Saturday, 16 November 2019

Wetherby - November 16

A wet morning ensured the ground would be very soft again but it hasn't been opened up at this stage of the season and really it doesn't seem too bad.

The opening novices hurdle did not looks a strong affair with Fitzroy a very uneasy favourite and looking a big backward chasing type with plenty of maturing to do.

He was soon beaten but the other big stamp of a horse Oscar Robertson knuckled down well after coming off the bridle and this tall, green individual took quite a leap forward from his latest bumper outing.

Revelation of the race was Blossoming Forth, who had shown nothing at all on her seasonal return in a bumper but was knowhere close to fitness that day.

She turned up in vastly improved condition this time around, albeit still a raw, unfurnished future chaser, but was given an enterprising ride and this was much more like it from a filly that cost six figures...a mares race would be a formality.

That said, the form still isn't that great and the well-backed Rare Clouds was the latest from the Sue Smith yard to let punters down...they are all bouncing out of their seasonal debuts and will be different horses in a month's time.

Who's In The Box isn't a bad sort from a small yard and came home quite strongly in third, but he's more of a handicap project and looks unfurnished at present.

The novices chase featured four really talented animals but it was a case of 'after you sir' as the strongly backed Good Boy Bobby was allowed a solo on the front end, the other three riders happy to have a school round.

As promising as the winner is, he won't have things so easy in future and there was plenty to like about Ravenhill Road's effort, showing up looking pretty straight and in good order after a stable switch.

Albert's Back has always been highly regarded and he too shaped with a good deal of promise under tender handling, he has plenty of size and he'll stay further, while there will be other days for Garrettstown who is every inch a chaser.

The difficult looking handicap hurdle followed and it was a bit of a rogue's gallery, Sakhee's City chief among them but today was his day under a cool ride from A Nicol.

Former talking horse Mount Mews looked fit and well but has become increasingly idiosyncratic and he took no interest in jumping the hurdles, but travelled into the race and even threatened to win.

On the face of it a mark of 134 should be well within his compass but a pair of cheekpieces could be needed to bring out the best of his ability.

One For Harry looked straight enough but proved very disappointing, while Cool Mix really should be over fences. I didn't like Applaus who was well backed but looked badly in need of it.

Mr Antolini was a little weak at the head of the market prior to the handicap chase but with just one chasing experience behind him rising 10 he was one to take on all day and The Dubai Way was as good an alternative as any.

Progressive under these conditions a couple of winters back, he took a while to get the hang of fences and in common with many in the Whittington yard didn't seem himself last term, but a stable switch has sparked a revival and he looked fit enough on this return to action.

Storm Control gave him something to aim at in the straight and the tenacity he had previously shown was in evidence again as he powered clear on the run-in, looking like one to keep onside.

It may not have taken a great deal of winning, however, with the favourite predictably struggling for fluency over fences, while Catamaran Du Seuil threw in another stinker at a course he's previously gone well at.

Big Bad Bear was all the rage prior to a hurdle race for horses having run no more than once over timber and he belied a touch of greenness to win with something in hand against a decent enough rival in Miah Grace, the pair worth keeping the right side of this winter.

A good handicap hurdle came up next and the progressive top weight Cornerstone Lad defied another rise in the ratings under the excellent B Garritty to see off another super consistent horse in Theatre Legend.

Both looked well, but there were several looking in need of the run and the eye-catcher had to be Dali Mail, who wasn't knocked about once his chance had gone and he should prove well handicapped when the time comes.

The finale saw the return of Bigirononhiship and I thought he looked a million dollars for the in-form Dobbin yard. A big strong horse he looks much better than his current mark but he only got up on the line thanks to the idling of Fingerontheswitch.

It's to be hoped the winner can build on this now granted more of a test of stamina, while it's back to the drawing board for Ard Chros whose jumping went to pieces again once pressure was applied. He's not a bad sort.

Newcastle - November 15

Dry and bright in the main, lots of rain before racing made it on the heavy side but they took things very steadily throughout and that didn't suit some of the more doughty stayers.

The first was a case in point where they went no gallop at all in the 3m handicap hurdle, just modest fare with Mr Love able to rally after looking beaten at the top of the straight to defy good support.

He looked very well beforehand but is possibly not one to rely on entirely and this really was weak stuff, the runner-up Farlam King looking a very moderate specimen indeed but another to uphold the recent hot streak of trainer M Barnes.

Rose Dobbin ran two with Final Fling still looking burly and not the type to relish carrying a welter burden, while outsider Tailspin looks an okay type for the grade and neither runner would have appreciated the stop-start gallop, both doing their best work late on.

The next was another lowly staying handicap, this time over fences and only a couple took the eye, one of which came home in front being Gatacre Street, who I had mentioned in dispatches before and had also been given an optimistic assessment in a recent stable tour.

Tight in the market, the unexposed seven-year-old looked fit enough for this seasonable bow and was always well placed in a race where few took an interest.

The result might have been different had the front running Road Warrior remained with his jockey, a tall light-framed sort having only his second start for Becky Menzies who can gain compensation for his exit two from home.

Speak Of The Devil was the other to go clear in the straight but he looked woefully one-paced, he's a big strong chasing type who probably needs more time to strengthen up.

Cavalry Scout finished well beaten in the end and he only looks moderate, and possibly a little temperamental, although you wouldn't put it past his excellent trainer to find a little race for him.

Phil Kirby was quite keen on Desaray Girl when I visited Green Oaks but I wasn't expecting the filly to be hot to trot first time over timber...but having been nibbled at in the market made almost every yard of the running to win a mares hurdle that fell apart.

Well backed favourite Ellarna looked really fit and well but ran no sort of race and may not have acted on the ground, while another nice looking filly in Chanting Hill failed to back up her recent effort and she too may be worth another chance on sounder terrain.

Elk Bridge should win a race or two in time, plenty of size and scope but her jumping was very novicey and she should do better than this.

Charlie Snow Angel doesn't win very often but he goes well here and had a huge pull in the weights with Casual Cavalier in the next, and after a solid effort last week came good with the market calling it spot on.

Skipping On and Flaming Charmer looked straight enough to do themselves justice but after dictating a modest pace faded away in the straight and market weakness seemed to speak for their chances.

The market was really strong for Royal Claret in the mares staying handicap chase but I wasn't convinced, this track takes a bit of jumping and she came in very inexperienced with only one start over the black ones.

By contrast, Sheneededtherun has been round the block a few times and her sound jumping and stamina was sure to see her go close, with her jockey's claim meaning she was receiving an awful lot of weight.

Again they pottered round, with C Todd always in the right place on our heroine, moving away smartly going to the last to settle matters. Angels Antics is a big gawky mare but was really fit and did well to get second despite another shoddy round of jumping.

Royal Claret will have other chances, she seemed to jump okay in the main but this did not test her deep reserves of stamina one bit, while Kitty Fisher didn't look straight after an absence and may improve a little on this.

Simply The Betts is a horse I've had a minor obsession about and is as nice a horse as you'd wish to see, easily accounting for a couple of rivals in a novices handicap chase with chief opponent The King Of May running flat.

I can see the winner taking much higher rank down south this season - he didn't seem right at all last term - with the Close Brothers handicap at the Festival an obvious target.

The bumper was a fascinating affair as although the market was pretty well-formed it didn't look right to me as the Dobbin-trained Trooper Turnbull looked hugely over-priced in light of a really sound effort here last term when looking big and backward.

He was much fitter and stronger this time and frankly looked the one to beat, in the end finding Tom Lacey's Unohu just too good on the run to the line having looked green when coming under pressure.

It felt like one had slipped through the net with the two favourites beaten, Wetlands not really taking the eye being quite compact and carrying plenty of condition, while Jeremy Pass is a lovely big chasing type probably lacking the spark to win a bumper.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Carlisle November 11

First blog of the month after being consigned to the 'disabled list' however it looks like we're back in the game after a little trip to blustery Cumbria.

The opening maiden hurdle saw many punters give another chance to the lightly raced eight-year-old Baracalu who looked fit and raring to go after another lengthy break.

Things were looking good into the dip but he found nothing up the hill and I wouldn't put this defeat down to a lack of fitness...you have to know when to fold 'em and he's just downright disappointing.

Second favourite Sunny Express was quite an unfurnished four-year-old on paddock inspection, the type to be better over time, which didn't leave many other options.

With the McCain yard still fairly quiet Gaelik Coast made little appeal as he looked to be carrying some condition and he didn't appear to have come to himself, while Curramore is no looker from a yard that has few winners.

However, the latter was the beneficiary of a patient ride and his stamina and experience was enough on the day, he looks a mudlark but may not have needed to improve to land this.

Of interest in behind were both Claret Dabbler, a decent looking sort that should come on for the run, and Wye Aye, who hasn't been the easiest to handle this autumn but showed the first sign of ability when running on very late. A meagre rating will soon come his way and there's every chance he'll find a race in the course of time.

One of the hopes of the north was back in action in the novices chase and Windsor Avenue did not let supporters down with a scintillating display of jumping and galloping to beat Ballymoy fair and square despite conceding a penalty.

A very attractive looking horse with size and scope, the sky really is the limit for B Ellison and the team. I clocked his lap time from winning post to winning post three seconds quicker than Hell's Kitchen later on the card, having already run half a mile further.

We can all make various different assumptions but this looks like a 155+ type effort and the fact he was still strong at the line augurs well for a potential trip to Cheltenham in the near future.

The mares handicap hurdle was a tight little race in the betting but Amberose was all the rage for a trainer with a phenomenal record in handicap hurdles and the gamble was landed by a narrow margin.

The winner looked fit from an absence but Irish raider Lily's Gem made plenty of appeal having built up a solid portfolio of form and having gone down by just a neck there's a chance the form is quite strong, both finishing with plenty in the tank.

