A dull and drizzly end to 2014 but much milder and lots of good racing in store to kick off 2015. Musselburgh’s New Year’s Day fixture has quickly become a highlight of the Northern jumps calendar and their good prize money has been rewarded with a competitive looking card tomorrow which should produce exciting racing in front of what will I am sure be an excellent crowd. The ground is on the soft side of good with a bit of rain forecast and we start off with Always Tipsy making his handicap debut in the 1pm, Stephen rides and 12 run; the trip, track and ground should suit well – I just think the handicapper has him a bit high in the weights for what he has achieved, he should run well but may find easier opportunities in the future.
Whybutwhy runs in the 1.35, Kit rides and 9 run, this is a suitably competitive race for a good prize but this American flat bred horse may find his stamina stretched at 2m 4f. The in the 2.45 we run both Or de Grugy (Blair) and Bertie Milan (Brian Harding) – we had hoped Or de Grugy would have been able to run at Kelso but this is a good alternative as he has won over course and distance, it is a slightly lower grade of race which means he has a big weight, we have countered that by putting Blair on board who will claim 10lb, Blair has plenty of experience in the pointing field and was only just denied on Or De Grugy in the Amateur’s Chase at Kelso two years ago. Bertie Milan seems to have lost interest in racing since winning the Highland National in the Spring, we are hoping the combination of a visor and better ground may reverse this, both horses appear very well at home. Lucy is at Catterick where she rides Aristo du Plessis in the 12.30 and Quicuyo in the 2.50. Happy New Year when it comes!
Hard frost here now and “wagons away” was the call when the somewhat inevitable news came through regarding Kelso’s abandonment today, the early decision much appreciated as otherwise the wagons would have been on the road. The gallop however in good order and 33 having two stiff canters on it this morning. Very bad luck for Kelso as it looks as though it will be fine to race there tomorrow; not so at Haydock (where there is meant to be racing tomorrow) which looks like being abandoned ahead of schedule this afternoon, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a flexible and responsive system that would allow Kelso’s fixture to be staged tomorrow – unique situation perhaps but they seem to be able to do this sort of thing in Ireland and I am sure everyone would be delighted to go to Kelso tomorrow rather than lose the fixture completely, can’t really see who would lose out?
A glorious winter’s day; crisp, clear and bright and a squad of riders in to take out most of this week’s intended runners. Weather permitting we will head to Kelso tomorrow (6.45am inspection due to forecast frost) and we hope to have five runners starting with Calivigny who makes his hurdling debut in the 12.15, Lucy rides, 13 run and the ground will be soft. A nice introduction is what is required, he should stay well having been runner up in an Irish point-to-point in the spring. Then veteran course specialist Or De Grugy makes his seasonal reappearance in the 12.50, Lucy riding and 6 run, he has taken a while to come to hand this season but the course, trip and ground should be perfect for him and he has run well fresh in the past. We are then responsible for a third of the 6 runner field in the mares novice hurdle at 1.20 and according to official ratings will fill the last two positions, Lucy rides Presently Tipsy and Kit rides Bracing; they are both nice young mares who are learning about racing and should find better opportunities in handicaps in due course. Last but not least we run Little Glenshee in the 1.55, Lucy on board and 9 run, this represents a drop in class for her and she has to give weight to the whole field, she seems in very good order but the ground is unlikely to be soft enough for her to be at her most effective over this trip. Lucy also rides Lord Wishes in the 2.55 and Bogside in the 3.25.
Cold, frosty, snow showers but nothing severe and we even managed to canter 9 on the grass 3rd lot this morning. No runners over the weekend and hoping the weather doesn’t interfere with plans to have about a dozen runners next week at Kelso on Monday, Musselburgh on Thursday, Ayr on Friday and Newcastle on Saturday, we also have entries at Haydock on Tuesday. Lucy at Wetherby today to ride Chivers in the 2.05 and Rockawango in the 2.40, she also rides Tradewinds in the 2.30 at Catterick tomorrow.
