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….