Disappointment of the race was Methodtothemadness although her victory here came on the stiffer track in a race where everything went right for her. By Gold Well, there's every chance she will need much further than the minimum and probably better ground.

As mentioned earlier, the quirky looking Hell's Kitchen landed the Graduation Chase but only after the last fence departure of Midnight Shadow and Djingle, who fell independently.

The former lacks a little bit of scope but has loads of strength and seems to jump perfectly well, however he guessed at the last and paid the price when looking to have the race at his mercy.

Djingle had jumped well but was badly in at the weights and was simply giving best to a superior horse when capsizing. I wasn't that taken by him physically but he's still young and has time to fill out.

Chesterfield looked fit enough and had probably been targeted at the race, he ran to his mark and sets the level of form.

I've more notes about Pookie Pekan than almost any other horse but he's rarely missed by the market and he continued on an upward curve by taking the handicap chase with some ease.

Given a clearer sight at his fences than is sometimes the case, he proved himself a sound enough jumper in bounding clear of Never Up and staying on far too strongly for the rest, in the manner of a horse that should get further.

Last time out winner Le Frank was weak in the betting and was given no sort of ride, allowed to sit well off the pace in the manner of one not really at the races. He continues to frustrate on the whole, rarely putting two races together, with connections seemingly not sure what he ideal conditions are.

That just left a bumper and it was something of a surprise to see the warm favourite One Fine Man short of peak fitness, neither well muscled behind the saddle or tight around the middle.

Jeremy progeny have not yet proved themselves on ground this soft and the race was ripe for a turn up and the Irish raider Arcadian Sunrise provided the ammunition, running right away late on to win decisively.

Quite well made and endowed with stamina, the winner is the type to go well under a penalty and do okay over hurdles in time.

The Smith pair ran well despite looking like chase types for the future, both carrying plenty of condition, although I'd rather mark up their efforts than denigrate the overall form because of that.

Small Present was probably the nicer of the pair in the paddock but he faded late on after trying to mix it with the winner, while Jayaaah came home nicely and he clearly has ability.

Even the third placed Elusive Red looked a fairly decent specimen while Yorvik was a really nice chase type who should step up on this with a more positive ride, and overall I'd view the race quite positively.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Aintree - October 27

Bright sunshine after 24 hours of heavy rain, the ground was soft after they had declared on good so there were a few nons throughout the card, but that didn't detract from an informative afternoon.

There was plenty to take from the opening novice hurdle won by the bang in-form Fergal O'Brien via Imperial Alcazar, who came with a bit of a reputation and was well-backed to get off the mark.

 A big scopey horse, he needed all of the 2m4f to get to the year-younger Coconut Splash but he nailed him on the line and the pair look useful prospects...the runner-up a far more compact individual with plenty of filling out to do.

Big Bad Bob was carrying condition but rallied well after some sketchy jumping to take third - this was a decent effort - while Lossiemouth was an eye-catcher having been held up well in rear off steady fractions, he's a big unit who will benefit from the experience.

Green Dolphin looked a nice horse but was keen and dropped right away as if amiss, but Copper Coin was one of the fitter ones and this nice handicap prospect led them quite deep into it and he's one to keep onside.

Corrany got a bit warm and looked burly once they took off the rug, while Grey Getaway is a nice sort and will build on this as the season progresses.

Mr Muldoon was all the rage again in the staying hurdle for conditionals but the dual winner may just be held by the handicapper at the current time, unable go with the rag Same Circus and Smackwater Jack after the last.

The winner has a good strike rate in both spheres and was on a fair mark, but she was well rugged up and it was hard to know whether she was straight.

The runner-up was interesting though as he looks to have strengthened markedly in the last 12 months and he could pick up a decent prize this term granted a softer winter, while his trainer is starting to knock on the door.

The veterans' chase looked wide open but it was very clear that Burtons Well was 'good to go' despite a lengthy absence and Venetia is a dab hand at bringing them back in fine order.

His form as a novice was solid and trying a new trip that should suit, it wasn't surprising that money came for him and despite a few untidy leaps he won with a bit in hand.

Killaro Boy ran a mighty race in second after going keenly early on, jumping notably soundly this big rangy animal is not flattered by his rating despite that near miss during the early part of summer.

On Tour was disappointing but the run may have come soon enough, while Captain Redbeard isn't at his best here but would be of interest if they go to Haydock next as this should sharpen him up.

Stoney Mountain is a very likeable individual and his good attitude and tenacity were once again to the fore as he won the next from a peg of 134 - there's more to come from his this season and he could be one for the Pertemps granted some soft ground.

Garrettstown is every inch a chaser and it's hoped they go down that route now, he settled nicely this time in behind before laying down the final challenge and I'm thinking Close Brothers for him although he may turn out better than that.

Howling Milan is still weak and leggy and probably needs another season of hurdling, while Hear No Evil looked burly as some of the Skeltons have done this week and the race will not be lost on this nice strong horse.

The big race was next up and naturally the low sun spoiled the race as a spectacle...but not if you'd backed Forest Bihan in midweek and in hindsight the set-up was perfect for a horse that has found winning difficult.

The move up to 2m4f appeared to suit and he settled surprisingly well, but with Kalashnikov not asked a question until too late his basic speed was always going to be too much for the stayers.

The runner-up lost nothing in defeat and he looked in similar form to when he won here in April. He's a proper horse and this is now the bare minimum for him, he looks a soft ground stayer and I'd like to see him move up to 3m.

Frodon looked fit enough but he faced an awesome task at the weights and the lack of fences was hardly a help, while Flying Angel looked sullen beforehand and despite being backed looks like he's gone.

The novice handicap chase threw up countless winners 12 months ago and another good field assembled in the next, Irish raider Plan Of Attack landing the spoils with a strong staying performance.

Only four of nine looked fit however, the first three among them, with the winner quite light framed and athletic, not your average staying chaser.

However, Court Cave's progeny come in all shapes and sizes but what they do seem to have is bundles of stamina and determination, borne out here as he repelled The Hollow Ginge on the run-in.

I didn't think the runner-up would make a chaser last year but I have to revise that view as he seems a bit bigger and stronger now, he loves the mud and staying test although it's worth bearing in mind I didn't think he handled the undulations at Hexham last term.

Shannon Bridge is a big strong individual but looked pretty straight although he's likely to prove a bit sharper next time, while the other fit one Django Django ran no sort of race and it's back to the drawing board for him.

Deise Aba ranged up three out despite a few dodgy jumps but I thought he looked really burly and he stopped quickly thereafter, the others that failed to finish also needed it pretty badly.

One of those was trained by Harry Fry and a lot of his have looked quite heavy in the last week or two, but that didn't stop Winningiseverything in midweek and it didn't stop White Hart Lady in the closing mares bumper.

A big imposing five-year-old with tons of scope, the daughter of Doyen is clearly very useful as she trounced a decent field headed by a couple with decent form from last season.

I backed both Roseisaroseisarose and Lugg River as they set a fair standard and looked among the fittest, but ran into something here given a very positive ride by one of the best around.

The placed horses should now go and win their novice hurdles while the fourth Notawordofalie gives the form further substance having already won one of these.

Cill Anna had a reputation from pointing and she's a nice horse, but like many trained by PFN she didn't looked fully wound up and will do much better, while Wheesht was surprisingly prominent in the market despite rocking up carrying loads of overweight.

There will be winners emanating from this race including many of those in the ruck.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Southwell - October 24

Unfortunate that Carlisle and Southwell often clash as they're two of my favourite punting tracks, and the decision to head south looked a bad call when the rain set in half an hour before the first.

That turned the ground much softer than they declared on, leading to a spate of non-runners and rendering a couple of races far less competitive.

However, it was still interesting stuff by and large beginning with Battleofthesomme making a mockery of his opening mark on debut for Jamie Snowden.

He looked a chaser in the paddock, and a very fit one too, and he was solid at the head of the market after being put in at double figures overnight. They'll need to get him out again next week but on this evidence he should have loads in hand and he jumped great.

Mac Cennetig was a huge drifter probably on account of the ground but this horse with a high head carriage is certainly not one to rely on and he turned it in pretty early on.

Just Call Me Al continues to frustrate and he put in a pretty lame shift after jumping and travelling well early on, a mistake on the far side seeming to bottom him out and he just plugged on.

Clondaw Storm and the size and scope for fences and will come on for this, as will Pardon Me who has plenty of strengthening to do.

They stood their ground in the novices handicap chase and there was a turn-up when Fortescue got up on the nod for the in-form H Daly.

This great big unit has all the hallmarks of his crazy siblings and it could be that they've done a fantastic job getting a win out of it. For my money the the run-in wasn't long enough for him to shirk it but the other one would have got back up in a stride or two.

Now that sounds a tad harsh, he clearly has the ability of Go West Young Man, let's hope he is able to build on this effort. But he won't carry my cash.

The other one was Notachance who has strengthened up in the last 12 months but remains a young horse with some growing to do, yet once again he showed loads of stamina and tenacity after a few untidy leaps. I like him and he should remain nicely handicapped.

Tractor Fred, running in the same colours as the first winner, looked for a while like he was able to land the double jumping and travelling like one ahead of his mark. He's a big strong individual and another young horse to keep firmly on side.

I was disappointed with Stop The World who doesn't have the size up close that he does on TV and like so often last season he proved very one-paced, and he may just be ordinary.

To be fair the ground may have gone against him and he may come on for this, but the jury is out and he needs to start winning.

Eclair De Guye is a nice athletic horse that looked over-priced being one of the fittest, he clearly lives on his nerves a bit but seemed to settle okay in behind. I was quite taken by his effort and a drop in trip might make him of interest.

Thomas Shelby looks a modest sort but probably wasn't fit and was one of three from the Bailey yard on the day to pull up.

