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Season review & Tom Bellamy announced as our stable jockey

With Covid-19 changing the landscape so rapidly at the end of the 2019/20 season it has certainly been a year like no other.  Racing has been so fortunate to be able to continue albeit without crowds, and for a lot of the time without owners, but it has forced me to take a step into the world of tech and although I am no Steven Speilberg, my ability to produce a race day video has definitely improved!  As the season has progressed, I know that the lack of owners being able to go to the track and then the lack of integration has been felt more and more keenly.  I am hopeful that things will now start to change, and I cannot thank our owners enough for the support and understanding they have shown through an extremely difficult year for the world in general.

From our own perspective, it has been a very rewarding season in many ways.   Firstly, and most importantly the team here have all done a phenomenal job at keeping the show on the road and been absolutely dedicated to the horses, and thankfully have remained healthy.  Furthermore, our lovely horses have continued to grow in strength and quality.

A big high point in the year was seeing Paisley Park winning the Porsche Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December in such gutsy style and running right back to his best.  We were proud of his performance finishing third in the stayer’s hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival, the ground he made up to perform as well as he did was incredible to see, it was just a shame that the weather had prevented us from getting a prep run in to him.  Aintree seemed to come too soon for him and I think that at the age he is now he probably does need a bit more cut in the ground, so it just didn’t happen for him.  However, I am very happy to report he is safe and sound and now going out in the field for his summer holidays.

Manofthemountain was another success story for the yard and having won on his first start of the season he also won his last when impressively seeing off the opposition at Cheltenham earlier this month for Grade 2 success. He is a pleasure to train, is a wonderful jumper and a natural born enthusiast and we are very much looking forward to seeing him running next season.

Our other graded success this year came in the form of Boreham Bill who had been on the go for a good while having started the campaign over fences – although sometimes through them, and on occasions looking like he might be burrowing under them! However, Ben Jones and he had a great relationship which they kept intact. As the ground became softer we felt it was best not to continue over fences and so he had a short break and came back to win the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton.  It is a race I have tried to win for many years and on two occasions have had what looked like the potential winner falling at the last.  Therefore, I was absolutely delighted to see Bill winging the last and skipping clear from the rest of the field at the extraordinary odds of 66/1.  It was an absolute thrill for us and an even greater thrill for this owners Mike and Sue Foran.  It was a disappointing prize money haul based on the prestige of the race, but unfortunately that was a consistent theme throughout the year.

There were some good performances from staying chasers, with the likes of Irish Prophecy and Eclair Surf each winning a couple of nice races.  Having travelled well for a long way in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April, Irish Prophecy unfortunately burst a blood vessel coming to the pond fence and that was the end of the race for him.  However, with a good period of rest out in the field for the summer he should return refreshed as he is a horse that has really improved and gained consistency this season.

Shang Tang won two valuable novice hurdles, but his Cheltenham Festival aspirations were not helped by two false starts and he now will go novice chasing next season.  Flemcara has been an absolute star for us over the years and he also won a couple for us this season.  He is not a lover of jumping fences and he will remain over hurdles but having shown he can handle slightly better ground nowadays it should open a few more doors for him.

Killer Clown is another exciting horse who was extremely impressive winning on Boxing Day at Kempton and then paid the price of a huge hike in the weights when just beaten in the Grade 2 Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.  He didn’t get the clearest of passages at Sandown on the last day of the season when finishing third, but he is definitely a horse to be looking forward to for next season.

The same can be said for a whole host of horses that performed well – as ever far too many seconds and thirds but it has been a consistent season for us with some lovely winners and a huge amount to look forward to.

It is always so hard for everyone involved to come to terms with the loss of a horse.  Hoi Polloi really was a potential star, and it was desperately sad when we lost him at Newbury earlier this year. That could also be said for Namib Dancer who won so impressively at the start of the season, to then lose him in his next race seemed very unfair as was Tierra Verde, a very genuine mare who always did her best.  All were lovely horses and they are very sorely missed by everyone who looked after and loved them.

On a more positive note, the crop of youngsters we purchased at last year’s store sales have all been coming along beautifully.  With the sales taking place much later last year due to the pandemic it meant that these horses finished up having their breaks a little later than usual and us finishing the season unable to get them to the track.  We did get a few away for racecourse gallops and they all look to be a really encouraging bunch for the future.  Considering covid and the concerns we had when racing stopped, we are so grateful to our owners who have invested in us and it is extremely exciting to see the number of horses in training remaining as strong as they are and the quality getting better and better.

