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Plenty to update and celebrate!

It has been a pretty busy few weeks for us with lots of horses running and people heading in all directions going racing.  It puts plenty of pressure on the team at home but everyone has been amazing and it really does show what can be achieved with all things pulling in the same direction.

For years and years Bonita Racing Stables has been associated with its fantastic grass gallops, but with the dry weather we have not really been able to use them, so it just goes to show how effective both the carpet hill gallop and the new addition of the sand gallop are.   The sand has enabled us to get the core fitness in and the carpet the speed, and they have over lapped beautifully.  However, the disadvantage of not being able to use the grass gallops has shown with the bumper horses, as many of them have not yet been on them, and it is impossible to state how important it is for them when they are heading to the track for the first time.  Certainly, this showed with the likes of Shang Tang, who was very green before staying on to finish an admirable sixth at Chepstow (6 Nov) and I think the result would have been very different had he encountered the undulations and openness of the grass gallops.

Jemima P would also fit into this category, she ran a lovely debut race to finish seventh at Warwick (7 Nov) and travelled supremely, but just hadn’t had enough experience to know what to do when asked to quicken.  She is also a lovely horse for the future and one to be excited about.

On the other hand, Prophets Prayer had the benefit of having had a very nice run when finishing fourth at Market Rasen and then went to Southwell (25 Oct) and won in impressive fashion. Being a full sister to Irish Prophecy she is entitled to be a nice mare and will soon embark on a hurdling campaign.  She is not one to be running on very soft ground, so she will have a run before the wet weather (eventually) comes before a mid-winter break.

I was also delighted with the run from Thunderstruck, where the ground had turned heavy at Sandown (11 Nov).  It is a hard task for a four-year old to come up the Sandown hill in front on very soft ground but he stuck on with great tenacity having travelled very strongly throughout the race to finish second.  This is another horse I think will do nothing but improve and one to be excited about – probably more so next year, but he’s a natural athlete with a great attitude.

The hurdlers have been really strutting their stuff and it’s exciting to have some promising second season hurdlers as well as the novice horses starting to run.  Paisley Park was unbelievably impressive when winning at Aintree (28 October).  He jumped extremely well and travelled into the race using no energy before winning as he liked.  His next stop will be a valuable hurdle race at Haydock this weekend and as he has come out of his race thinking that he is king-pin so we are excited about it.

Misty Bloom, owned by the Bonita Racing Club, put her best foot forward at Exeter (6 Nov) to win doing handstands.  Under the circumstance, it was key to get her out again as soon as possible, so going to Taunton (15 Nov) and incurring a seven-pound penalty rather the fourteen she had been put up, made sense.  Although it did turn into a bit of a cat and mouse sprint she was unbelievably gutsy to win by a nose – not good for my heart! She was given an excellent ride by Patrick (Paddy) Cowley, who also rode Fox Appeal on the same day to finish second, who jumped consistently better than he ever has in his entire eleven years – so full credit to Paddy on that. (photo below of Misty and Paddy).

Shiroccan Roll just keeps getting better and better, and although it was frustrating to finish second behind Paul Nicholls (again!) at Wincanton (10 Nov) it was still another step in the right direction for him and I think we will be looking for a decent handicap to run him in next time.  He is still only a four-year old and has a huge future in front of him.  Talent To Amuse also showed she was on the way back when running a cracking race to finish third in the £25,000 mares handicap hurdle on the same day.  For her the ground had probably just gone slow enough with the rain that came down, but she has come out of it in such great form that she will head to Ascot tomorrow – for her I hope the heavens don’t open!

Blushing Red is another who is absolutely going in the right direction.  Having won at Ludlow he then came out and did it all over again in even more impressive fashion at Kempton (12 Nov).  Again, under Padddy Cowley, he travelled strongly through the race, jumped swiftly and won very nicely, which means for the moment I am in my father’s good books!  Also, at Kempton Old Rascals had his first run for us, where in the main he travelled and jumped well to finish an eye-catching third.  The best of him won’t be seen until he goes over a fence, but he is another decent looking novice and I am delighted that his owners The Optimists have another nice one to have fun with.   Old Rascals finished second in his point-to-point behind Down The Highway, so it was a good franking of the form when he (Down The Highway) made his winning debut at Lingfield (13 Nov), travelling powerfully, jumping brilliantly and winning impressively – what more can I say.

It has not been quite as plane sailing with the novice chasers.  De Rasher Counter was badly interfered with by a falling loose horse at Hereford (13 Nov), when starting favourite in a valuable chase, which knocked him out of the race.  However, he has come out of it well, so we won’t delay in getting him back out on the track. Irish Prophecy burst a blood vessel also at Hereford, which was gutting for us all.  He is a horse with so much ability and has shown so much promise that we will work our hardest to get him back to where he needs to be.  Flemcara jumped and travelled at Ffos Las (11 Nov) until even he found the ground just too deep and tiring.  He has come out of the race well and it is onwards and upwards with him and to find some ground that’s somewhere in-between bottomless and soft.