Her Coole Lion set lively fractions in the following maiden hurdle but couldn't keep up when Winningseverything took over at halfway. The Fry yard has made a quite start and this gelding did not look that straight, which makes his victory all the more impressive.

Ridden with great confidence from the front, Bowen kept pouring it on and was strong at the line; make no mistake this was a performance of great merit and while he lacks a bit of height he's a good rangy mover and is very likeable.

I made Blackfinch one of the each-way bets of the day and he caught a tartar as they say. A strong staying type from a good family, he looked pretty straight and the rain was in his favour but to give age and experience to a very good winner is quite something and I'll be keeping a close eye on his progress.

The only other to finish in the same parish was Aintree winner Garry Clermont, another four-year-old sure to keep improving with experience.

Jonjo was on target in the next though when March Is On took a leap forward despite modest looks to land a weakish staying hurdle, beating Fontley House and For Jim who sets the standard for the race.

From The Heart should do better in time and probably on nicer ground, while Lord Sparky was the best of them but he wasn't fully fit and pulled far too hard. He's not one to write off by any means.

The mares hurdle frankly looked Oscar Rose's to lose on quite a big class drop on her overall form, a mark of 118 and first time out probably a good time to catch her.

Things weren't looking especially rosy at one point but with Paddy doing what he does best and skirting the whole field the frustrating seven-year-old eventually came away to land a bit of a punt.

As it turns out this might not be the worst race form-wise, The Kings Baby probably the right one following home while the third Coded Message will be winning again this season with this run behind her.

Oriental Cross is a nice big sort, pretty fit and ready to jump a fence, and there's a race in Splash the Cash don't worry about that.

The less said about the boys' race the better, Dariya probably unfortunate not to see it out after travelling like a dream.

The bumper was one of the main reasons for snubbing Carlisle and fortunately the paddock sorted them out with the hot favourite Gunsight Ridge a nice sort but looking burly on his first start O Murphy.

With more than 30% to play with there was value to be had and it appeared to lie with Brief Ambition, who had experience on his side via three runs in points, hailing from the F O'Brien yard that has great success in these races.

A great big horse, Brennan held him together on the ground and despite hanging managed to get him up on the line from Supamous, a nice horse but far more of a flat type from another stable that does well with their few runners.

The pair came a fair way clear of the others headed by Fort Summer, who looked quite backward, while Kemble's Cascade needed the run and looks more of a jumper. Will Sting looked a typically big Scorpion with the temperament to match.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Market Rasen - October 19

It looked a trappy little card although most of the winners were 'getable' if you looked hard enough - that's with the benefit of hindsight (obvs.)

Deputy's Oscar, a big lengthy mare, appeared in really good heart as she looked to complete a quick double after landing a bit of touch here over 2m at the last meeting.

She had to concede the penalty to quality bumper horse Misty Whisky, but the money came for her again and she put the benefit of that previous experience to good use.

The favourite is a big, scopey staying type and she just couldn't quite keep tabs on the winner, not helped by some really novicey jumping. With her yard a bit quiet, she will surely progress massively in time.

Hotter Than Hell is quite a buzzy filly and she burned too much energy too soon, while Velkera shaped nicely in third considering she looked a little weak and needing the run.

Dundrum Wood had two handlers and didn't look entirely straight forward before going off a warm order for the maiden hurdle having cost current connections an arm and a leg, but the son of Flemensfirth looks much more of a staying type and never really looked like defying the odds.

The one they found in the market was Flow Away and again punters were on the mark as the Alex Hales-trained debutant landed a big touch despite looking wayward in front, losing many lengths by jumping and hanging left - he looked a is type and certainly fit enough, a well-related sort.

There wasn't much depth to the race, Torrid running his usual race in third although Fort Denison shaped okay having looked in need of the run, while they appear to be getting Present Chief handicapped - he looked burly after a seven week break.

A trappy handicap hurdle saw six head to post, the market was headed by the Skeltons' Anytime Will Do, an athletic sort who probably just needed it. Umndeni looked really fit and well but went very freely and hasn't looked too reliable in the past.

Honest Vic has threatened to win a prize or two and I thought he'd come on for the run, he was first off the bridle but poached a lead at the last and repelled the thrust of Skandiburg, who has strengthened up and looks a fair stayer in the making.

The novice chase saw Earlofthecotswolds strongly supported in the betting as the only one with a run under his belt but there didn't seem to be much else to the disparity with superior hurdler Rouge Vif, who has the stamp of a useful chaser.

Such a strong horse, he appeared to be carrying condition but he was firm in the market and simply proved too good for the opposition; this was an excellent start and he could take high rank especially in the mud.

Baddesley Knight was completely overlooked in the betting and ran a massive race, jumping and travelling in eye-catching style before Rouge Vif put his stamp on the race from two out.

He's a very nice prospect in his own right and could well develop into a Close Brothers type at the Festival.

The big race was 'the Prelude' (to what, who knows) but it was wide open and there were few paddock hints with all nine looking fit and well.

Copper West looked keen in the prelims but settled nicely and he could have turned the corner after finishing weakly on occasions, knuckling down under a strong drive to see it out.

Theligny has always struck one as a thorough stayer but was tight in the betting and stayed on strongly in a race where he didn't appear to have much going for him. He has his own way of doing things, particularly in the jumping department, but there could be a decent prize in him this season and he remains unexposed over 3m.

The bumper, as so often, was the big race for paddock watchers and the front two in the market looked ones to be with, particularly eventual winner Fair Star from the in-form B Ellison yard.

Bought for 30k, the sizeable son of Sea The Stars clearly has ability and really picked up once asked for an effort a furlong out, seeing off the run of Mawlood who was the subject of some support.

It looked a pretty weak race on paper but the right quartet came away in the closing stages and it wouldn't be the worst bumper in the world.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Carlisle - October 17

Another bonanza eight-race card on softish ground, worse on the watered hurdles course that is used for the Flat and probably just good to soft on the chase course after a couple of dry days.

The opening handicap chase for novices should throw up a bunch of future winners, not least on the basis of a decent-looking time, but also because it brought together a decent lot.

Khage headed the market and looked as fit as any beforehand, his hurdles form standing up to close scrutiny, however the Whittington yard remains rather quiet and after going freely in the first half mile had nothing left for the final climb.

Hill Sixteen held up well in the market and I know at least one shrewd tipster had put him up in the morning, however he clearly isn't a fan of the blog as I clearly stated yesterday that the Smith yard is a mile behind at the moment and I firmly held the opinion he could not win this race.

What a lovely big staying chaser he is, by Court Cave he'll relish a test in due course but even in full fitness it would be hard to see him contend over the minimum trip at this stage of the campaign.

He duly beat one home, another nice staying type from a yard sending them to the track well short of fitness in Buster Valentine, not before he threatened to take a hand three from home in what was quite a taking debut.

All seven showed enough to be worth a second look next time, stayer Smiths Cross looking and shaping as thought needing the run, while Esprit Du Large looked fit but is still fairly light framed although he has a touch of class and stayed on in eye-catching style.

The King Of May appeared to be carrying condition but that is not uncommon of the Ellison yard which is on fire with its chasers at present and the five-year-old won with more in hand than the official margin suggests.

Having travelled sweetly he put the race to bed in short time; connections' patience quickly rewarded and he looks useful. West To The Bridge doesn't have much presence and was keen throughout before staying on - he's clearly talented.

The first of two novice hurdles saw the mare Methodtothemadness put her race fitness to good use with an all-the-way victory for the in-form Lucinda Russell. A lengthy five-year-old, she's not necessarily a chaser in waiting but jumped notably accurately and will stay further.

Jelski looked fit enough on seasonal return and shadowed the winner throughout but was far less fluent and that paid in the end, while the leggy Irish Odyssey shaped with loads of promise before weakening late on.

Sense Of Adventure looks a backward sort for the longer term while Black Ebony will prove this form all wrong once fit, this big strong Malinas gelding looking a useful prospect having strengthened up since last seasons bumpers.

The second division only had two horses with recent outings and sure enough the Flat-fit Multellie ran them ragged in a time far quicker than the previous race. It has to go down as a fine piece of placing.

Runner-up Ask Himself has loads of size and scope and is typical of the yard, a future staying chaser who went with a deal of promise until fitness told, while the third Tango Boy is a similar type and really rather nice.

Some Detail should win races this season on his bumper form but was beaten a long way out and may already want much further, while Bourbon Borderline has a good frame but looked unfurnished and can only improve on this disappointing effort.

The big race was a 0-140 handicap chase and was taken by Pop Rockstar, who looked a shade burly and doubled in price before supplementing last season's win off a 12lb higher mark.

This form doesn't look strong with the very modest looking Aasleagh Dawn chasing him home and the inconsistent Bandsman filling the places.

Arthur's Gift was disappointing but he will be sharper next time and ideally wants a stiffer test at the trip, relishing heavy ground, while Looksnowtlikebrian was carrying plenty of condition and doesn't appear to have improved his jumping technique.

Two legs of a handicap hurdle followed and both were won by race-fit horses, the active Iolani back down to a winning mark and sluicing up in the first despite the late rally of Romeo Brown.

This was a noteworthy effort from the runner-up, the first from the P Kirby to really see a race out this autumn, and the yard will have taken plenty from the run as he wasn't given a hard time when the race was developing.

The favourite Tegerek turned in a puzzling effort under a very forward ride, this change of tactics not working out in trying conditions first time out, and looked a bit short of fitness beforehand.

Mega Double shaped as though weighted to the hilt, while Arctic Road wasn't fully wound up.

Attention Seaker completed a double for Tim Easterby in the next, a horse I followed many years ago before injury struck. She's not a looker by any means but positively hacked up in a weak looking race once the heavily backed Higgs flopped for a second time in a week.

I'd been bullish on the chances of Le Frank - 'the last of the King's Theatre's' - in the handicap chase and it's hard to believe he's still on a mark of 105 after dotting up at Hexham nearly a year ago.