Related to this, Barry and I felt we had reached a point where we needed a stable jockey to give us a bit more consistency through the year.   Many of you will have noticed as the season had progressed that Tom Bellamy had been riding more for us, and with his strike rate on our horses being extremely impressive, we had a conversation with Tom about whether he would become a more permanent member of the team and we are delighted to say that he has embraced the opportunity and going forward from now I am extremely happy to announce Tom Bellamy is our stable jockey.  Adam Wedge, Ben Jones and Aidan Coleman will continue to ride for us when opportunities arise so we should be very well served by top class riders for the forthcoming season.

As ever we are hugely indebted to our fantastic team working here, especially Roddy, our head man, who manages the yard in such in an exemplary fashion, and to Katrina who continues to run our lives for us in the office – someone has to!

We are so excited for the future and for more success to come our way next season and hopefully in a world that has taken a few steps back towards normality!



Lockdown reflections

There are so many occasions when I think how nice it would be to be a racehorse and looking at them all out in the field at the moment in the glorious weather, with their full bellies, lying flat out without a care in the world, now is definitely one of those times.  Social distancing is absolutely not a concept that they understand, be it from each other or me, when I’m attempting to give them a scoop of nuts in the evening and as I watch them lolloping round the field there is definitely more than one session of exercise per day going on around here!  What this dreadful virus has made me appreciate even more is just how lucky we are.  We still have structure in our lives and people, partly because of necessity to look after the horses and partly because this is our time of year for cleaning and repairs.  We live in the most beautiful surroundings where we have always taken walking and exercise for granted and where the air is always fresh and the wildlife always interesting.  There is never a time when something doesn’t need doing so boredom is never an option and when frustrations are rising I have always found that the horses are exceptional listeners – they never answer back, agree with everything I say and when they start yawning I find it much easier not to take offence!  They have and always will be so much more than just the enablers for us to run a business and that has never been truer than now.

It is usually at this time of year that we reflect on how the previous jumps season has been and on the horses that we are most looking forward to for the coming winter, so although the season was understandably cut short there is still plenty to look back on and, I believe, much to be excited about in the future.  The highlight of last year was without doubt the Ladbrokes winter festival at Newbury where Paisley Park winning the feature hurdle and De Rasher Counter winning the Ladbroke trophy made for a weekend of celebrations surpassing all others – it is what dreams are made of and when our team presented Barry and I with a signed picture of the horses in Ladbrokes winning rugs surrounded by all those that helped it happen, entitled ‘If Carlsburg did racing…’ it bought home just how much these big days mean to everyone.  Hang In There winning a grade 2 novice at Cheltenham and Paisley winning again on trials day gave us another four graded wins this season which continues to show that the quality of horses in the yard keep rising.  Highly Prized, The Sweeney, Misty Bloom, Belle Empress and Manofthemountain all made significant contributions to the prize money haul and gave us some very special days out but perhaps the most special was Fortunate George winning at Warwick.  It was our conditional, Henry Platt’s first winner and it had certainly been a long time between drinks for George and his owners (metaphorically speaking anyway!), considering he was coming in to the winners enclosure victorious, I had never seen so many people crying – that’s what racing does.

Newbury blessed us with our best days racing last season but it was also the place of our worst.  Fontsanta had been nurtured by Barry and given all the time he needed to mature by his owner Tim Syder and we really felt that we had a star in the making.  Watching him soar over his fences out in front he looked at last like the finished article – he was just too brave at the third last and paid the ultimate price – a great loss for us all.

Youth is the future and we certainly look to have a very talented bunch.  Red Rookie, unbeaten in two bumpers, was extremely impressive and has the size and scope to be anything – he is quite a handful in the mornings so certainly not one I’d be putting my name down to ride but as long as he continues to channel his exuberance in the right direction at the races I think we’ll all forgive him!  Hoi Polloi is another that could be a potential star.  He showed pace to win from an unpromising position in his bumper and has done nothing but improve since his run.  He is doing really well out in the field and if anyone deserves to have a top class horse it’s Nick Mustoe.  Runswick Bay and Sam Barton have also shown themselves to be horses to look forward to from the bumper ranks as well as some exciting novice hurdlers and plenty that have yet to make it the track, the end of the summer seem a long way away!  The support we have had from owners this year has been tremendous and is very much appreciated.