Enniscoffey Oscar has found the bigger fences just a little bit scary and I think although he jumped very safe, bar one, in the novice chase at Kempton (12 Nov) he is just not as quick over his fences as he was over hurdles.  We will bring him back over hurdles to give him a confidence boost and make a plan for him going forward. He did very little wrong last year so I am looking forward to a successful second half of the season with him.

Thank goodness for Gunfleet! Who jumped beautifully and ran an absolute stormer in the big novice chase at Exeter (14 Nov) to be beaten by just a head. He will quite clearly be a horse to be reckoned with over fences and is very exciting.  Buster Thomas also ran an absolute cracker at Wincanton (10 Nov).  He jumped beautifully and had the horse he had been battling with beaten, before Bryony Frost swooped down the outside and won by half a length.  He nonetheless showed just how much ability he has and deserves to win another few races this season.

Last but by no means least, Javert deserves a very big mention.  He stepped up into graded company when finishing second in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree (28 Oct), travelling and jumping superbly and only just getting beaten before heading to Cheltenham for the BetVictor chase.  Again he jumped brilliantly in what was a race full of mishap but just found the Cheltenham hill over 2m4f too much of a test of stamina for him but was still an admirable sixth.  He doesn’t want the ground too soft and so we will freshen him up and monitor what the rest of the winter has in store for us weather wise!

It’s great to have the team in such good order and long may it continue.

Photo by Pinnacle Photo Agency.


Rain dance’s required, but good ground jumpers doing us proud

It must be said that farmers and racehorse trainers are the two groups of people that spend more time talking about the weather than anyone else, and as nice as this warm Autumn sunshine has been, consistent rain is really what we need.  There has been some unbelievable deluges, but it has just not been enough to make the ground soft in relation to what the winter horses need.  We are now very close to the last quarter of October, and another ten-day forecast of dry weather is not what the doctor ordered. I am hoping by the end of this month things will start to change and we can get some of our lovely winter horses out on the track.

However, our better ground horses have been flying the flag in no uncertain terms and I have been delighted with how so many of them have run.  It was fantastic for my father and John Crook to see Blushing Red get his beautiful orange and white body home first at Ludlow (10 Oct).  I’ve said it before, but Ludlow does deserve huge amounts of credit for producing such fantastic prize money year on year and we were delighted to take a nice chunk of it home.  Blushing Red is the most striking horse, bright orange in colour with white everywhere including his stomach, and he’s become a real yard favourite as not only is he stunning to look at, he is full of character. There was much celebration following his victory and hopefully he can continue to build on that performance.

Dissavril on the same day went to Southwell, where the ground was beautiful, and they’d done a really good job.  However, she possibly showed the effect of not being able to school on the grass at home, as although in the main she jumped well, she could have been a lot slicker.  She was so impressive when winning her Listed bumper on heavy ground at Market Rasen last season, and it was far removed running over two miles on good ground at Southwell – she just looked tapped for toe in those conditions last week.  She was also a little keen in the early part of the race and when they quickened from the front up the straight, she could not get there.  She’s come out of the race very well and although I wouldn’t be averse to running her over two miles again it would have to be on softer ground or on a more galloping track, and hopefully by then we will have been able to do more schooling on grass.

The following day saw the debut of Majestic Moll over fences at Worcester.  She was like a bunny rabbit, never missing a beat and won the mare’s novices chase in emphatic style.  It was a lovely start for her over fences and if the ground remains as it is I expect we will get her out again soon as she is one that loves to hear her hooves rattle.  I hope at some stage we can get some black type for her as she has a lovely pedigree and ultimately will head off as a broodmare.

Our Bonita Racing Club horse – Freedom Run, also ran in the bumper and finished fourth.  She looks like she wants a trip and over hurdles and possibly a bit more juice in the ground, she travelled well through the race and quickened up the home straight, but just couldn’t quicken again.  She’s come out it well and will now go hurdling, which I am really looking forward to.

Shirrocan Roll also ran a stormer on the same day.  His jumping was much slicker, and he continues to show huge amounts of enthusiasm at the races, sometimes a little bit too much on occasions (!). He galloped all the way to the line to finish second to a horse with much more age and experience than him, and they pulled along way clear of the rest of the field.  I feel he is an exciting horse for the future.

We have now run a couple of the novice chasers in Enniscoffey Oscar and De Rasher Counter.  They too have probably shown a little of the effects of not being able to school on grass.  De Rasher Counter ran a cracker to finish third at Uttoxeter (7 Oct), but was just a little bit big over some of his fences.  Although he was very sure on what he was doing, he will get better and I can’t wait to get him out again. He handles any ground apart from extremes and I’d be disappointed if he didn’t go very close.

Enniscoffey Oscar ran at Chepstow (14 Oct) and just scared himself at the second where he really let fly at the fence.  He then jumped out to his right, never ideal on a left-handed track, but did run incredibly well to stay in contention turning for home after giving away some ground by his drifting.  He has come out of the race well and will have another couple of schools before he goes back over fences, where we will go the other way to help him.