I had a bit of a rant on twitter yesterday regarding the race programme at Ayr’s next five fixtures, it was disappointing to find almost no opportunities at such a good track for our better horses; my only motivation in pointing these things out is a hope that perhaps someone will take notice and think holistically about how to improve the programme of racing across the country and especially in the North. One can see how progressive courses such as Musselburgh and Kelso upgrade their product through innovative initiatives combined with good prize money, this creates a virtuous circle from which everyone benefits. However one can also repeatedly see situations occurring that are going to lead to small uncompetitive fields with the associated waning of interest, we have all seen “racing” this season that has been painful to watch and we can’t afford this to become commonplace, it threatens the future of the sport. From a business perspective it obviously matters but to me it is much more than that, hence forgive me when I repeat myself but at a time when the horse population is declining the industry must put in place a dynamic and responsive race-planning system.
Changeable and unsettled weather but open enough for working horses, some potential hard frost in the forecast which I hope doesn’t materialise as we are hoping to be very busy on the racing front next week. It will be a quiet day for the horses tomorrow so some good work for them this morning on the all-weather and the grass.
We had our staff Christmas party on Monday night which was a lively affair with one or two early casualties however all made in to work on time yesterday morning, well done! Lucy absent as the jockeys use this little window of no racing for their annual awards dinner in Birmingham, known as the “Lesters.”
I was delighted as news filtered through that Lucy had picked up no less that three awards (each came with a fuel card worth £2000 from the very generous sponsorship of Andrew Tinkler’s Stobart Group) and that she had therefore become the first ever three time winner of the Lady Jockey of the Year Award. Winning these awards will be very special to Lucy principally because they are voted for by her peers, the other jockeys. Whilst she may have spent more time on the sidelines than in the headlines recently the other jockeys know how hard it is to keep bringing yourself back from injury time after time and the work required to maintain their fitness during injury; their voting will have been swayed by the recognition of that extraordinary toughness and determination and, for Lucy, that acknowledgement will be priceless. On that note she has a double-header on Boxing Day riding River Bollin in the 12.10 at Sedgefield then Premier Grand Cru in the 2.55 at Wetherby.
So, Happy Christmas everyone, thank you for taking an interest and following this blog, some more pictures from this morning, including three nice unraced youngsters after working on the grass who will hopefully be out early in the New Year, is one of them the dark horse? Find out – Channel 4 Morning Line on Sat 27th (it will be on this time I believe, think they must be trying to build the suspense…..)
Bitter this morning, with a strong northwesterly and squally showers, brightened up by lunch time though and a useful morning, grass gallops very wet but we sent 14 down there and 21 worked on the all-weather. Among those working on the grass was our “dark horse” to be featured on C4 Morning Line tomorrow; pleasingly settled for a horse who tends to live on his nerves, can hopefully go to the races soon. Just one runner at Newcastle tomorrow, The Orange Rogue in the 2.50, Lucy rides, 7 run, ground soft; this is his debut over fences, he wasn’t quite right through the autumn but has come to himself in last couple of weeks so will hopefully run well but as a winning point-to-pointer I expect him to be seen to better effect over further in due course. Lucy also rides Harry the Lemmon in the 12.40, Un Guet Apens in the 1.40 and One More Go in the 3.25.
It has been a quiet week on the racing front so a chance to travel for a couple of days. A snapshot of the state of the betting industry from 5 mins in a William Hill shop in Oxford, 1.40pm, 7 customers, 4 playing the FOBTs, 3 watching the 14 runner novice hurdle from Catterick, plus me of course, but not a customer, hmm, not great. The topic rightly obsessing the business side of racing is small field sizes, concerning for everyone and solutions must be found, they are bound to annoy because they will make races more competitive and hence more difficult to win, has to be done though (finding them difficult enough to win here as it is!). The root of the problem lies in a reduced horse population being required to service an enlarged fixture list, the latter as a result of a funding mechanism that, put simply, pays per race. To an extent this is true but I also believe the race programme is at fault; the tendency is to blame the BHA Race Planning Department but this is not fair. They are hemmed in by a combination of restrictive legacy race conditions, the practice of racecourses initially structuring their own cards (normally on the basis of repeating the previous year’s fixture) and some well-intentioned but unproven prescriptive initiatives re mares and novices etc. The result is a system that doesn’t work in terms of maximising opportunities for horses to run and thereby field sizes. The BHA have shown innovation and flexibility recently in attempting to respond to this problem, this must just be the beginning and it should be at the top of the new Chief Executive’s agenda to take a radical look at the way race programmes are structured and the way individual races are framed and the industry must allow for innovation. Far too many races appear to be structured to exclude rather than include horses.