He hasn't really grown and filled out as I imagined he might and came into the paddock very late, having looked like he may have got stirred up in the saddling box. We shall never know but he was quite weak in the market and didn't go with much zest in the first mile.

But thankfully they went a fair pace and his stamina brought him into it as they met the hill, proving that he'll want further and/or softer from now on.

It was hard to fancy much else, Felix Mendelssohn and Never Up didn't look fit while the rest are either quirky or disappointing, Sporting Press again suggesting he's a bit soft and better on flatter tracks.

The mares bumper probably didn't take much winning but a strong pace separated the ladies from the girls and the one with Listed form proved far too good as the well-related Legends Ryde came home alone under a positive ride, she's a strong jumping type that impressed in every department.

Lady Bowes and La Chanteuse were amongst the best of the rest in the prelims and they defied big odds to fill the places, the robust Southern Girl tiring late on while plenty of others didn't get home including longer term prospects Kleos and Silk Or Satin.

Blossoming Forth ran no sort of race but was somewhat rotund in any case.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Wetherby - October 16

Unseasonably wet weather is bringing them out in their droves, an eight race card on good to soft ground and those with recent form again proving that fitness is key at this time of year.

The two divisions of the juvenile held little interest here, particularly weak as they were especially the second leg where the double penalised Maria Magdalena wasn't out of second gear to win again. Nothing to see here.

The whole world wanted to take on Sam Spinner on his fencing debut it seemed and layers were preening themselves after the insubstantial seven-year-old was starting to tail off five fences out.

However, he was able to latch onto the leading trio on the long run to the next and his jumping, although rather low, seemed to get better the quicker he went.

Reeling in the much larger Beakstown on the run-in, the few who stayed faithful to the top-class staying hurdler were rewarded at healthy odds, and he will remain something of a conundrum next time.

Beakstown may just have needed the run and didn't seem to enjoy being in front, either early or late on. This muddling affair didn't see him in his best light I think it's fair to say.

Return Ticket looks a proper horse that has been minded until now by patient connections, and he ran a race full of promise in third.

Better ground may suit him and he will certainly be sharper next time...you could see him contesting a decent race at Aintree or Ayr come the spring.

Vado Forte continues to race on his nerves and was edgy beforehand, he still lacks condition possibly because of these tendencies but if he ever settles down he could prove very useful.

A decent novice hurdle came next where it was clear that a talented hurdling newcomer would be required to take down the double penalised Jatiluwih, who has the make and shape of a very good horse indeed.

All bets were off though when he unshipped D Maxwell on the way to the start - the double bluff meaning he went unbacked at tasty odds as he came home a cosy winner ahead of some promising types.

The heavily backed West Cork lost nothing in defeat on this rules debut, a decent looking type he's still weak in front and was certainly over-bet beforehand.

Young Bull had some tidy bumper form for a stayer and he looks tough as teak, a compact, strong individual who looked in need of the outing. As such this effort was meritorious indeed.

Dino Boy is worth a mention in fourth, while Eclair On Line was disappointingly small and only workmanlike in appearance. Russian Invasion is a lovely staying chaser for the long term.

Blowout of the race was the good looking Keep Rolling, whom R Johnson didn't fight early on and he was a spent force by the home turn.

The handicap chase wasn't as competitive as the numbers first suggested but by the time it was clear market leaders Crievehill and Sky Pirate were the ones to be with, neither made much appeal at 9/4.

The latter has his own ways of getting from A to B and it wasn't the first time he got low at one when capsizing four from the finish. He is capable of picking up a decent handicap this season with his high cruising speed if he puts it all together.

Crievehill looked in terrific health for his seasonal debut and was ridden positively on this drop in grade - he looks sure to go well if they tackle the Grand Sefton next.

I say the same thing every year but it should be evident by now that the Sue Smith horses are not wound up on their first starts of the season at this time of year and they were all very much in the need of the run this day.

The staying handicap hurdle looked wide open despite several players racing from career high perches, race fit trio Jacks Last Hope, Victarion and Justatenner coming to the fore in a daft little race where they pottered round for the most part. No sectionals required here.

Teescomponents Lad probably just needed the run but the dawdle wouldn't have suited and he's worth sticking with, however Monkey Puzzle proved disappointing.

Ecu De La Noverie was the buzzword ahead of the 2m handicap chase but connections are clearly finding out about him as they go and the ducks weren't aligned this time.

Held up off a fast pace, 'Dave' made good headway in search of the double but took a pull round the home turn, ceding first run to B Hughes on Ballyvic Boru and that proved the key to the race.

Ecu looks a very useful chaser in the making and an extra half mile should suit, while I thought he would tighten up a bit for the outing.

The winner had a recent spin under his belt and it finally clicked for this frustrating type who had disappointed me too many times before. To be fair you could have made excuses but he took his chance this time, benefiting from the strong gallop.

Sir Egbert rallied nicely to get third and he ought to prove capable from his current mark, while Treshnish was only half fit and shaped quite well in the circumstances.

The closing 0-140 was a weak race for the grade and presented Project Bluebook with his easiest assignment for a long time despite being high enough in the handicap.

Poor Jonjo Jnr had his brain scrambled by the low sun and chequered flags, mistakenly bypassing the third last when setting sail for home. It was a chance gone begging but whether he would have beaten the impressive Antunes is a moot point.

The Skelton horse caught the eye in a big way beforehand, being a big rangy chaser and looking very fit for this seasonal debut. It can't be long before they switch to fences and the way he went through the race was impressive.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Hexham - October 12

Quite a warm day for the track and drying ground, looking nearer good to soft than soft the way they were finishing.

The opener saw a well-backed favourite in Le Grand Fromage, the first of four raiders from the T Lacey yard with N De Boinville up, however there were definite fitness concerns on paddock appraisal on this first racecourse visit.

There were a couple of nice types in opposition and both came in for support in their own way, The Ferry Master having a bit of size about him and a good moving horse looking one to mark down for the future.

Eventual fourth Teescomponentstrig was given a good mention by trainer Gillian Boanas in our recent stable tour and the striking chestnut looked in good order, having strengthened up while still on the leggy side.

He was very novicey throughout, jumping big on occasions, and should come on a bundle for the experience, showing plenty of stamina in coming from further back after jumping the second last.

Eventual winner Darry Desbois was the fittest and more forward of them all in the paddock, despite looking rather unfurnished and lacking the quality of those previously mentioned. He made his experience and fitness count.

Phil Kirby's horses are yet to fire but Sometimes A Fox should be placed to advantage in handicaps, he's quite a nice type but isn't bred to stay this far. Whateva Next looks an expensive buy, lacking much physical scope, but shaped with some promise.

The first chase of the day was an intriguing contest of its type (0-120) with Dorking Cock being asked a lot to concede weight all round on his chasing debut. It took a while for the penny to drop over hurdles and it could be the same this time around, he has his quirks too.

Ain't My Fault is a big, strong staying handicapper in the making but looks to have a touch of the slows. In common with the Russell horses he looked fit for this seasonal debut and got them all at it from the front, unable to deal with the classier Weakfield from the last.

Brian Ellison's son of Court Cave was well backed and travelled sweatly throughout considering his winning over hurdles came at 3m. He looked to carry some baggage but that's not uncommon of the yard's horses and he was clearly ready to do the job.

I was most keen on Stoney Rover at surprisingly big odds, but although his price collapsed late on the cash went west as the scopey son of Scorpion was novicey throughout and got too far behind as a result.

The fact he was able to come home so strongly is to his credit, and he should be well up to winning from this sort of mark with more practice as his best form over timber suggests.

Honourmission shaped nicely on his first start for Sam England, appearing to have physical quality beyond his current rating. Lacking somewhat in size and fitness, he should be able to find races at the smaller tracks.

The staying hurdle didn't look like it would take much winning but Ryedale Racer looked on particularly good terms with himself, very fit and on his toes. With loads of course form behind him he had to be a player and being allowed his head with over a circuit to run proved a masterstroke.

The plunge on Kings Eclipse was mystifying. Once a plot horse always a plot horse the saying goes but this robust chase type doesn't have much toe and tends to require much softer ground than this.

Eureu Du Boulay looked in good heart but was quite edgy and nothing about him suggests he will stay this sort of distance, while Irish raider Military Hill is probably quite well handicapped the way he went through the race, simply not seeing it out as well as the winner.

The seven-runner handicap chase was a weak affair and was fought out by a couple with course form in Classical Milano, who was on a going day this time, and Misfits, who looks a tad high in the weights but would surely have won if he winged the last, which he looked on a good stride to do so.

Just Georgie was solid in the betting for one very much in need of the run, and he got extremely warm as well. Misdflight must have traded low the way he went through the race but his strike rate says it all.

Lacey's bumper winner Floating Rock and the H Whittington-trained Lantiern dominated the betting in a fair looking novice hurdle, the former looking a nice sort and preferred getting the weight from a penalised Lantiern, who hasn't looked straight forward in the past.

However, neither looked like winning at any stage with Miah Grace travelling like a dream throughout and having it won a long way out. Running well in a good bumper at the track last term, the Malinas filly should be up to defying a penalty against her own sex.

Fyfin Patsy was another on the day to make fitness count by staying on for second ahead of Get Help, who is sure to come on for the run and stay further, sentiments that apply to fourth placed Milvale, who wasn't knocked about and looks one to keep onside with softer ground likely to suit.

Some of the usual suspects rocked up for a 0-100 handicap chase with Roll Of Thunder running his  solid race despite the handicapper's reassessment, this time giving best to Casimir Du Clos who was nicely backed despite looking as if the run would do him good.

The Blue Bresil gelding won at Sedgefield on chase debut last term but handn't backed it up, however he was by far the least exposed here and could well have more to offer as he goes back up in trip.