We are going to be governed by weather conditions as to where we go with a lot of the horses that are ready to run.  I’m pleased to report that Javert has come out of his race extremely well and I just don’t think I can’t keep him ticking over until the November meeting at Cheltenham.  All things being well he will head to Aintree for the Old Roan Chase where I hope he can continue his upward trajectory.

We’ve got plenty of entries coming up, but things are going to have to soften up for many of them to take their chances – here’s hoping!


Moll is majestic winning at Worcester

As ever through much of July and the early part of August we are rather quiet as far as runners are concerned, but it is an unbelievably busy time for us at home.  All the horses that have had fantastic summer breaks have now come back in, and so the season begins.

Apart from being a little fresh and with manes flowing when first back in, the horses have settled very quickly into their routine.  The addition of our new round sand gallop has proved invaluable, with all the fresh horses working out early on that the sooner they knuckle down the easier it becomes – the soft sand sobers them up quickly! Just looking at them and how much they are doing, it seems to have bought forward their fitness, and they seem to be well ahead of where we would normally be at this time of year.  Now what we need is for the rain to start to fall, but hopefully just at night!

What we have been running over the last couple of weeks has consistently gone well, with pretty much all of them being placed.  However, it was very nice to see Majestic Moll getting her head well and truly in front again at Worcester (15 Aug).  She won very well by ten lengths, and as ever with her, jumping beautifully.  She is a smashing mare and although not big will definitely go chasing at some point as jumping really is her forte.

Prior to Moll winning, Lady Markby had just been beaten in a photo finish at Market Rasen (5 Aug).  It was an extraordinary race where half way through you wouldn’t have been surprised to have read the following day that her form figure was a ‘P’, rather than a ‘2’.  They had quickened from such a long way out that she got tapped for toe and was left a little disappointed, but once they started to come back to her she made ground hand over fist galloping on so strongly, with the line coming just a stride to soon.   She ran her little heart out, and in the intense heat over heated at the end of the race.  The vets on duty could not have been more helpful or professional and she was back on her feet in no time, and for the next twenty minutes stood in front of a big fan which sprayed a light mist over her – she looked like a super model with the breeze blowing her mane, and was so content in that position I think she would have been happy to have spent the evening at the racecourse! Lady Markby seems to have shown no ill effects and is now back cantering happily at home, however as she is not dependant on quick ground, I will probably give her an easy time before we go for her next target.  She, like Majestic Moll, is the most super jumper and will also head over a fence – two very nice mares to be going to war with.

Talking of mares, Talent To Amuse made her return to the track last night at Chepstow (16 Aug), with a super run on the flat, being beaten 4 ½ lengths into fourth after just getting a little bit tired in the last furlong.  She had been off the track for the best part of a year having fractured a bone at the back of her knee, and getting her back was fantastic and to see her run so well and be sound in the morning was even better.  My thoughts are she will probably now go back over hurdles, but I could not be happier with her.

There’s still not a huge amount of racing at the moment, but bit by bit it will start to get going and we are really looking forward to the season ahead. There are some extremely nice youngsters, as well as exciting handicappers and novice chasers to boot – so it’s full steam ahead!

Photo by Worcester Racecourse.


Sizzling summer jumpers

Although it is always a quieter period for us during the summer, based on how wet it was through the winter and that some did not get a chance to run, we do seem to have a lot more horses in than usual – no rest for the wicked!  Accordingly, we’ve had more runners than usual for this time of year with plenty of them hitting the cross bar at the start and then thankfully they started hitting the back of the net – Will our football team do the same I wonder?!

It started with Forget Me Knot, who we have always thought a lot of, being related to some very nice horses.  She is a good looking, big moving filly and she showed what she was capable of when winning the bumper at Stratford (9 June).  Aidan Coleman gave her a smashing ride and it was a great result for Liz Lucas her owner, who puts so much into the sport with her breeding operation and it was great to get one back on the board for her.

As ever in this world, having waited a long time for a winner another two came along that were also bred by Liz.  Leased by Booma Racing, Boomarang was uber-impressive when winning his bumper at Newton Abbott (15 June) and I think this is a horse to note going forward.  We will give him a little break now, but he will head over hurdles for his next start.

Boomarang’s half-sister Mythical Legend then came out and won impressively at Market Rasen (22 June) for the British Racing Club.  She again has always shown us plenty at home but is not the most natural over a hurdle and there is no doubt that a couple of them at Market Rasen are probably not in quite the same shape as they were before she started!  It was great for the club and she is a mare with lots ability if she can now go and build on that.

Vendredi Trois also got his head in front jumping beautifully at Worcester (18 June) and winning a decent chase.   For him I think the ground is key – when it is quick and he gets support from it, his jumping is impeccable, it is only when it’s on the slower side that he can make errors.  Adam Wedge gave him a super ride and Vendredi will head back to Worcester next week and we hope he’ll repeat the feat.