Take a fixture close to my heart, Kelso on 11th January, three chases scheduled – one for veterans, one for novice mares and one for hunters. All there for very good reasons but all “exclusive” to the extent that there are therefore no opportunities for 80% of the chasers in our yard and therefore I would guess 80% of the chaser population. Taken individually these races are well framed to create an opportunity for a very specific type of horse but there must be something wrong when such a large percentage of the cachement is excluded from running and as a result they are almost bound to end up with small fields with the resultant gnashing of teeth. I love to run horses at Kelso and will try very hard to support these races; our owners also love to race their horses there but the majority of them are going to be disappointed when they ask me “is there anything for us at Kelso on the 11th”?
Glorious winter’s morning today, cold and crisp, grass a bit frosty but AW in fine condition and 31 horses had their standard Monday exercise.
A welcome winner at Alnwick yesterday when Kit steered Master Butcher to victory in the Restricted Race in a fast time, Afterclass also made a promising debut to finish 3rd in a competitive 16 runner young horse maiden. Conditions were gruelling over at Carlisle, Landecker ran well for a long way in the Pertemps Qualifier but didn’t quite see it out on the heavy ground and was eased on the run in, The Flaming Matron jumped better than in the past but her effort petered out early and ultimately was disappointing – she seemed fine afterwards and didn’t have a hard time so hopefully she will reappear soon on a flatter track where she should be seen to better effect. Our only entries this week are at Newcastle on Saturday, Lucy is at Catterick tomorrow to ride Aristo du Plessis in the 1.40 and Dumbarton in the 2.10.
Cold with a hard frost this morning, picturesque but bitter, all-weather coping so 29 horses twice up.
Some decent runs at Newcastle yesterday, Calivigny 5th in a what I think will turn out to be a good bumper, he will go hurdling now on better ground I hope. Northern Acres 4th under a fine debut as a conditional for Blair, Marlee Mourinho 4th also on his chasing debut, Ceilidh maybe a little disappointing but she pulled a front shoe off and is quite sore on it this morning.
Thaw due tomorrow so hopefully no problems at Carlisle on Sunday where Lucy rides our two runners on heavy ground, Landecker in the Pertemps Qualifier at 2.25, 10 run, this is understandably competitive for an excellent prize and I’m not sure whether he will handle the ground but we will find out on Sunday. Ground shouldn’t be a problem for The Flaming Matron in the 2.55, 9 run, this again looks competitive but she should be well-handicapped if she can eventually translate her hurdle form to fences.
We will also be heading to Alnwick for the first point-to-point of the season, Master Butcher and Afterclass both make their stable debuts under Kit, they are both nice horses that have schooled well, we will know a lot more about them after Sunday but one would like to think they will be capable of winning a point-to-point at some stage this season.
I think Kit has 3 rides for other stables on the card which is nice to see and today Lucy is at Doncaster to ride Magnolia Ridge in the 12.45 and Quicuyo in the 2.55.
Fierce weather today, a proper storm and tough conditions for riding out in heavy showers driven in on a north-westerly gale. Grateful therefore to the team of staff who toughed it out to ensure all horses given their full work, ably supported by those on the ground and all set for an early start again tomorrow when we head to Newcastle with 4 runners, the ground there is good to soft with soft places but may ease a little, anything apart from glue please as I don’t want any excuses! Ceilidh makes her handicap debut in the 1.20, Lucy rides and 9 run, I’m not quite sure where the 93 rating came from given her form to date but she is a mare who should improve and she should carry weight well.