Paisley (left) and Domino chilling.

What was undoubtedly very disappointing was Paisley Park and Cheltenham.  Everything had gone so well in the lead up to the Paddy Power Stayers hurdle and we were all so excited but horses and racing are great levellers and it just wasn’t to be.  He seemed a little quiet even in the preliminaries which was unlike him, usually he jig jogs continually and Laura can only just keep a lid on him, but he looked magnificent and we just felt that maybe at last he was starting to grow up a bit.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and had we known then what we learnt after we would have known that something was probably feeling a bit odd to him even then.  Post race, back in the stables, he was showing an irregular heartbeat which more than explained his lacklustre performance.  Fortunately, although it remained out of rhythm until late on Thursday evening, it rectified itself without any external help by Friday morning which was a very positive outcome under the circumstances.  He went to Newmarket for tests and apart from finding that he has an exceptionally large heart (no surprises there) they were very happy with him and he came back with a heart monitor where the vets in Newmarket could remotely check on what his heart was doing during exercise.  He got back up to do doing a good piece of fast work with no heart abnormalities showing and a very quick recovery time so at that point he was given a clean bill of health and a field of grass for his holidays (pictured)!  He and his best friend, The Domino Effect, are turned out together and both are expanding rapidly (I know the feeling!).


Paisley Park update

Having had such a great preparation with Paisley Park ahead of the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle, it was obviously massively disappointing that the day didn’t pan out in the way we had hoped.    But, without doubt the most important thing is that Paisley came back in one piece and very much lives to fight another day.

Watching the race we never really felt he travelled and jumped in his usual fashion and looked very tired crossing the line, which would not be trademark Paisley.  On examination back in the stables post-race he was found to have an irregular heartbeat.  This was still the case late last night, but thankfully it had rectified by this morning, with an ECG showing it was all back to normal.  He will head to Newmarket on Sunday to have further tests to make sure that all is well.

He is such a star and has done so much for us and we will make sure that no expense is spared in confirming all is well to resume training, and we hope it will not be too long before we see those big ears pricked and back in the winner’s enclosure!


Plenty of promise across the board

As ever at this time of year it seems I am apologising for not having done our blog – I do not know where the times goes, or I do – there just never seems enough of it! It has been a very busy time of late, which in the main has been successful, and that has definitely kept a smile on the faces of everybody here.  

Paisley, Aidan and Laura

It makes sense to start with Paisley Park, who really is gathering quite a following.  It was well documented that we were due to go to Ascot after Newbury for the Long Walk Hurdle, but we really couldn’t take the risk of running him there on what we felt were false patches of ground down the far side after all the rain.   We were very sorry to let his fans down and obviously Andrew, but once we had seen the ground it was a very easy decision for us to make on behalf of Paisley.   Therefore, we waited for the Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham last month and he did not disappoint.  He is getting more and more professional in his racing and, for us, we felt it was his most impressive performance to date.  He absolutely loves it: the attention, the getting to the front and then teasing us and playing with his opposition, as soon as I see those ears go forward you know he is in control – roll on Cheltenham in March where hopefully he will be doing the same again. 

After winning the Ladbrokes Trophy we had hoped De Rasher Counter might just step up to being a Gold Cup horse, and by running him in the Cotswold Chase also at Cheltenham it seemed liked a sensible place to see if that hope could be realised.  He travelled and jumped well on the first circuit, but as the pace lifted he made a significant error that just knocked him out of his rhythm and he could never land a blow after that.  He stayed on all the way up the hill, on ground I don’t think he really enjoyed, to end up only being beaten a short head for third, but nonetheless it was not a gold cup winning performance and so accordingly we’ve taken him out of the race.  For any of those big races you never want to go thinking you are just making up the numbers and with plenty of nice races around it made sense at this stage of his career to not be tackling a race as competitive as the blue ribband event.  We did not enter him into the Grand National either as we just felt it was a year too soon.  He is only eight and I think a bit more experience over fences will not go amiss and it is something we will leave until next year when he will be stronger and more mature.  Looking at options we might go to Uttoxeter for the Midlands National or possibly the Betfair Bowl at Aintree where the flat track and conditions of the race should suit him. 

We had quite a few graded race runners over the Christmas and New Year period with varying degrees of success.   Éclair Surf ran in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury (28 Dec), but he was just not ready for that level race at that time and ended up falling at the third last. He was absolutely fine and we will look to run him in a novice hurdle with a penalty, while the ground is soft, before the end of the season.  However, our eyes have always been on chasing with him, he is a big scopey gorgeous horse and so we can’t wait to see him running over fences next season.