It has been extremely hot for running horses for this time of year, but the racecourses have done an extraordinarily good job at both watering the tracks and producing a huge amount of water for cooling them down after they’ve run.  I was in two minds about whether I wanted to run Casino Markets on Wednesday (27 June) in the heat, but having spoken to Worcester they had laid on extra staff, had water everywhere, and for a track that I know gets plenty of criticism (mostly deservedly so on the owners and general facilities), the track could not have been produced better and I am pleased to say Casino returned without an issue.

It will only be a few weeks before plenty of the horses start to come back in and the excitement builds again and if the summer jumpers can keep going in the manner that they have been going it will be a good platform for us to launch into the main season.




Summer holidays at Bonita Racing Stables


It’s been rather quiet of late runner wise, but here are some photos of everyone enjoying their holidays here at Bonita Racing Stables.  Happy Days!

Please visit the gallery to see more photos.


A fond farewell to Shotgun Paddy

With so much racing being abandoned, up until last week, we’ve had very few runners and I am afraid it has been rather too long since our last blog and for that I must apologise! However, in the last week or so things have taken off again, with lots of runners and some nice winners as well.

We had a some-what abortive trip to Fairyhouse (1 April) with Woolstone One early in the month. Having always been a little tricky when she comes into season, we had done lots of tests to make sure that was the last thing she was thinking about, but in the race she never picked the bridle up, finishing sixth in the Grade 1 hurdle, and returning to the racecourse stables in full season – if only they could talk! It was such a shame as she had been in fantastic order and although beating Laurina would have been a long shot, she was more than fancied to finish second to her and that would have been an amazing result. Instead, after a good chat with her owner, Paul Jacobs, she has now gone off to visit Jack Hobbs and having been such a good mare winning three hurdle races, one being a listed, and two bumpers she should have a fantastic career as a brood mare – hopefully she will be in foal with the next champion!

On the same day, Shotgun Paddy ran at Ffos Las in his third national of the season. He ran his little socks off as ever and finished a gallant third. Having competed in all the big staying chases in the last five years, we all felt he was not getting any quicker and that the time had come to retire him. For a horse whose jumping had always been crabbed, it’s extraordinary to think that in his distinguished career he’s never fallen and has also never taken a lame step. He has been an absolute super star for us and will be sorely missed. One of the best things that happened for Shotgun Paddy this season was having a good few days out hunting with Ryan and Meg Bliss and he certainly fell in love with them and I think they fell in love with him, so he has left us and will spend his retirement with them, hunting and generally having a lovely time. Having seen the pictures so far, he has definitely taken to retirement well!

The Grand National Festival as ever was a fantastic spectacle. It really is done superbly with everyone, both equine and human, receiving first class treatment. The ground was obviously a tricky issue for any of ours with it remaining heavy, but as is always the case when the Grand National is completed with all returning home relatively unscathed there is a huge sigh of relief and it was a brilliant race to watch. Us English are going to have to try harder, with the Irish winning it this year, the Scottish last, at this rate I can see it going to Wales next year!

Dissavril was disappointing for us in the mare’s bumper at Aintree (12 April) having been so impressive winning a listed bumper at Market Rasen. I can only put it down to having an off day for her, as she has come out of the race well and our only change was to put a cross noseband on her, which maybe she just didn’t like. Fortunate George (14 April) didn’t stay in the three-mile handicap hurdle on Grand National day, having travelled and jumped extremely well throughout the contest. He is now off to have a very well-deserved holiday and will back to mix if over fences and hurdles next season.

Casino Markets returned to the track at Cheltenham (18 April) having spent his summer in America and he ran much better than his finishing position suggests. He travelled into the race beautifully before making a mistake at the top of the hill and then stayed on again. On how he seems to have come out of that race I think we should have plenty of fun with him over the next few months.

Majestic Moll also had her first start back since a winter break at Cheltenham (19 April). Having been waiting for good ground for a long time, it was perfect for her and she jumped magnificently out front before tiring at the back of the last, she still kept going to not be beaten far. She’s another one I am thoroughly looking forward to having some fun with this summer, and I think she is still ahead of her mark. It was an interesting day for Cheltenham as they had to deal with extreme heat changes and the effect that had on some of the horses running. Personally I think they got the balance right by not running the staying chase and although I totally understand the frustration if you had a runner lined up for the contest and not being able to run, horse welfare is paramount and not just in today’s world.

Poor Junction Fourteen is still shocked that he found himself on the floor at Fontwell last Friday (20 April). He jumped superbly until the second last when he just got in tight and took a horrible fall. Thank goodness he was fine other than taking a bang to his head, and he is back mixing trotting and going out in the field and I would imagine we will look to get him out again a bit later in the summer. I am just very grateful that he is fine.

Sunday (22 April) was a very busy day for us, with plenty of runners at Wincanton and one at Stratford. High Noon is still a big raw baby and won’t be seen to his best effect until he jumps a fence. He got interfered with when a horse fell in front on him, which stopped him in his tracks. I feel a summer of grass will be the making of him and I look forward to seeing him over a fence next season. Water Wagtail also had his first start for a while in a handicap chase. He jumped as ever very well, but I think just needed it slightly, having not run for a bit. He is worth his weight in gold around the yard and we all breathe sighs of relief when he comes home safe and sound ready to lead the schooler’s and naughty ones around the place!