In the 2.20 Blair Campbell has his first ride as a professional jockey on course specialist Northern Acres, he claims a valuable 10lb in this competitive looking 18 runner race so we will be hoping he can get his career off to a good start. Marlee Mourinho makes his seasonal and chase debut for a new syndicate of owners in the 2.50, Stephen rides and 11 run, he has a light weight and should prove well handicapped but he is a huge horse and is liable to need this first run of the season fitness wise.
Then in the 3.20 Lucy rides Calivigny, 16 run, he should have progressed from his seasonal debut at Ayr a month ago but the opposition are hard to assess, hopefully he will run well. The extreme conditions at Hexham today did not suit El Fontan who struggled to gallop on the ground let alone jump out of it so Lucy wisely pulled him up after a circuit, all being well he will be out again soon.
Stormy today, cold, wet and windy. Tough conditions forhorses and riders but a successful morning on the AW, the grass and some schooling for Thursday’s Newcastle entries. Forecast to be quite extreme at Hexham tomorrow where we have one runner; El Fontan, in the 1.20, 6 run and Lucy rides. He has progressed nicely since his stable debut at Ayr and we have been waiting for this race for him, track and distance should be perfect but not certain he wants the ground as extreme as it is likely to be, especially with top weight but let’s hope he runs well.
Two satisfying runs at Musselburgh yesterday from Whybutwhy and Bracing, both showing good progress from their previous starts, more to come from them I hope, and a splendid winner at Doncaster for Lucy. ATR a little unkind in filming the trainer James watching the race, it’s gone a bit viral on facebook and twitter, I was probably doing the same thing watching on the big screen in the paddock at Musselburgh.
Lot’s of horses to exercise here this morning then off to Newcastle where we have two runners in the last race at 3.15, Clan Chief (Lucy) and Ceilidh (Stephen), 12 run and ground will be soft; this is a nice race for these two horses on one of the North’s big jumping days, I expect (or hope?!) Clan Chief will leave his disappointing hurdle debut behind him but will improve for the experience, Ceilidh is taking forever to come to hand and another step in the right direction will be enough for me.
Back up the A1 tonight and then off down the M74 to Carlisle tomorrow where we run Rossini’s Dancer in the 3.30, 9 run, Kit rides, ground will be soft; although he has top weight in this race we are attempting to take advantage of his lower rating over hurdles, he should go well if he stays the 3m trip which I think he should having won chases over 3m. Lucy will be there to ride Un Guet Apens in the 12.20, Scorpion’s Sting in the 12.50, Lord Wishes in the 1.55 and Dunbarton in the 2.25. I particularly enjoyed the Q&A with Phillip Hobbs article in the RP yesterday, especially his analogy that horses are like bars of soap, you only get so much use out of them but you don’t know how big the bar of soap is, absolutely, it is great to see him having such a good season and he might well win the Hennessy this afternoon with Fingal Bay (that’s almost a tip but not wishing to jinx the hope of such a decent man!)
A drizzly dull sort of day, mild still so can’t really complain and pleased to be back racing tomorrow at Musselburgh where we have two runners on ground that is described as good, both ridden by Kit.
Bracing runs in the 12.35, 11 run, it might all happen a bit quickly for her round Musselburgh but she needs the experience. Whybutwhy runs in the 2.20, 10 run, he has top weight which seems a little harsh but he is in good form at home. It is great to see that Musselburgh’s excellent £500 per runner incentive in the chases appears to have worked though of course selfishly I would prefer a three runner affair! Lucy is at Doncaster where she rides Harry the Lemmon in the 1.55 and Premier Grand Cru in the 2.30.