Bocasien Desbois landed a bit of a punt at the last meeting but this inconsistent sort threw in a shocker with the run coming too soon, although even with more time between his races you wouldn't trust him to back up last week's effort.

There were some nice types for the future in the closing bumper but the warm favourite Dakota Beat was an entirely different proposition, quite a small Flat type with plenty of experience and winning form over further.

He was simply much more forward than the rest and put that experience to good use, comfortably beating chief market rival Neville's Cross, a horse with plenty of size who may just lack the pace to win one of these.

Again, Flutter Down out-ran his odds due to superior fitness on a frustrating day for the yard, Grumpy McGrumpface the next best with Kearney Hill carrying plenty of condition on this occasion.


Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Stable tour - Phil Kirby

It hasn't taken long for Phil Kirby to re-establish himself on the up just three years after setting up an entirely new training complex just off the A1, on the outskirts of Richmond.

The former farrier and amateur jockey made great strides in the training ranks during the early 20-teens but found himself getting too big, too fast, and that meant searching for a new yard.

When all options were exhausted, he was able to design his own establishment - from the layout of the gallops to the stables and office buildings - thanks to investment from a friend, and the winners have begun to flow.

Last winter saw phenomenal success with 43 winners over jumps, comfortably beating his previous best of 28 set in the 2013-14 campaign.

Far from allowing the grass to grow under his feet, Phil has been planning ahead by investing in a handful of broodmares to keep the show on the road, while also attracting the attention of bigger owners.

"The aim is to beat last year's total - we count the calendar year and we'd like to reach 50, we've made it hard work for ourselves but you'd like to think there are more that can win this time," he said in early October following a quiet few months, both on the Flat and summer jumps.

"I want things to continue to get bigger and better, we've 74 stables at present and a barn where we have all the youngsters in - that would take another 20 and that would definitely be the end. But there's no plans to do that yet.

"I'm very happy with what we've got. We put 10 boxes up this winter, another 10 last winter so we've gone from 54 to 74 in two years, which is not what we set out to do. But they're all full which is grand.

"We've got great owners who appreciate what we're doing, and if somebody wants to buy us nice horses that would be great."

The newest stables at Green Oaks
The yard hit the headlines in the spring when the free-spending Darren Yates sent him Blaklion, followed by Don Poli and £620,000 purchase Interconnected before withdrawing his support a couple of months later and sending the horses elsewhere.

However, Kirby remains unflustered by the whole episode and he seems happy with the way things have panned out.

"It was fine, I was disappointed for half an hour but to be honest it was a bit of weight of my mind," he told me. "None of them were in work at the time so it's not like we felt we'd done anything wrong.

"I'd already bought Magellan and South Seas and he wanted a National horse so he bought Blaklion, who went wrong 10 days before the National which was a bit of a sickener, and then he bought Don Poli.

"He wanted a proper nice horse so bought Interconnected, we only had him for 10-12 weeks, a lovely big horse who was on his holiday and we only did a bit of flat work with him.

"We had a bit of bad luck but that's the way it is and we haven't fallen out in any way. It was more of a relief at the time but I'd definitely have them again if anyone wanted to send that type of horse here.

"I'm trying to make horses all the time so anything half or threequarters made would be great."

Phil currently does all the buying of horses himself and seems to enjoy that side of racing almost as much as training them.

"I enjoy going through the catalogues and I like buying form horses, that was what we always did. I've always been around horses and I didn't think I needed anyone to show me round.

"If they're sound and have form there'd be a race in them, we didn't have many superstars but we had a lot of winners from the amount of horses we had.

"It's time consuming and as long as I can make the time to do the catalogues I'll continue buying them, it's just a time thing and I enjoy doing it and getting stuck into the form.

"We've got six mares and when we first came here we were low on numbers so it was a part of the business that we needed to do to get going again, so we had a lot of stables and not a lot of money coming in.

"We bought foals to sell as yearlings and it kept us going for a couple of years. We got some nice mares and a couple of Lady Buttons siblings by Robin Des Pres and Presenting, plus an unraced sister of Buttons by Westerner, who is in foal to Buck's Boum.

Hopefully some future stars in the barn
"It's not something I'll go more into, it's done its job and we'll keep a couple of mares, but it's a job for someone else now.

"If I don't sell the young horses to owners in the yard they'll go to the sales at three, running them myself isn't the plan.

"They're a nice bunch of mares and it was grand when we had more time and room, whereas now they are starting to get in the way a little bit, which is a nice problem to have I suppose."

I wondered how Phil had built up so much experience and confidence in his own ability to buy the right horses and broodmares.

"I started at Ferdy Murphy's and was there for three or four years, rode as an amateur winning on my first ever ride, but things went rapidly downhill and soon realised things weren't going to happen.

"I then started working as a farrier and once qualified started to train a few Pointers and things soon took off, we were champion hunter chase trainer in the first year and I quickly got my licence to train under rules.

"The numbers soon swelled and I had about 35 between Castleton near Whitby and Keith Reveley's yard, at that point I had a chance to go to Middleham so I kept the yard going at Castleton and moved the rest to Middleham.

"We had a lot of winners that first year, we had a lot of well handicapped horses and we had a really good run. But I was driving over to Middleham every day and it was tough so I decided to downscale a bit and when I heard Keith was packing up he said I could use his yard which was perfect as I was only living five minutes away.

"But Keith decided to stay on a bit longer which left me stranded a bit, but I got an extra six months at Middleham and then this place came up and luckily I had a friend and owner who wanted to have a good go, and that's how we ended up here. I couldn't have afforded it on my own, and he's been brilliant."

As for the future, Phil reckons that he'll be focusing more on the National Hunt side of things with 90 percent of the yard now being jumpers, although he still has one or two nice ones for the Flat.

"If people want to send us a Flat horse that's grand, but I haven't been buying flat horses on spec to sell," he said. "We've got a few nice Flat horses that we've looked after but the few we've been sent haven't turned out to be much good.

"The two year olds are not really two year-olds but they've had their three runs and will be better next year. It looks like we've had a poor season but we've had loads of horses placed.

"It starts to get annoying after a while and it'll be nice when we start having winners because then you can start comparing what you've got.

"This year is turning out a lot like 2018 with a quiet few months in the summer and then things started to click, you do worry about this and that but the horses that we expected to run well did so, without winning. Hopefully things will start to get going soon."

When, as seems inevitable, Phil decides to build those extra 20 stables, he'll have a near 100-strong team of horses at his disposal and it would be a foolish man to bet against P Kirby becoming one of the biggest names in Northern jump racing in the years ahead.

Horses come to the end of the 6f woodchip gallop
December Second
He’s on a break and we aim to bring him back for the big all-weather races at the end of winter and then he’ll stay on the Flat. I hoped we would pick up a bumper with him, which is what we did, and he’s just got sharper and sharper. He’d make a great jumper but the prize money is just too good on the Flat.

Lady Buttons
Very similar to last year, she’ll start off in the Listed mares race at Wetherby and may take in a race or two in Ireland, she schooled this week over French style hurdles and was really sharp. For a horse that jumps fences so well she switches back no problem. She’ll definitely go to Doncaster again for those races over hurdles and fences that have great prize money. I’d love to keep going with her for as long as we can and it’s not set in stone yet that she’ll be off at the end of the season.

Top Ville Ben
He’ll probably start off in the Charlie Hall and will have an entry in the Ladbroke Trophy (Hennessy). He’ll be wrong in the weights at Wetherby but I’d love to win that race. Plus he needs more experience as he was fairly lightly raced last season. Newbury will suit him but whether the big field will, who knows.  The dream is still alive at the moment.

Little Bruce
Hasn’t come back in yet, he goes home and the owner does the pre-training and he comes in later. He’s not as slow as he makes out, and loves being in front. He’s not very big but he’s quite a nice horse and we’ll see if we can find a nice staying chase for him, he’ll have to run in some of the better ones this season.

Niven
I like him, hasn’t done a lot wrong for me. He doesn’t show a massive amount at home, and his mark is probably about right, but he’s had a proper break for the first time and he’s in fairly good order. He’s every inch a chaser and will probably stay over fences. He was beaten less than a length by Delta Work in a beginners chase this time last year, so there might be a nice race in him.

Wemyss Point
He’s had his wind done and will be ready for mid-November. We have tried to treat him like a nice horse and he doesn’t seem the same horse during the summer, so we’ll go novice chasing with him this season and he’ll stay 3m I’m sure.

Dubh Des Champs
Should be ready to run in the next few weeks after suffering a leg injury following victory at Doncaster. He’s a big horse who looks like a chaser but is very inexperienced at the moment, so might start back over hurdles. Should go on any ground bar extremes.

Suggestion
He was quite a big weak horse who seems to like things to fall his own way, if you put him under pressure too soon he gets into a bit of a flap. I always think he wants a bit further and I wouldn’t be afraid to try going further again. He’s got a high knee action but seems to act on any ground. There’s not a lot of leeway in his mark just now, and we may try him over fences at some stage.

Theflickeringlight
I thought she’d win a bumper first time up but probably bumped into one, and was a bit disappointing the second time. She’ll start novice hurdling sooner rather than later (ran at Kelso on Sunday)but whether she’s good enough to win a novice I don’t know...she could be one for handicaps. Runs very differently to how she shapes at home, as she works like a thorough stayer. She’ll make a nice broodmare being nicely bred by Flemensfirth.

Nicely Indeed
A tricky horse with plenty of ability, we used to ride him wrong so went right back to basics by dropping him out and getting him to finish his races a bit better. He’ll be ridden to run well every time and his day will come again, whether he’s a 120 horse I don’t know. He’s not one to force because we might lose him again.

Whoshotthesheriff
A nice prospect who won two novice hurdles for us last season. He’s a rangy chase type but he’ll have another season over hurdles and will be going up in trip.