Blushing Red stepped up on his first run jumping very well and settling if not perfectly definitely better than on his hurdling debut. He is learning all the time and another we should have some fun with over the summer months. We were perhaps a bit disappointed with Irish Prophecy, who had jumped and travelled well through the race, but just kept going rather than quickening. I think because he has such a high cruising speed I’ve been conned by him in to thinking that he’s a two miler, where two and half miles is more his trip. He remains a very progressive horse but one that needs to step up in distance going forward.

The Sweeney started the day the way it should be done, by winning the two-mile five handicap hurdle nicely. We had always thought plenty of this horse, but he just hadn’t been able to quicken at the end of his races on the very soft ground that he had endured all winter. On this better ground he did so nicely and did it well. This horse loves his racing and one I think we will keep going a little bit longer although I wouldn’t say he will necessarily still be racing by mid-summer. Then it was the turn of Buster who is another we have always thought a lot of, and who hadn’t quiet delivered this year so far. Being a half brother to Shotgun Paddy I had put him in the same bracket as him and imagined he would want the same soft ground. In reality his jumping just hadn’t stood the test on that, whereas when he got the security of nicer ground at Wincanton he jumped superbly, travelled very well and although he may have been a shade lucky when The Last But One, who was upsides him fell at the last, he went on to win with ears pricked and has come out of the race in extremely good order. Having finally got his ground and at last worked him out, I think he will be another that will have another run before the end of his campaign.

Having enjoyed lovely ground at Wincanton, poor Newton Abbott did not have the same fate, with the weather gods not being kind to them. At the end of last week, the track was still waterlogged and although it was drying out they couldn’t get the machinery on to it to cut the grass, so it was long, and the ground was unbelievably holding. Therefore, for both Vibrato Valtat and Rooster Cogburn it was definitely not ideal. (23 April). Vibrato just couldn’t get out of the ground to jump the fences, and although he finished a valiant third, it was not his running, and I can only hold the ground responsible for that. To a certain degree Rooster suffered the same fate, although he jumped beautifully, and I can’t wait to get him out again when the ground is in his favour.

It looks like we will have a busy few weeks with still quite a few horses in training, having not had the ground we wanted until now – so onwards and upwards!


Winners – Belle Empress and Reelingintheyears!

It seems so dull starting another blog talking about the weather, but it has just been indescribable of late – to have had another dollop of snow, even after The Festival, was very depressing and has claimed even more fixtures.  Cheltenham did seem to be blessed though, as it was neatly sandwiched between the two white periods, however it really was very soft going and something we have not seen for a very long time.  I am not sure how edifying it was watching the races run on such horrible ground, and it certainly didn’t suit our runners, but there were some great races and outstanding horses performing.

The Gold Cup was an exceptional race and to see Native River just outstay Might Bite, perhaps a different story if the ground had been better, was amazing to watch, and they are two sensational horses.  Laurina I feel is a mare to be reckoned with and looks to have the world at her feet, as does Samcro.  It was a masterful training performance by Nicky Henderson to get Altior home in such impressive style in the Champion Chase, only having had the one run in preparation, followed by a foot abscess and on ground he wouldn’t have ideally chosen.  Furthermore, and as was the case of last season, there was a fair bit of Irish domination, so we are going to have to pull our socks up!

Flemcara (14 Mar) did us proud to finish mid division in the Coral Cup with Patrick (Paddy) Cowley giving him a lovely ride.  He just looks like three miles is his trip and probably needed those extra couple of furlongs, as he was staying on hand over fist in the final stages of the race.  Neither Enniscoffey Oscar or Paisley Park (16 Mar) could handle the very soft ground and with the latter suffering a nasty over reach it was not a successful Cheltenham for them. Enniscoffey is likely to head to Aintree and I would be keen to give Paisely Park one last run before the end of the season, although I will probably look to bring him back in trip, as at Cheltenham he ran just a bit with the choke out.  For all three of these horses I also can’t wait to see them jumping a fence next year.

With the excitements of Cheltenham over, our next runner was Belle Empress, (pictured) who headed to Fontwell (17 March).   I was absolutely delighted with her performance as she jumped beautifully, settled well, and won easily.  It has not been an easy road with her, as she’s had previous injuries and then did not get in foal.  However, sometimes these things happen for a reason, as she’s got better with each run and I feel she is a mare to look forward to when she goes over the big fences.

Our next runner was at Chepstow (21 March) where Reelingintheyears made his racing debut for us having bought him at Doncaster sales a couple of months ago.  We purchased him for Clive Colquhoun as a replacement for Caulfields Venture, who after giving us so much fun over the years has earned his retirement.  Reelingintheyears looks perfect to fill his shoes as he is a great jumper, has a lovely attitude and won very nicely.  He could not be any more straightforward and seems to have come out of the race squealing, so having said this may be his only run this season, if this weather persists and the ground stays soft he may have another race over hurdles as he really is in fantastic order.

