This blog is tinged with sadness based on our shock over the death of James McNeile.  He was a true Corinthian and adored his point-to-pointing, and having been an owner with us for a good few years the whole team at Bonita Racing Stables are extremely saddened by his sudden death and our deepest sympathy goes out to James’s family.    When Closing Ceremony gets to make his belated debut this season, I would like to think James will be looking down smiling, as he was a part owner in the horse.

On a brighter note, the horses are bouncing and have been running consistently well.  Last year from our old yard by this stage of the season we’d usually have been on a prolonged quiet spell, so to have the horses running so well for so long is very fulfilling, and demonstrates how our new yard is a very healthy environment to train horses from.

22 March – Water Wagtail ran at Warwick and was absolutely cantering but then came down.  He took a pretty hefty pearler, but he seems to be OK apart from bruising and a loss of pride, as for the first time in his life he was rolling around in the mud!  I would imagine he will be out again before the end of the season, but he will want some rain before that happens.

23 March – I was chuffed to bits with Black Art’s third at Chepstow in the bumper.  Claire Bonner owns him and had done all the work, he came to us a couple of weeks before running, so all credit to her.   As part of her business is buying and selling, I would imagine he would be one that will head to the sales.

24 March – Private Malone is finding his way back to form finishing third at Newbury.  He has not been the most straightforward over the last season and a half, as we struggled to keep condition on him and get his confidence back.   Touch wood this was a much better run and I think he will build on the experience and he seems to have come out of the race very well.

25 March – I was delighted with Talent To Amuse who won on her hurdling debut at Stratford for Thurloe Thoroughbreds.  She looked very professional, jumped very well and I think she is a filly with a lot of potential.   Also on that Saturday we were at Newbury, where Casino Markets made his debut after his winter holidays.  He ran a little freely early on which probably cost him in the closing stages but I was delighted with him.  He is the most beautiful jumper over a fence, and it’s likely he will head to Cheltenham at the end of the month with his aim being to go to America later in the season to contest some of their valuable jump races.  He is a smashing horse that loves good ground, so should hopefully bounce off it over there.   Allez Jacques also ran on Saturday at Stratford.  He ran as though he wants his summer holidays now, he is a horse that has ability and finished fourth but has had quite a tough season to get him to the racecourse in the first place and will benefit from a summer break.

28 March – Swatow left her bumper run a long way behind her when making her debut over hurdles at Southwell.  She is not overly big but she is a smashing jumper and absolutely loved it and galloped all the way to the line to finish second. Judging by the smiles on some of the teams faces on Wednesday morning, there were a few of them that had invested in a nice each way bet on her at 50/1!  She loves her racing and will have come for that and should go close next time.

1 April – Saturday saw the debut of a very nice bumper horse in Gunfleet at Stratford.   He is the loveliest mover and has huge potential.  We had taken him down to Exeter with Court By Surprise earlier in March, but the heavens opened and the ground went soft so we didn’t run him.  It was a big relief we did that because he was so fresh and excited down there that I am not sure we would have gotten a jockey onto him the way he was behaving in the parade ring!  But it enabled me to declare him for Stratford with a hood on, which kept him much calmer and I think that going to Exeter and not running was probably the making of him. He has unlimited potential and we think very highly off him for the future.   Dark Mahler also ran at Stratford and finished fourth in a fast run two-mile maiden hurdle.  The pace that they were going I think just took him off his legs and he is another that will benefit from a summer break.  I can’t wait to see him over fences next season and I think two and half miles could be his trip.

2 April – We had an entertaining Sunday with the two veterans Court by Surprise and Fox Appeal running at Ascot.   The pair are without doubt the worst two horses to take to the races from the yard, they may be the oldest but they haven’t grown up with age!   Fox Appeal took a proper tug to the start and Aidan only just managed to pull up and Court By Surprise left Jonny telling me that was the strongest lead up he’d ever experienced!  In fairness Fox Appeal got no run in the race and everywhere he went he kept getting blocked in and all he could do was stay on at the end.  I was delighted with Court By Surprise, he jumped and travelled really well and defies his twelve years of age.

Yesterday (4 April) saw Mr Fenton (the equine version!) run at Kempton.  Originally he was going to be called Fenton after the dog that chased the deer in Richmond Park but as that name was not available his owners decided the name Mr Fenton could be more suitable – after all, he showed plenty of talent, was a little wayward on occasions, was extremely cuddly and had always had a great appetite – the similarities to the human version are endless!  Although he showed an interesting view on starting he ran a super race to finish second and I am definitely looking forward to what he has in store for us on his next outing!

We have a few to go to war with at Aintree this week and I am really looking forward to the three-day festival.   Very sadly the Grand National is going to happen without us having a runner as Junction Fourteen bled at Cheltenham and has just taken longer to get over it and has been a bit quiet in himself. So consequently, we pulled him out of the race and it may well mean we don’t run him now until next season.  He is only eight so has plenty of time for the big races.  However, as ever we will be watching the Grand National with a very keen interest with a lot riding on the yard sweep stake!