Lady Camelot
I quite like her but I don’t know what she wants yet, looks like she’s a fast ground horse but has plenty of form on soft. She went to Cheltenham as one of the favourites and ran okay but it was the end of a long season. We’ll try and build her confidence up and she should pick up a handicap or two.

Oak Vintage
He was badly handicapped when I bought him but is back down to a fair mark now, he’s not that quick and he wasn’t able to go the pace in those better races he was running in. Back in the right grade he should be capable of winning races around 2m4f.

Romeo Brown
He’s twice the size he was last year, really filled out. Not sure whether he wants 2m or 2m4f at the moment, ultimately I think he’ll be better over the longer trip on soft ground, but he goes on any. I didn’t think he’d handle the ground when he won at Carlisle so I’m hoping he’s going to better this season.

Asum
Another who is tricky to weigh up, he probably is what he is, not a superstar but there are races for him at the likes of Wetherby and Ayr and he’ll hold his own now that he settles better in his races.

Northern Girl
She’s very well bred and will probably go the paddocks at the end of the season. She should be able to pick up a race at around 2m4f from her mark.

Dares To Dream
Nice filly who will go straight over hurdles, should be competitive in mares novices. They’re a bit more competitive than they used to be. She might be good enough to compete against geldings with the allowance, but she’ll be looked after as she’s quite nice. She got lost in the Aintree bumper in bad ground, but she’d be better than that.

Desaray Girl
She’s a bit stuffy so will run in another bumper as I don’t want her to get tired in her first start over hurdles. She’s probably a couple of weeks behind Dares To Dream at the moment but they are similar types, although I’d never work them together to see which one is better.

Show Promise
Had a small fracture after his last run but is back cantering and will be back a bit later on, probably in another bumper. I bred him myself from a proper staying family and he’s quite a nice horse now, much bigger and stronger than he used to be.

Zig Zag
Quite versatile and goes on any ground, but he’s on quite a high mark at present.

Lady Kyria
She’s only young and hasn’t done a lot, but I quite like her. She’s been a bit unlucky here and there, injuring a foot when second favourite to a long odds-on shot at Ayr, but is a solid syndicate horse that will do a job and win races this winter.

Iconic Belle
A similar type that wants goodish ground,she’s been running solidly on the Flat without winning and has come break from a short break. Her marks’ about right but should remain competitive in the right conditions.

Dieu Benisse
She was bought out of Nicky Henderson’s and could be alright, a nice mare with scope to jump and she schools really well. Seems to be starting out on a fair mark on what she’s achieved so far (ran at Kelso on Sunday).

Gonn Away
She’s been back after a lovely break but I turned her away and she cut a leg and has gone back to the owner again. She’s a nice filly and the owners are in no rush with her.

Robbing The Prey
He’s just cantering away and we are finding out about him at the moment. Used to be with Ruth Jefferson and Donald McCain but seems to have lost the plot, however could be well handicapped if he comes back to form.

Lucky Icon
Won a couple of races in Ireland and looks a nice horse, has gone up again for coming over here but looks a solid type for the nice 0-140 type handicaps. He’s a bit keen and might want everything to fall right.

Sometimes A Fox
A nice horse that Gordon Elliott bought off the Flat but couldn’t do much with, he hasn’t quite clicked but was probably badly handicapped. Might win a little race or two if the handicapper isn’t too harsh.

Abington Park
Ran well in a bumper on his debut in May who will run in another bumper probably in the middle of November and you’d expect him to go close on the basis of his first effort. He’s a full brother to the James Ewart-trained Avidity.

En Meme Temps
Ran well for Tom Lacey, chasing home Suggestion on Boxing Day before going on to win at Ascot in March. He’s a very kind horse, he carries his head quite high but seems to run his race, I bought him to go over fences but will start off in a hurdle.

Fingareeta
Finished first and second in bumpers when trained by Malcolm Jefferson, she has had plenty of time off but is a lovely type and will start off in a bumper in November.

Lord Roccoco
A solid enough horse who won at Hexham in the summer, ran okay behind quite a nice sort at Sedgefield last time. Whether he’s a 120-type I don’t know, we had to run him in another novice and he’s going the right way, although I’m not sure where we go next with him.

Fille D’Avignon
Bought as a youngster, a very nice daughter of Getaway and if she’s as good as she looks will be very nice.

Two Thirty Yeat
A four-year-old, a proper nice horse who won’t be over-raced this year, she didn’t run last year but will make a lovely hurdler and eventually chaser.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Stable tour - Gillian Boanas

I enjoy the history of this great game and there’s plenty of it at the Reveley Farms, where Gillian Boanas has some 20 or so nice horses under her care in Lingdale, not far from Saltburn-by-the-sea.

Gillian has been part of the furniture here for longer than she cares to remember (25 years and counting) but while any riding ambitions were quashed by a broken back in her late teens, a desire to train under rules was never really part of the plan.

However, when Keith Reveley – who had taken over from mother Mary in 2004 – decided to call it a day in the summer of 2016 she took the decision to rent a section of the yard and turn a part-time hobby into something more serious.

“I was training a handful of horses for Point-to-Points down the road in my spare time but then Keith dropped a bit of a bombshell when announcing he was going to quit that following January," she said.

Gillian with recent purchase Generalisation

"So I thought rather than doing that I might as well try to keep it going here, and the vast majority of the owners were happy for me to take over,” she said.

“Tees Components have been brilliant down the years and the horses they breed come here, while Richard Collins has been very loyal, giving me Brave Spartacus and now Bestiarius as well as keeping Crixus’s Escape with me. 

“So I did the necessary training courses in short time and we were soon up and running. There are 22 boxes and we have 19 in training including a couple of Flat horses that will soon be turned away, with another four elsewhere.

“There are four of us that work here although one is about to give birth so we are going to be snowed under for the next few months!

“Joe (Williamson) is attached to the yard and will keep riding a lot of them, he’s coming on all the time and has been helped by Phil Kinsella.

“Ross Chapman comes in once every week or so to get to know the horses and is a really good young rider.”

With Gillian’s number of winners increasing exponentially each season I thought it was a good time to see what she’s got going on at a yard where little has change over the years.

The legendary woodchip gallop has been rebuilt through the humps and hollows and is now a good six furlong pull from bottom to top, while there remains an indoor barn and a furlong round loop for warming up and slow work.

With a small team Gillian is out with most of the five lots including the galloping and schooling, and seems to be enjoying her time at the helm. With no plans at the moment to expand, she has a really nice bunch of horses to go to war with this season having replaced the likes of the now-retired Brave Spartacus with some cheap buys at the Doncaster Sales.

The famous gallop at Lingdale

The day after this interview took place Gillian celebrated her first winner of the winter campaign – her third of the season – when Sweet Vinetta battled to victory at Hexham at rewarding odds of 14/1.

There will be plenty of value to be had backing horses from a small ‘unfashionable’ yard like Gillian’s this winter and she is well on the way to beating last season’s tally of eight. She has set her own goal of 15 and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if she achieved it. I wish her well.

Teescomponents Lad
A little star, he was the first to run under my name and only just got beat in a bumper. I’m still waiting for my first bumper winner now! He’s so consistent and I don’t feel we’ve seen the best of him yet. We took him to Kelso in March but he reared up in the lorry and suffered a nasty cut that required surgery, but he’s fine now and will go to Wetherby over 3m first time out.

Bestiarius
Started out with Keith before moving to Nicky Richards, but he suffered a bad tendon injury and he came back and I gave him plenty of time off. Got tired on his first run back at Perth and it might take him two or three runs to reach his peak as he’s a big lad and came in heavy enough. He’ll run again over hurdles before we think about fences, but he’s a brilliant jumper.

Loch Linnhe
We gave him a wind op after he arrived from Mark Walford’s and it seemed to have helped. Finished last season by winning at Southwell when I decided to ride him more patiently and he got there just in time. He’d been ridden forcefully most of the time and I think he enjoyed having an easier time of it. He’s back after a niggle and I think he’s best with cut in the ground.

Teescomponentstrig
A nice big four-year-old by Black Sam Bellamy out of a mare that was bred here called La Calinda. He’s a brilliant jumper, a natural from day one, and we’ll be looking at races over 2m4f with some cut in the ground.

Just Call Me Al
‘Alan’ has always worked like a good one and he’s an easy horse at home but is very keen in his races and hasn’t been getting home. He hasn’t had any luck at all and had a tired fall at Southwell the other day, but when things fall right I’m sure he’s a well-handicapped horse.

Generalisation
Picked up for £8,500 at Doncaster last month, he’s a lovely big chasing type and I’m just finding out about him. He was ridden quite aggressively over 2m in Ireland but he’s by Arcadio and I can see him running over 2m3f at somewhere like Market Rasen. We’ll see what mark he gets as he’s still a maiden over hurdles as well.

Crixus’s Escape
A good looking son of Beneficial, he broke rib when winning at Hexham so he went into his second season over hurdles a very inexperienced horse. He finally came good, winning at Ayr when he got his ground, and he’ll start back at Carlisle before we think about going over fences. 2m4f looks like his trip for the time being.

Sultans Pride
From a family we know very well but he’s been pretty disappointing after showing a fair bit in bumpers. He’s always been a bit backward and didn’t really take to hurdles before getting a tendon injury. I’m hoping he’s going to be a better chaser.

Sweet Vinetta
Another home bred, she’s not very big but showed promise at Hexham before winning her novice at Catterick. I probably shouldn’t have run her in a decent race at Newcastle and she struggled a bit after that, but she’s come in looking and feeling stronger so hopefully we can find another race for her on soft ground on a left-handed track, as she hates going the other way. *Won at Hexham on Friday

Leading in Sweet Vinetta at Hexham

Lady Vinetta
A Sulamani half-sister to Sweet Vinetta, she may be a little more straight forward but will be even better next year. Ran okay in a bumper the other day and I’ll ease off her now for a while. There’s a mares bumper at Wetherby at the end of November before she goes over hurdles, and she jumps brilliantly.