We made a return journey to Chepstow (22 March) the following day with Viva Vittoria, who was the first of our store horses from last season to race and she ran in the mare’s bumper.  She had given us a very good feel at home whilst never really asking any serious questions of her and went to the races well backed.  She ran an absolute cracker, just showing a bit of greenness when asked to quicken and find top gear, and by that stage the winner had flown, but she stayed on very nicely to finish second.  She is beautiful, and I am looking forward to seeing her jump a hurdle next season and again is one to be excited about for the future.

Our trip to Newbury (23 Mar) on Friday continued the theme of seconds, with both De Rasher Counter and Private Malone filling the runner up spots. They could not have run better, both travelling and jumping well but just coming up against one.  De Rasher Counter will now go on his holidays and will then go novice chasing.  Private Malone on the other hand will head back to the track, as he is thriving on his racing and having finished second three times this season I would dearly love for him to get his head in front.

Fox Appeal was our last runner of the week, heading to Ascot (25 Mar) for the Veterans race.  It would not be Foxy if he did not take at least one fence with him and so the sixth had a good old battering!  He actually jumped really well after that and ran a solid race to finish fourth on ground that would not have been ideal, and I think could well be back to the point of winning again come the Spring (if it ever does come!).

We have so many decent ground horses ready to run, that the sooner this rain stops the better.  They all look very well and seem to be in good order, so I can’t wait to get them out and I hope the winners will continue to flow and we will have a bumper spring!

(With thanks to Fontwell Racecourse for the photo).


Winter returns – but it’s meant to be spring!

With all jump racing abandoned lately due to snow, ice, and the aptly named Storm Emma it seemed a perfect time to update our blog. It really has been bitter, but we have managed to keep everything going and as ever full credit to the team.

We haven’t had a huge number of runners, since our last update, however, Balibour has kept improving and ran a super race to finish second at Sandown (16 Feb). Our conditional jockey Patrick (Paddy) Cowley continues to get better and better as the season has progressed and rode a super race on him to only be beaten by a length and three quarters. I think we will see the best of Balibour once he goes over a fence, but he has come a very long way this season.

On the same day however, Mosspark blotted his copybook once again and is heading off for alternative employment! He has such natural ability but not the desire to use it, so I think we will all be happier to see him in the hunting field. The Sweeney also ran a nice race at Sandown, finishing behind two extremely well in and well handicapped horses. He travelled and jumped and seemed much happier over two and a half miles.

I then headed up to Haydock (17 Feb) with De Rasher Counter, having debated whether to run him in the graded novice or the Pertemps qualifier. As it happened I ran him in the Pertemps and he just travelled too strongly on the unbelievably soft ground and didn’t see the trip out. In fairness he would have had to have been versatile in the extreme to be able to finish second over two miles on good ground at Doncaster and still be able to compete off a mark of 140 on bottomless ground in a three-mile race at Haydock in the same season! We will find a nice race for him before the end of the season, but he, like Balibour, will be a nice horse over fences.

We had a winner for the third Saturday in a row with Fortunate George who did the business at Wincanton (17 Feb). He again was ridden by Paddy, and although at one stage it looked a little unlikely he came through to score by a comfortable five lengths. Although George had given us a fantastic day when winning over fences earlier in the season, I know Barry just felt he spent too much time in the air at them and having discussed it we felt it would be better for him to go back over hurdles. It was a good decision as it was a nice race to win, and he gave his team of owners a great day out – what a star he is!

Belle Empress headed to Lingfield (19 Feb) where the ground was barely raceable. She stepped up on her debut at Newbury and finished third, she jumped very well and was far more settled, so I think she will continue to go in the right direction.

For the first time in a long time, having taken three runners up to Doncaster (21 Feb), we failed to come back with a winner! In saying that, I was very happy with Rooster Cogburn who finished fourth in the bumper and Demographic who was returning to the track after a long lay-off. The ground would have been softer than ideal, and he got tired in the last few furlongs, but he jumped beautifully and travelled strongly and there will be races to be won with him.

Fox Appeal on the other hand, ever though he is eleven, can continue to surprise us! Running in the veterans chase he jumped off keenly and found himself in front and basically took control and ran at a two-and-a-half-mile pace over a three-mile trip – naughty Foxy! He couldn’t sustain it and Nick Scholfield very sensibly pulled him up. He came back bucking and kicking and will be back out again once this snow disappears.

Probably the horse that pleased me the most over the past fortnight was Shotgun Paddy who ran an absolute stormer in the Devon National at Exeter (23 Feb). Having jumped as well as he ever has, he just slightly missed the last and finished second beaten only two lengths. It was lovely to see him out on the track with his ears pricked loving his racing. It really does show that a bit of hunting can massively sweeten a horse up and we were extremely grateful to Ryan Bliss for taking him out for a few days. By all accounts he was a natural and will give him a job when he retires.

