, I was delighted with the way she ran to be 6th here last time and this tough little filly should have improved again, probably not enough to trouble the principals but will hopefully run well, 7 run and Stephen Mulqueen rides.
A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at the Jedforest point-to-point on Saturday, many thanks to those that made the effort to rescedule – Left Back improved to finish 3rd in the maiden, a much more encouraging effort from Killer Crow who only just failed to get up in time to beat last season’s champion horse, Rossini’s Dancer gave Kim a great spin to finish 5th in the Ladies on her first ride and Kit won on our old friend Always Tipsy.
Quieter weather today, forecast a bit unsettled but not bad at all for the time of year, thank goodness. A wonderful day at Kelso yesterday with Landecker winning the feature race to record his fifth win at the track – really special.
Off the Hook confirmed her Ayr form with an excellent 2nd, Figs Pride stepped up on her debut in the first division of the bumper and is shaping up into a lovely prospect for mares hurdles next season and Elvis Mail came 4th in the other division, he did well to finish where he did having been very free in the mid stages of the race, something we need to work on but he clearly has bags of ability.
Bit of a busman’s holiday tomorrow with a trip to the Jedforest Point-to-Point, excellent news that they went to the effort of rescheduling the fixture from last week and there is certain to be a card of good competitive racing as we have been starved of racing “between the flags” recently – come along if you feel like a fun day out.
We have three horses going down, each ridden by a different jockey…. Crawford rides Left Back who I expect to run well dropped back to 2m 4f, Kim has her first ride on our old favourite Rossini’s Dancer and Kit rides Killer Crow.
Wild weather today, blowing a gale, heavy showers after heavy rain yesterday, floods, one might have thought we were due a little respite after all the snow and frost; it would appear not but the troops battled on and 38 horses all worked properly this morning. Heavy old ground pretty well everywhere and that includes at Kelso tomorrow where we have seven horses declared to run starting with course specialist Landecker in the 1.15, he’s in good form and this has been his target for a while so hopefully he will go well, Lucy rides and 8 run.
Then in the 2.20 we hope Fly Rory Fly will make his stable debut, he’s a lovely horse with some decent form in the book , he had a busy 2017 so we’ve given him time and hopefully tomorrow will set him up for a good spring campaign, 4 run and Lucy rides.
Off the Hook runs in the 2.55, she should have come on for her encouraging 2nd last time, the track and ground should suit well, Lucy rides and 8 run. We have two horses declared for the 3.30, Figs Pride (Grant) and Sueno Toms (Kit), the former is bred to like this ground but might not be quite strong enough for it yet, the latter would prefer better ground – 9 run.
Then finally we run Elvis Mail (Lucy) and Accost (Kit) in the 4.00, Elvis made a most encouraging debut at Newcastle, should have come on a lot for that and has a useful 4yo allowance but its a decent bumper and I suspect may find the closing stages a little tough having just turned four.
Accost would prefer better ground, 9 run. Long trip to Wetherby yesterday where Clan Legend ran a great race under top weight to finish 2nd, The Orange Rogue ran well for a long way but the pace of the race on the ground told and he pulled up 3 out.
Milder today thank goodness, a big thaw underway and the forecast looks reasonable for the week. Two runners declared at Wetherby tomorrow where they are holding an 8am inspection to be sure it is safe for racing to go ahead on ground that sounds very wet. Let’s hope it is on because our two runners ought to be suited by those conditions despite both being burdened with top weight in their respective handicap chases.
We start with The Orange Rogue in the 2.15, he’s yet to find his form this season but we found a little issue after his last run which we believe we have sorted, we will find out tomorrow but he remains 3lb above his last winning mark, Lucy rides and 8 run. Clan Legend runs in the 3.30, he is up 9lb for his convincing Haydock win at New Year and this really does take him into new territory handicap wise, a serious test for him to give weight away at this level but he has earned the chance and it will be very interesting to see if there is more to come – track ought to suit him well, 4 run and Lucy rides.
We defied the elements and our Government’s advice to stay at home in taking Lake View Lad to Haydock on Saturday where I was delighted with his brave run putting it up to a very good novice chaser; he jumped really well but in the end was simply outclassed by a horse rated 9lb higher than him, I’d love to see him take him on in a handicap but doubt we will get the chance as that horse is Cheltenham bound, we however will hopefully return to Haydock for a handicap next month.
We have been through a seriously challenging spell of weather which I hope is behind us now, our team of staff have been amazing in their commitment, three of the team are off with fracture injuries so the remainder have had to dig really deep to keep the show on the road through some really appalling weather and I’m very grateful to all of them, it’s just as well they didn’t listen to our “can’t do” Government/Public Sector advice or I wouldn’t have been able to run my business – a tale of two nations?
It was therefore particularly appropriate that on Thursday the judges arrived to assess us for the “Team Challenge” competition for which we have made the final four, Kevin Parsons from the National Association of Racing Staff was joined by Yogi Breisner, Chef D’Equipe of the British Three Day Eventing Team and Laura Whyte, BHA Director and former Head of Human Resources at the John Lewis Group- it made for a fascinating morning and hopefully they were impressed by our team’s good humour and positive attitude as they knuckled down and got on with their task of preparing equine athletes. And we mustn’t forget the rest of our support structure, our farriers who are here whatever and actually appeared at 6.40 am on the bleakest of mornings to stick a shoe back on the other day and of course our vets, feed merchants and everyone else who helps keep the show on the road. Just a shame Daniel is having to take the rubbish to the dump because the bin lorry didn’t make it, I’ll say it again – a tale of two nations. Mind you, we did fail to get our two runners to Musselburgh for the bumper on Friday….