Baby Jane
One I picked up at the spring sale for £4,000, a four-year-old by Oscar that goes nicely, she schools really well but she’ll start off in a bumper and if I think she can win one she might have another go. I’ve also got her half-sister by Milan and she’s another nice sort.

Noble Rose
A half-sister to Floral Bouquet who I used to train (now with Jamie Snowden) by Sholokov, a lovely big mare who has schooled really well, but she's had all sorts of little niggles and we've also had her wind done.

Arcadio x Arequipa
A lovely three-year-old I picked up at the May sale for 10k who is a half brother to Better Getalong, a nice horse that used to with Nicky Richards. He's a laid back sort I'm in no rush with but he's an absolute dude and one we can look forward  to.

Presenting x Northern Native
A full sister to the Reveley’s Dance Of Time and also Teescomponents Lad, she’s a nice big mare who we’ll hopefully get a run into in the New Year. I also have her half-brother by Shirocco.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Hexham - October 4

Drizzly but mild on arrival in Northumberland, the rain had got into the ground though and it looked pretty tiring, although they generally went a sensible gallop throughout the afternoon.

The opening mares handicap hurdle looked a competitive little heat but the only one with course form was 14/1 shot Sweet Vinetta and she made that knowledge count to win for Gillian Boanas.

As luck would have it I was round at chez Boanas the day before and the young grey was discussed at length - she certainly looked stronger than at this point last year and didn't deserve to be overlooked in the market.

Irish winner and Dr Newland newcomer Somethinaboutangela had plenty about her beforehand and this was probably a step up on what she had previously achieved, with more to come.

The market favoured Mega Double who looked well but much of her form is round Cartmel and she travelled like the best horse for a long way before the weight took its toll up the hill - that can happen round here and it was a slow motion finish.

Three went to post for a staying novices hurdle and they are all worth a second look next time, French import Echiquier proving a class apart and it looks like this chase winner will have a novice hurdle campaign this time.

Elle Est Grande is a lovely stamp of a horse still on the weak side, while Speak Of The Devil is every inch a chaser and the best may not be seen of him until next term.

He may be the next Buddha Scheme as the next race was a case in point in how so many of Lucinda Russell's horses improve for the switch to fences...Buddha Scheme showing little in three starts last term but again looking a great big chaser albeit rather gangly and gawky.

He looked beaten in the dip but the two fancied horses Trixster and Ard Chros clobbered the last opening the door for the 40/1 shot to land a wild staying novice chase, after Senor Lombardy had tumbled out of it having reached for the downhill fence five out.

Ard Chros, noted here last season running a fine race despite carrying plenty of condition, looks a really nice prospect and he will strip fitter next time, however the well-backed Trixster is an active horse who looked pretty fit, but he's not a brilliant shape and he's going to struggle over larger obstacles unless he smartens up his act.

I'd rate the race round runner-up Cairnshill who I suspect has run up to his best hurdle mark of 117.

The fourth was a tricky looking handicap hurdle that featured the return of Taxmeifyoucan, who looked a poorly handicapped horse last term after a couple smart efforts in his novice year.

As with Senor Lombardy earlier on the card the Keith Dalgleish inmate looked likely to benefit from the outing and he looked to have hit a bit of a flat spot when the taps were turned hitting the hill, but was in there pitching at the last where Old Salt took an unfortunate spill when his back legs slipped from under him.

He would probably have won, but he hampered Taxmeifyoucan in the process who looked booked for second as the outsider Eviscerating, a big rangy chaser, found himself several lengths in front only to pull up with the line in sight, B Hughes galvanising the Dalgleish horse for a final winning thrust.

Melody Of Scotland failed to catch the eye and looks little more than a summer type, the rest looked pretty straight although Carrigmoorna Matt is a big lad and may need more work under his new handler.

The cash came for Bocasien Desbois in the 2m4f handicap chase and the grey had certainly dropped to a good looking mark following a modest campaign when the M Todhunter yard was very quiet.

Not a horse with huge scope, the grey jumped soundly enough to win a shade cosily from Orioninverness, who looked fit enough and may have benefited from a more dynamic ride having form over much further than this.

Ripstick put up another sound effort in third having been given plenty to do, and if seen out again in the near future could be poised to pick up a small race.

The finale saw Court Baloo bidding to supplement his impressive victory here last time out which was achieved in a very decent time and has seen the well-beaten runner-up go in at Perth.

The ground was very different that day but this was water off a duck's back and, under a positive ride, stayed on too strongly for Our Nest Egg and Pleney after the last.

Two very different types, the former didn't appeal at all from a physical viewpoint unlike Pleney, who had come in for each-way support during the day and looked sure to enjoy the test of stamina.

This well made sort may have needed the run this time but should be able to find a similar opening closer to home in due course, he's still learning about the game and could yet prove ahead of his mark.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Sedgefield - October 1

It usually takes only one trip to dreary old Sedgefield to remind myself not to come back for another 12 months and this year will be no different, the question is did we glean anything from this particular rain swept visit?

The opener was a dismal 0-100 won by the mercurial Hey Bob, who appeared to relish underfoot conditions and consented to run on after hitting the front two out.

Jaxlight once again traveled like the winner only to flatten out and the fact remains she doesn't find anywhere near as much as you'd expect off the bridle. On balance she remains disappointing and doesn't have the scope to improve much.

There was nothing to get excited about behind the front three, who pulled clear.

Jatiluwih was sent up from the P Hobbs yard to complete a facile win under the guidance of 'Dave', this strong and useful looking sort the best horse on show during the afternoon. Lord Roccoco was fit enough but was put firmly in his place.

The four-runner novices chase saw Nietzsche and Tonto's Spirit re-oppose after matching strides at Perth and the placings were reversed in similarly dramatic circumstances, with the latter fighting back after Nietzsche looked to idle going to the last.

The pair were much the best in the paddock with the quirky Saint Freule not fully wound up at all - the money that arrived for him in the betting somewhat baffling. He's not that big either but a return to Hexham next time may prove suitable.

River Frost was a big drifter and once again showed little aptitude for the job.

Summer form took on winter promise in the next and it was the improving and consistent Snookered who ran out a convincing winner of the handicap hurdle, more or less repeating the all-the-way win here 26 days ago.

Brushing aside this much softer ground, the Ellison-trained youngster may find another rise halting his momentum although he does seem to have found a new level of form.

I'm To Blame is a nice big chasing type but still looked a bit awkward and immature beforehand, and carried that into the race landing with legs of jelly over two out.

B Hughes reported he was flat out over this 2m and we can expect more back up in trip, however this is not the first time he's looked uncomfortable off the bridle and for all that he has ability, I have a question mark over him just now.

The rest were a mile back, this 'puddingy' terrain likely doing for Prancing Oscar and possibly Rukwa who was off the bridle a mile out.

Ringaringarosie shows remarkable enthusiasm for the game with this being her 20th outing in 12 months and she saw out the longer 2m3f trip well enough to see off Instant Replay and Murphy's Law who were giving lumps of weight away.

The mare typically shot off in the front but fenced notably well throughout unlike the other pair who were a bit scratchy and quite possibly a little out of their comfort zone.

Instant Replay has done the bulk of his winning in deep midwinter but looked in pretty good shape for this return, while Murphy's Law couldn't back up his facile win at Perth and now faces even stiffer tasks than this, for all that he looks a decent enough type.

Inca Gold looked a small, poorly made animal with little scope for a fence, while big old Maxed Out King will need a few runs to shake off the rust.

I rather fancied Squouateur on this softer ground but they surprisingly pulled him out, leaving jolly Chanceiton to grind out victory in the marathon hurdle, doing what Murphy's Law was unable to do in making it two wins in a week. He's not as good over timber, but you can't fault his consistency. This may not have taken much winning with the opposition looking out of sorts.

It was slightly surprising that Dalkingstown was backed into 11/8 for the bumper bearing in mind his penalty and the doubts about the softer ground.

Nothing stood out on paper beforehand with the Irish raiders Danny Archer and Bold Pearl having shown little on the track, and neither looked especially forward in the prelims.

Faruzi was one of the nicer types on show but didn't run any sort of race on ground that may have gone too soft, but Order Of Thistle appeared to be some way short of peak fitness and overcame that to win quite comfortably.

Admittedly getting tired late on, the winner was giving Lucinda Russell a first bumper success since January 2018 and should build on this, although will struggle to defy a penalty as so many do.

Master Newton looked a decent enough type beforehand and shaped well at long odds for a new yard capable of readying a bumper winner or two.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Stable tour - Rebecca Menzies

When I began this series of interviews the idea was to meet trainers in the 'up-and-coming' bracket, and nobody encapsulates that more than Becky Menzies, who after securing a season's best tally over jumps is currently just three winners short of her most successful campaign on the Flat.

I'd like to call her the Master of Howe Hills, but that doesn't sound right and neither does Mistress - let's just say she's very much in charge of the operation at the training base owned by John Wade, who handed in his licence three years ago when Menzies was looking for a bigger yard.

Wade still lives on the 300 acre site but with boxes popping up all over the place there's a definite sense that things are on an upward curve for a young lady who when in her early-20s must have been one of the youngest ever to take up a trainer's licence.

"I worked for (the late) Ferdy (Murphy) since I left school and trained a couple in my lunchtimes in one of the barns," she said." I'm not from a horsey background and basically started out as a stable girl, but trained Chavoy in my lunchtime and when he won a couple of races I thought, maybe?!

"When Ferdy relocated to France I was a bit lost as I didn't see myself leaving for a long time, apart from maybe expanding the lunchtime training, so I went looking for jobs but Ferdy sat me down and said that I should try to start training on my own.