I was also very pleased with Vibrato Valtat running in the Betdaq Chase at Kempton (24 Feb). When the race is run at that tempo he probably doesn’t quite stay three miles, as he travelled into the race with every chance at two out, but just didn’t quite get home. On that running there is a big handicap still in him, and once we find the right race I think we will get his head back in front.

It has been a hard week with all the snow and ice and it has definitely made a huge amount of extra work.Therefore, we are very glad to see the back of the snow and the return of spring – who is here to stay!


Gunfleet and Woolstone One – all class

I remain so proud of everybody here, both human and equine, to have kept the show going during the horrible weather conditions we’ve been having. One minute its snow, the next torrential rain, with some beautiful clear sunny days in between, but it hasn’t been particularly warm!

Thankfully the horses have remained in tremendous form and, although over the last ten days or so we have not had hundreds of runners, what has run has been brilliant.

In these kind of conditions, with temperatures rising in the day and falling sharply at night and some horses being more naturally warm than others, trying to get the right number of rugs on the right horses has been a challenge. It’s a credit to the team that they seem to continually get it right, and I think it’s these details that allow the horses to continue to perform at the top level.

Having won three on the bounce, Flemcara went to Sandown (Sat 3 Feb) for the £100K Betfred Heroes Handicap Hurdle. The rain poured down all morning, which conditions wise was perfect for him. However, with a full field and not much pace it was a very messy race and Flemcara seemed to get the worst of the argument and found himself shuffled to last turning for home. He stayed on to only be beaten twelve lengths, and as ever was an absolute toughie.  He has come out of the race very well and there is a chance he could go to Haydock this weekend.

On Sunday (4 Feb) Private Malone went to Taunton and ran a beautiful race to finish second galloping all the way to the line. Richard Johnson was due to ride him, but he had taken a nasty kick to his knee when unseating in the race before, so Gavin Sheehan stepped in for the ride and very nearly managed to get him to win. His turn should come shortly as he is managing to run consistently well and keep his condition, which I couldn’t get him to do last year, so a win must come for him in the very near future.

It was a quiet week runners-wise until Thursday (8 Feb) and as ever a lorry load headed to Doncaster! It’s been a great track for us for many reasons, partly because it’s big and galloping, and partly because it’s one of the only courses where there is a chance of getting reasonably decent ground at this time of year. Bar the odd one that relishes very soft going, I feel the vast majority of horses prefer to have a sound surface of sorts and that’s something Doncaster usually has.

Buster Thomas, running for the first time in a tongue tie, and on ground that was considerably better than he has run on all season, was very unlucky at the first, when a fallen horse stood up and brought him to an absolute stand still, and his chance of winning was basically over from that point. He jumped superbly and travelled beautifully into the race and although he only finished fifth, it was a much better run and perhaps demonstrated that the going is more important to him that I had given him credit for. I think we will see an improved horse going forward.

Our next runner was Paisley Park who I had wanted to give one more run to for experience before thinking of the Cheltenham Festival. He is learning run by run and in the main was slicker again with his jumping until the last when he probably just had too much light and stuttered into it – this combined with giving the winner seven pounds definitely made the difference between winning and losing. It was still a very good run and we will keep The Festival on the agenda and see how we go between now and then.

Gunfleet then tackled three miles for the first time in the handicap hurdle. He is a horse with a huge amount of potential as he is far from the finished article, and he jumped, travelled and galloped all the way to the line to win by a cosy half length. It was only his fifth ever run of which he has won three of them, and he is a horse that I can’t wait to see jumping a fence in time. He is certainly one to remain excited about.

Freedom Run made her racing debut at Huntingdon (8 Feb) for our Bonita Racing Club in the mare’s bumper. She was so green to start with, that there was a concern at one point that she might just drop off the television! Thankfully, that did not happen, as after being reminded by Brian Hughes why she was there, she took off and passed six in-front of her up the home straight and finished out the race very well. She seems to have enjoyed the experience and I expect she will leave that run well behind her.

Our only runner over the weekend was Woolstone One at Warwick (10 Feb) and what a runner she was! She was an absolute star, winning the mares listed race and has just got better and better. She travelled almost too well, making the odd mistake, however, when push came to shove she put her head down and galloped to the line winning comfortably. She is a mare on the up, a pleasure to have around and a great addition to the team this season.

The weather continues to play havoc trying to get runners out, but I am hoping we can have a busy end to the week, so fingers crossed the horses remain in this rich form!


Lionhearted Enniscoffey Oscar scores Grade 2 win


Historically, January hasn’t’ been the best month for the yard winners wise, but we have turned that trend on its head this year – it has been fantastic! Perhaps less so for a couple of our owners, who thought dry January was a good idea until they had some winners.  One, I know, has stayed on the wagon and one fell spectacularly off it!

The girls have been keeping their end up, with Dissavril being unbelievably impressive winning the mares listed bumper on her debut for us at Market Rasen (17 Jan).  She travelled like a dream and quickened away to win without coming off the bridle.  She does look a very decent mare in the making and appeared to be very straight forward through her race. She is certainly one to get excited about with her next target being the graded mares’ bumper at Sandown in March.