A team from Channel 4 in here yesterday to film a piece for their “Dark Horses” section of the Morning Line programme, I let Sam Thomas ride and them film a promising unraced 4yo who should be making his racecourse debut in the next few weeks. I have been very keen to take him for a racecourse gallop somewhere so he has half a chance of knowing the ropes for the real thing, unfortunately Musselburgh can’t allow us on again tomorrow, I don’t blame them in any way as they are very pushed for room and they must preserve the ground for racing but my trip to Ireland earlier this week did highlight how much of a disadvantage we are at, they have numerous opportunities every week to run in schooling bumpers and schooling hurdles and there was a lot of excited talk about them; we on the other hand are effectively pushed into a situation where we are forced to get the horse to make its maximum effort on its very first trip to a racecourse otherwise we get into trouble, it isn’t a good situation and as it has become so much more difficult to allow galloping after racing in the North we ought to be working with the racecourses to provide a different solution.
Quieter weather for a few days, a chance for things to dry out and no sign of frost for now. Entries later this week at Musselburgh, Newcastle and Carlisle so looks like getting busier and Lucy off to Sedgefield today to ride her old friend Stanley Bridge in the 2.20. Took the opportunity of a rare quiet weekend to nip over to the West Waterford point-to-point in Co Cork on Sunday and then whizzed around looking at a few horses yesterday morning, lunch in Cork and back home for evening stables, good fun and informative at a number of levels – a few snaps from Sunday…
A fine mild morning but overcast again now and looks like it will be raining again soon. Schooling today; The Orange Rogue, Marlee Mourinho, The Flaming Matron and Whybutwhy over fences then Rossini’s Dancer, Frankie’s Promise, Ceilidh, Spinning Away and Dutch Canyon over hurdles, mostly very good. A splendid winner for Lucy yesterday in the 4m handicap chase at Hexham, took nearly 10 minutes to run but she was in front when it counted and it was well deserved being her first winner back after her spell on the sidelines. Many of you will have seen the excellent promotional video “Get your Heart Jumping” on Channel 4, this film about how it was made is well worth watching if you a spare 10 minutes – The Making of Get Your Heart Jumping
A fine morning, mild but bright though there is still a sodden feel to everything. 19 horses to work on the AW, a dozen going to sneak onto the grass and a long hack round the farm for the few that worked yesterday. Lucy off to Hexham to ride Snuker in the 1.50, feel a bit odd not having any runners, hopefully plenty next week. This is well worth reading if you have 5 minutes, Thoroughbred Daily News republished this blog of Emma Berry’s in response to the media reaction in Australia to the death of two horses in the Breeders Cup – this is the link – Benedict
Another wet night and dull, damp and dark this morning, due to improve but its been a wet spell up and down the country and reports from the Angus and Perthshire glens suggest worst flooding in living memory. So we’ve escaped the worst but are going to have to keep off the grass for a few days to let it dry out.
No runners at Hexham tomorrow, just don’t fancy taking on the extreme conditions at this stage in the season, only runner this week likely to be on Fri or Sat at Haydock.
34 to ride today and with Amy injured, Toni off for a knee operation, Stephen riding at Fakenham, Lucy riding out in Langholm, a horse to take to Clydevet for a minor operation, and Kim the physio in for the morning it all feels a little bit busy but they will all be ridden for an hour in 3 lots without trainer having to check whether his body protector still fits – it’s getting worryingly close though!
A few pics depicting life at Kinneston taken by Frank a week or so ago. Of course it’s Tuesday, handicapper day, always interesting.
A long wet day at Newcastle yesterday and a slightly frustrating time on the racecourse; after a flurry of success a batch of ordinary performances this week, one’s mood in this game is driven by the performance of the most recent runners and the non performers weigh heavily, time to keep head down and focus, perhaps a trip to the Kirk tomorrow would help – need something!
More seriously, Presently Tipsy ran out of steam very quickly, disappointing, we sent her straight into the vets box and I hope we might have pinpointed the problem. Bertie Milan on the other hand was summoned to the same boxes after a particularly disinterested performance, his heart rate revealed a distinct lack of effort, concerning as that’s the second poor run in a row, his win in the Highland National in the spring may have left more of a mark than I thought on a horse that I have always felt was inclined to save a little bit for himself, he’s certainly doing that now. He will be back out on the gallops this morning and may well reappear on the track soon, no doubt wearing some headgear. Wheels rolling early this morning, Kit off to ride out and school horses in Northumberland, Lucy off to Wetherby to ride Master of the Game in the 12.55, busy here but a quiet few days on the racing front prior to a potential trip to Hexham on Wednesday, a welcome moment to catch up, reflect and analyse.