Becky in her executive shed

"If I could find a yard Ferdy said there were five owners who didn't want to go with him to France and sure enough they came with me to a yard owned by Peter Beaumont at Easingwold, and as the horses had been in a field for the summer I had some training fees to get things going.

"I was 23 at the time and thankfully I've made the business pay from day one, which enabled me to go to the sales and buy the odd horse. I couldn't get a Flat licence due to my lack of experience with Flat horses but they finally granted that after I ran a couple of jumping horses on the level.

"We came here three years ago and everything was already in place other than the executive shed (!) and John keeps on top of the facilities, topping up the gallops and making sure the paddocks are in good shape. The sand gallop isn't Wexford but a lighter John Wade mix!

"He's like a dream landlord and he still takes an interest but never interferes, he'll come and watch the horses work and things like that.

"His horses were very sick in the last year of him training and I think he'd had enough by then, but he's got the best of both worlds now with his horses dotted around a few other trainers as well."

There's a mixture of old and new as you might expect at Howe Hills, with an equine spa and vibrating plates at the ready to help horses that require a bit more TLC.

With so much land at her disposal Becky's horses shouldn't have boredom as one of their excuses should they fail to pass muster.



"We've got the mile and a quarter straight gallop which is a sand and fibre mix, and the furlong round sand. The grass gallop is a mile and a half round and when the grass is cut again hopefully we'll be able to get on it when the rain comes.

"On work days we'll group them together accordingly but on others they'll go off in threes and do their own thing, so they have plenty of variety.

"Everybody knows what they're doing when they come in first thing in the morning, I'll feed them and do the board - I'm very big on organisation!

"Conor O'Farrell comes in twice a week and we've got Nathan Moscrop in six days a week. Aaron Anderson works for us full time and rides as an amateur while we also have Kane Yeoman who has arrived from Sue Smith's."

This is only Becky's fifth full season with a Flat licence but as her reputation continues to grow it's easy to understand why that side of the operation will start take up the bulk of her time.

"The old fashioned National Hunt owners that have the patience are harder to find, whereas the Flat enables you to get a relatively cheap horse and get plenty of running out of them during the summer, and you're guaranteed some money back barring injury," she said.

"There's so much local racing so you can travel relatively cheaply whereas if you have a 0-100 jumps horse that wants good ground you need to be going to Musselburgh and even if you win you'll struggle to cover a month's training fees.

"So I find it easier to justify to owners getting a Flat horse which is sad because my heart has always been in jumping, but you get fewer injuries on the Flat and they are easier to keep sound.

"I love the idea you can keep going all year round and that Newcastle is up the road, I love having runners there and the surface is one of the best in the country, but we go to Chelmsford, Kempton and Lingfield as well.

"They are long days but I'd never let someone else do it, it's not really fair when sometimes it's getting light when I get back."


That sort of commitment marks Menzies out as someone dedicated to her profession, and she won't be suffering any fools after the shock of being left with unpaid fees owing to the sudden collapse of a couple of syndicates.

"They've always been a big part of the yard but we got stung a couple of times last year and it has been a tough learning curve as I'd not had anybody do anything like that in my first five years," she said.

"We've changed how we do things a bit, if a new owner comes to the yard we ask for a month's fees up front and we've got a good training agreement in place.

"It's scary that anyone can buy horse on credit, have it in training for three months and not pay a thing. There are no checks and I feel the BHA need to do much more to help, so for now we do it all from here."

Looking forward, Becky will be hoping to better last season's total of 21 winners with six already on the board, and with some nice young horses amongst the 30-odd ready to go this winter hers is a yard you want to keep close tabs on.

All Hail Caesar
He was very keen and hard to ride last year, all over the place, but this year he seems more professional and I think biding our time with him will stand us in good stead. He should be a good novice handicap hurdler in the north later on this season after running in a couple more decent novice races, but he jumps well and is a chaser in the making. He so big and heavy he wants cut in the ground and I wouldn't risk him on anything better. Thankfully the owners are very patient and he'll be well minded.

Alph
We bought him at the spring sale at Doncaster, he used to be very keen in his races and lost the plot a bit when we first got him, but he's A1 now and he schools well. He's been showing us plenty and he didn't have much of a break, so he'll be one of the first out in the next month or so.

Anchises
I bought him from Richard Hannon as a dual purpose horse but he's been very disappointing on the flat, and he's had his palate fired. He's done plenty of schooling and hopefully he'll be okay for small handicaps in the north.

Ballycrystal Court
The ground is absolutely imperative to him as softer conditions can catch his wind, but we haven't tinkered with it yet as he seems fine at the moment as long the ground is decent. He should be able to win again and I can see him going to Musselburgh a lot this winter if we keep him going. He should stay 3m.

Breizh Alko
He got injured in France but we only got him last summer and we finished with him after Haydock because the ground went...he's too nice to risk on good ground. We weren't surprised by that win at Haydock and he'll stick to handicap hurdles for now, but he jumps well at home and will switch to novice chases when the time comes.

Champagne To Go
We bought her for a grand and has done her job winning a point to point, bumper and a hurdle but has been a bit disappointing recently. She will go to Hexham early in October and hopefully she can go out on a high as she'll make a fantastic broodmare which is the plan with her.

Charming Dream
Inconsistent in novice hurdles but is now coming down to a more workable mark and we'll be looking for a suitable handicap on good ground. Can take a strong hold.

Cool Possibility
A big horse by Dark Angel I bought at the Ascot sale, he's got a good attitude and schools really well. He was very raw looking on the Flat for Charlie Hills but could make up into a nice juvenile with a bit of soft ground.

Fair Sheriff
Didn't set the world alight in two bumpers but is a very honest mare and will hopefully come good when handicapping down the line.

Halcyon Days
He always has a good winter/early spring before tailing off and he'll be taking in all the usual races, starting at Carlisle before heading over to Catterick. Will hopefully win his races again although he's rising 11 now.

Halcyon Days - winner of eight races

I'm Too Generous
He had four years off but started bleeding in his first runs back, however he then won twice over 2m4f and we tried to win a novice handicap chase off the same mark the following week, but was flat out over two miles that day. He has enough scope for fences so will probably start out over 2m4f and should stay 3m as well.

Maid In Manhattan
She's won four on the flat after she bled following her first hurdles start for us, and has benefitted from a change in the way we train her. She hasn't bled at all on the Flat so we'll go to Nottingham to try to win the stayers final early next month and then try her in a mares' novice hurdle. She jumps well enough to win one with the idea of making her a National Hunt broodmare.

Nortonthorpelegend
He had a fibrillating heart 18 months ago and seemed to lose his way, showing no interest at all. But he's won three of his last six races and on his old form he'd still be well handicapped. We'll aim to get him qualified for the Northern Lights final at Carlisle which is now in March, and he should get in off a nice weight.

Soviet Castle
Finished second in his first bumper which looks good form, and then won well in a weaker race at Catterick. He was growing a lot so we turned him away and he looks good this year, so he could be okay although possibly one for handicaps. He'd have enough speed for the Flat but (his owner) Maria wouldn't hear of it!

Stormbay Bomber
He tends to run well fresh but ran like he needed the run at Southwell last time after being off for nearly a year. Should be able to win something back over fences but he does want good ground.

Pain Au Chocolat
He's on a high mark at the moment which is why we tried him over in France, where came down at the second last when absolutely swinging. He's not interested in hurdles which doesn't leave too many options, he needs some cut in the ground as there's plenty of wear and tear but he's obviously got an engine. I wouldn't dismiss going back to France and one of the smaller tracks over there.

Toi Storey
He already wants more than three miles he could an Eider horse one day! He's got a lot of ability and will run through a wall for you, he can go the same speed on soft and good ground and has a great attitude. He'll stay over hurdles for now but if it looks like his mark is catching up with him he'll go over fences, he's already schooled and jumps great. He'll start out at Kelso in November.

Uknowmymeaning
Not disgraced in two bumpers and was very green in his first start over hurdles. He'll be alright once the penny drops and should win a race or two over fences in time.

Valnamixe du Mee
He's only been back in three weeks, he's got a low mark so we'll see what we can do with him. He was off for two years before unseating on his first run for us, and then injured himself when running loose. We live in hope.

Lord Brendy
A fair northern handicapper back in the day but hasn't run for nearly three years now. He came to us with the owner's other horse Valnamixe de Mee and like him we'll just tip away and see what we can do. Hopefully we'll get some leniency from the handicapper after his long absence.

Fabianski
She will come back around Christmas after injuring herself at Doncaster, when she still managed to finish third despite suffering the injury down the far side.



Captain Mowbray
On the sidelines at the moment but hopefully we'll have him back in time for a spring campaign.

Dippin And Diving
We've not done much with him as he's quite fragile, but we'll start him off in a novice hurdle and see where we stand.

Digger John
By Sulamani, he's okay and will probably start out in a Sedgefield bumper.

Schalke
He's a nice big horse by Malinas who is quite well forward and he'll know his job when he starts out in a bumper.

Shes A Dancer
A smart Jeremy filly owned by John who will go for a mares bumper this side of Christmas. We trained her last year but didn't run because of the ground, she showed a good attitude so we know where we are with her.

Teelar
A five-year-old half sister to Lord Brendy by Milan, she is a nice stamp of a horse and goes okay as well.

Garde Forestier
We thought he wouldn't run again after he broke a leg, we had him operated on and in a cast for eight weeks. The fracture has completely healed so he's back in and walking away, so he's done well to come this far and we'll see if we can get him back. We've had his wind done as well as he was struggling a bit before the injury.

Falcone de Bersy
John bought him cheaply last year but he's probably the best of his bumper horses and is quite forward as well, so could run as a four-year-old. I like him.

Whinnie
By Garswood, she's a half-sister to Thaayer who won for me over a mile on the Flat. She looks too slow for the Flat but might be ideal for a mare's bumper - I think she'll be okay.