Whilst I had travelled to Market Rasen, Barry went down the road to Newbury to watch Belle Empress also make her debut for us, 990 days since her initial point-to-point win.  Having missed two seasons owing to injury, she had four visits to Mastercraftsman (much to her delight but without any product for her enjoyment!) so she then reverted back to training.  She made it all the way to Plumpton on Monday, before it was abandoned due to waterlogging, and so then went to Newbury instead.  It was a very hot race but she ran well to finish fifth and thankfully has come out it fit and healthy so she will now have to do it all again soon! Private Malone also went to Newbury and finished fourth in the handicap chase – he just keeps coming up against some extremely stiff opposition but his turn for winning will come as he is running consistently well.

Fortunate George went back to the scene of his greatest victory, with a run in the valuable handicap chase at Ascot (20 Jan).  He travelled and jumped well early on but just struggled with the downhill fences, and then when colliding with a fallen jockey, it well and truly put him on the back foot (and wasn’t that comfortable for the jockey either!). He stayed on hand over fist in the home straight to finish third but I think we will try and find a slightly easier option next time just to get his head in front as he has been a little star this season!

In the category of stars, or stars in the making, I was thrilled to bits with Fontsanta’s performance at Fontwell on the Sunday (21 Jan).  It was the wettest I have ever seen the course, and by the end of the day it was difficult to tell if we were running on grass or plough. Nevertheless, Fontsanta, who was making his debut, won the bumper beautifully.  He behaved impeccably, bar being somewhat surprised seeing his jockey coming towards him in rather brighter colours than he is used to at home!  Once he got over that excitement, he was brilliant. He is still green and raw, but I have no doubt he will make up into an extremely nice national hunt horse.

With so much rain falling across the country there were plenty of fixtures lost due to waterlogging so at the start of last week we didn’t have very many runners.  On Thursday we went to Warwick (25 Jan) with Not Normal.  He is a horse with a massive engine but is sometimes a little wayward at home so I was thrilled with his run where he finished second, only beaten a length, with the front two pulling well clear.  Barry rides him every day at home and he is a handful, but you are prepared to put up with all of that, when they perform so well on the track.  I think he will continue to improve and his next target will be the sales bumper at Newbury in March.

My car now doesn’t need me to drive it to Doncaster, it just knows! Having been up there on Tuesday, where I was delighted to purchase Reelingintheyears for Clive Colquhoun as a replacement for the retired Caulfields Venture, it was back up to Doncaster again on Friday (26 Jan). Allez Jacques failed to jump with his usual alacrity and came home with some cuts and bruises, but will be fine with a little time.

On Saturday I went back up to Doncaster again for what was always going to be a big day for the yard.  Eniscoffey Oscar (his owners pictured) is not overly big but has the heart of a lion and he ran an absolute stormer to win the Grade 2 River Don novices hurdle.  The ground was much softer than ideal for him but nonetheless his desire to win and natural ability enabled him to get his head in front.  We have now entered him into the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, where under normal circumstances he should get his preferred better ground, and I would like to think with his sheer toughness that he should be competitive.

Vibrato Valtat couldn’t handle the soft ground over three miles in the Sky Bet Chase.  Having made some jumping errors, it just stretched his stamina.  I have no doubt that three miles is the right distance, but he does need nice ground to truly stay the trip.  We also debuted a beautifully bred filly in Truly Amazing. She ran a lovely race finishing sixth, in what I imagine will finish-up being an extremely hot mares bumper. She travelled brilliantly but having never been off the bridle at home, was caught for experience when they quickened and then stayed on with purpose at the end.  She is mare that I think will have no difficulty in winning her races.

Barry went to Cheltenham on Saturday, where Full Irish continued to be a bit of an enigma.  He just spent to much time in the air over his fences, and so didn’t travel as well as he can do and finished fifth, well beaten in what was a very competitive handicap. When we get everything right with this horse I know there is a big day in him, it’s just a case of trying to get all the stars to align on the same day.

De Rasher Counter ran an absolute stormer and was staying on very well in third, when clipping the top of the last hurdle and slithering on landing. It’s such a shame as he didn’t deserve it and was back on his feet in a second but having so run so well it seemed very unfair that he didn’t get the reward he deserved. It seemed even more unfair on Tuesday morning when the handicapper raised him seven pounds to a mark of 140! But, what it does confirm is that he is a horse capable of running in top level races, which makes him extremely exciting going forward.

There were plenty of sore heads at Bonita Racing Stables on Monday morning, as a win in a Grade 2 race needs celebrating – they don’t come along that often – although, judging how the team were on Monday morning perhaps that’s not a bad thing!

We have plenty of youngsters that are just about ready to make their debuts in bumpers. We ran a nice horse at Hereford on Monday (29 Jan), Pemberley, who was a little green but ran a very promising race to finish fifth and Misty Bloom, who was beaten ¾ of a length to finish second at Lingfield on Tuesday (30 Jan).  We look to have a strong team of novices, which is very exciting, and long may it continue!