A fine spring day, at last, and the forecast settled so we can look forward to an easier time weather wise and delighted that Lucy had her comeback winner at Musselburgh this afternoon on her 4th ride back after injury, much deserved as it has been very tough for her being on the sidelines at a busy time of year.
Also delighted that Dance of Fire showed considerably more interest on his 3rd start over hurdles to finish 5th, a huge step in the right direction and there should be plenty more to come from him through the spring. A full on day for the team tomorrow with runners at Kelso and the Lanark point-to-point. Drying conditions will be the order of the day at Kelso tomorrow where we are likely to have 3 runners so long as the ground isn’t too holding, soft/heavy is likely to be the official description and we start with Buffalo Ballet in the 3.50.
He’s been in good form this season and should run well if he handles the conditions, 5 run and Lucy rides. Then in the 4.25 we run Craiganboy, a cosy winner at Ayr last time I would like to think he can build on that, this is a tight handicap and again handling the ground will be key, Grant Cockburn rides, 6 run.
Then Jet Master runs in the 5.00, he takes a step down in class and hence has a big weight but that’s not as much of a concern as the ground, he hasn’t beaten another horse when he’s run on heavy in the past so we will have to be happy that conditions have dried out enough to let him take his chance, Lucy rides and 8 run. Wicklow Lad (Kit) is declared for the 5.35, his preferred engagement is the Men’s Open at Lanark and he will only go to Kelso if it stays heavy and the ground at Lanark dries up, bizarre to schedule a Hunter Chase on a point-to-point day, our other intended runners at Lanark are Bertie Milan (Crawford) in the Men’s Open and Rossini’s Dancer (Charlotte Dunn) in the Ladies Open.
Ground, ground, ground, I make no apology for boring on about it, it is one of the key variables in jump racing and the vast majority of horses are more effective on a certain type, the margins are relatively small when we think a few pounds makes a difference to a 1200 pound horse, ground conditions in many cases make more of a marginal impact.
So the weather appears to have quietened down after a stormy few days, some extremely wet weather about but we escaped the worst of it unlike Hexham who have had an astonishing 5 inches of rain since their fixture a week ago, let’s hope it dries up enough to let their fixture on Tuesday go ahead. Musselburgh has also escaped most of the rain and the ground there tomorrow is good and we have one runner, Dance of Fire in the 2.45, 10 run and Lucy rides.
Hmm, he was disappointing in his first two starts for us late last year and I’m not sure why, he works well and will appreciate the better ground so hopefully we will move a step closer to finding the key tomorrow, he certainly doesn’t lack ability. Lucy also rides Leading Score in the 4.25, The Wise One in the 4.55 and Porto du Sud in the 5.25, all for James Ewart. A long day return to Haydock yesterday where Clan Legend travelled and jumped impeccably until tiring in the final 3f to finish a well beaten 4th; either he didn’t stay or this came a little soon after a tough race at Kelso, he is bright and well today and may squeeze in a run over 2 miles later in April if conditions are suitable.
The spring equinox might have passed but no sign of spring- cold, wild, windy and snowing this morning, plenty of weather about to keep us on our toes this week. A great day at the Duke of Buccleuch point-to-point on Sunday with Crawford enjoying his first winner on Rossini’s Dancer, who retained the Duchess of Gloucester Cup on what was his 83rd start.
This win meant a lot on a number of levels; for Crawford who has become such an important member of team, for the horse, and in winning this historic trophy for the 2nd time; first presented in 1949 it reads like a history of Northern jump racing and delighted to see my Father’s Zebo on it in 1971. Doesn’t time fly.
Later in the afternoon Royal Chatelier ran up to his best to be 3rd at a track that doesn’t really suit and the day before at Newcastle Titian Boy put up a career best effort to finish a close 2nd, rallying strongly in the closing stages he is a lovely chaser to look forward to next season, he will only improve for another summer on his back. Back down the M6 to Haydock tomorrow where we run Clan Legend in the 3.10 on what I hope will be wet, heavy ground.
He steps up to 2m 4f which I think will suit him though all his form to date is at 2m, only 5 run but most of them are potentially progressive and the favourite is 4lb ahead of the handicapper, he should run well if it doesn’t come too soon after Kelso and best of all Lucy is back in the saddle riding him. Time to reflect on what was another enthralling Cheltenham Festival, so much exciting racing but it does seem to be becoming ever more difficult for the “ordinary man” to win. The way in which half a dozen extremely wealthy owners have driven up the prices of horses has led to the best bloodstock being concentrated in very few hands which takes a bit of colour away from the game especially.
Interesting to note that Willie Mullins attributes the relative success of the Irish horses to a race programme that encourages their long term development compared with our bookmaker led, handicap obsessed structure – he makes a very valid point. The North of course hardly had a look in, the only class act really being the wonderful Cloudy Dream; that is hardly surprising with the whole of the UK only managing 9 winners and our Champion trainer with his choice of 175 expensively sourced horses only managing to win the Foxhunters, traditionally the preserve of the amateurs. I am sure he will be back but for the vast majority the prospect of Festival success seems more remote than ever, we won’t stop trying but nor will we fret about, better to enjoy the excellent sport that we have.
Colder again, damp and blowy this afternoon. Very blowy at Hexham yesterday and tremendous to see The Bishop put up an exceptional effort to finish 2nd, just denied in the last 20 yards at the end of a long three miles on testing ground; a return to fences for him now, perhaps later this month or he may need a little longer after two quick runs. Later in the afternoon Massini’s Lady failed to take much interest despite the application of a visor, she has ability and it is frustrating when she won’t show it on the racecourse, I suspect the easier pace of point-to-pointing might suit her better.
On to Newcastle tomorrow where we have three runners on ground that has dried up a bit to soft, good to soft in places, be good if a drop of rain arrives overnight to freshen it up as may be holding otherwise. We start with Dance of Fire in the 2pm, he’s disappointed on both his starts over hurdles so far and unfortunately I have no idea why, stamina may be the issue which is why we would prefer better ground so he will be ridden with that in mind, Jamie Hamilton rides and 10 run.
In the 3.10 we run Dutch Canyon, another who would prefer better ground, he ran well enough to be 3rd at Sedgefield last time so can hopefully build on that, Blair Campbell rides and 8 run. Finally in the 4.20 we run Titian Boy, we over-raced him slightly before Christmas so have given him a nice break and tweaked a couple of things, he should improve for that and won’t be far away of he copes with the drop back to two miles, 5 run and Brian Hughes rides, it won’t matter how much it rains for him but the other two could end up withdrawn if they get too much rain.
Nothing at Carlisle on Sunday but we will be heading to the Duke of Buccleuch point-to-point at Friars Haugh where we have Royal Chatelier, Bertie Milan and Rossini’s Dancer ready to run.
Springlike in the Cotswolds but leaving the mayhem of the Festival today to head North today to the hills of Hexham where we have two declared runners on ground that is likely to be heavy and holding after a few dry days. We start with The Bishop in the 3.45, a quick reappearance after winning well at Ayr on Saturday, he seems fresh and well at home but we are clearly taking a chance running him back so quickly but I sort of feel we are at the time of year where we need to grab opportunities for our soft ground horses, 8 run and Blair Campbell rides. Then in the 5.40 Massini’s Lady also makes a quick reappearance after running over fences at Carlisle last week, she didn’t show a lot of interest that day so it’s back over hurdles tomorrow and a visor on for the first time, not quite sure what to expect, 7 run and Brian Harding rides, won’t be going quite as fast as he was yesterday in the Champion Chase…..