So, a middling sort of day at Ayr yesterday; I was a little bit disappointed with Gold Opera in the opener, he travelled well, maybe too well, but looked weak when they quickened up then stayed on again to be 6th, he is very much a chaser in the making and I must remember he is a 17.2hh 5yo. The Flaming Matron ran almost exactly the same race as she did when making her seasonal debut over course and distance last season, Wicklow Gold ran as expected but Clan Legend went backwards from his first run, I may have done too much too young with him so will give him a little time before he goes hurdling. The most encouraging runner of the day was Calivigny who stayed on well to finish 4th in the decent looking bumper, there should be more to come from him. Rather more importantly one of the linchpins of the Kinneston team, Amy McGregor took a very nasty fall from Nelson de Ronceray in the 2m handicap hurdle, she was transferred straight to Ayr Hospital where two fractured vertebrae were diagnosed, she is still there and no doubt extremely sore – we all wish you the very best Amy and hope you make a speedy recovery.
Off to Newcastle tomorrow where Presently Tipsy makes her hurdling debut in the 1.05, 16 run, Lucy rides and the ground is good to soft with good places. She has schooled with plenty of enthusiasm and will hopefully run a nice race, then Bertie Milan will run in the 2.50 assuming they get the forecast rain, 5 run and Lucy rides, he should progress from his seasonal debut two weeks ago.
We had 4 other horses balloted out tomorrow, clearly there are loads of runners available when the race conditions are framed to suit.
Blogs coming thick and fast this week, a disappointing run from Another Mattie at Sedgefield today, was a bit bumped around at the first and backed off the whole job after that, for now I will blame the track, for some odd reason I’ve never had a horse run a decent race there, goodness knows why. Swiftly on to Ayr tomorrow where we have 5 runners, the ground is likely to be soft all round if the overnight rain materialises.
We start with Gold Opera in the 12.50, his hurdling debut he has schooled nicely at home and should have come on for his run in a bumper at Carlisle 3 weeks ago, Lucy rides and 13 run.
In the 1.20 we run The Flaming Matron, 5 run and Lucy rides, she was meant to be going chasing so this race very much an afterthought, a winner last time out she should go well if she can finally prove she stays 3m. Then in the 3.20 Wicklow Gold makes his stable debut, Stephen rides and only 3 run, he’s a couple of weeks away from being fully wound up but this looks like a nice intro to his season.
Finally we run 2 in the concluding bumper, Kit rides Clan Legend and Lucy rides Calivigny, 10 run; 4yo Clan Legend should be better for his varying experiences at Hexham and should prefer this flat track but is still very much a work in progress, Calivigny is a smart looking 5yo son of Gold Well who was a close 2nd on his only start in an Irish p2p in the spring, he seems like an out and out stayer who will improve for the run but a good place to start tomorrow, I suspect we would need an aeroplane to beat No 7, amongst others of course….
Cool here this morning, rain coming later, lots going on, plenty of horses to exercise and busy racing, just as it should be at this time of year.
An excellent seasonal reappearance for Little Glenshee at Carlisle yesterday, she took a little time to warm to her task but stayed on strongly to finish a never nearer 2nd, beaten half a length by the progressive winner, she should come on for this so fingers crossed. An early breakfast for Another Mattie this morning, do you think they realise trouble is round the corner when the bleary trainer appears in their stable to wake them up offering grub?
He is on his way to Sedgefield where he makes his debut over fences in the 1.50, 9 run, Lucy rides and the ground is soft. He has schooled well and he ought to make a better chaser than hurdler but first time a clear round is always the main priority. Lucy also rides Dunbarton in the 2.50. Can’t resist posting a few more pictures of LG yesterday courtesy of Dennis Penny, rather better than my one above…