Hang In There ran in the Tolworth Hurdle (4 Jan) on very soft and sticky ground, typical of mid-winter conditions at Sandown.  He is such an easy moving horse that skips along the surface and he just couldn’t get his feet out of the ground, he travelled well when it was a bit better down the back, but in the worst of the conditions coming up the home straight he just couldn’t manage it and so Aidan Coleman looked after him and he finished fifth.  I then ran him in the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon (6 Feb) where he travelled superbly until two out where he came under pressure and clipped the top of the hurdle and came down.  I am very pleased to report he is absolutely fine, but it is such a shame as I expect he could have been second giving 6lb to Shishkin the current favourite for the Supreme Novices at the Festival.  He is such a lovey horse and I hope gets rewarded again later in the season.  

What is always important within any yard is that you have a good cross section of horses, with some more experienced, some handicappers and some youngsters coming through and that is certainly what we have here.  The youngsters are the future of the yard and what has been exciting for us is that we have run three bumper horses in the last six weeks all of which have won.  We are not about galloping the youngsters at home, so it is pure natural ability and having them fit enough to do themselves justice on the track.  The three that have run should make up into nice hurdlers next season and ultimately chasers.  Red Rookie (main photo by Matthew Webb) was the first of them who won at Exeter (21 Jan).  He is a gorgeous big Black Sam Bellamy horse who does on occasions have ideas of his own on which direction to go in and how fast he wants to travel there! At the races though he was unbelievably professional, and he handled the soft ground and galloped away from what I think was a decent field.   He looks like he has a bright future and is one that we are very excited about. He will probably have one more run before the end of the season in another bumper, but his future definitely lies over obstacles.

Runswick Bay, Ben Jones, Meg & yours truly (Photo: Matthew Webb)

Runswick Bay is a very kind horse who does everything that he is asked to do.  He is a lovely mover with a super attitude and just gets on with the job and that is exactly what he did at Wincanton (30 Jan).  He travelled easily through the race and when Ben Jones asked him to quicken he did, and when he got to the front I think he wondered what he was doing there as he looked very green, but all he wanted to do was respond to the questions he was being asked.  He is a smashing jumper at home and like Red Rookie will probably have one more run before being put away and then go over hurdles next season.

Hoi Polloi was our third bumper runner who again was a very impressive winner at Kempton (7 Feb). It was a slowly run race with all the horses still in a group in the latter stages, with Hoi Polloi and Adam Wedge trying to find a clear route through. He tried to come up the outer but that was blocked, then the middle and then they eventually found daylight up the inner and he quickened up impressively and won going away.  There is no denying he was an expensive purchase at the store sales, but what has been lovely is to watch him mature, develop and blossom and reward his very loyal owner Nick Mustoe by winning like a good horse going forward.  The one thing that these bumper horses have in common is that they are all five years olds, and by just giving them that extra time they have all rewarded their owners and for that we are very grateful.

ManoftheMountain is another horse where time and patience has made such a difference, and after two wins earlier in the season before a silly unseat, he too came good when winning a novice handicap chase at Taunton (30 Dec) very impressively.  He is a horse that I am convinced would suit better going, but even on the soft wet ground that day he was still well ahead of the field. He is a great jumper, has a wonderful attitude and is an absolute pleasure and having had a nice break after that he is back in work and ready to have a look at some potentially bigger targets in the spring. 

Talking of patience, the award for this month goes to the owners of Fortunate George.  He has been wonderful for them over the years, but he had very much lost his way and interest in the game.   I think that jumping fences possibly knocked his confidence and although he gave us a wonderful day in the sun at Ascot in a valuable chase, he probably lost his bottle jumping the big ones and it has taken time to get that racing desire back again even over hurdles.   With our conditional jockey Henry riding him, bit by bit you could see his enthusiasm start to come back and each run this season has got better and better.  James who manages the syndicate suggested taking the head gear off him and I think that was the right call, and he rewarded everybody by winning at Warwick (9 Feb) as well as giving Henry his first winner, and a day that nobody will forget.  Judging by how George is prancing around the yard at the moment I think he really is back loving it, and we are very grateful to the syndicate who have remained loyal to George and gave everyone that opportunity.  A true team effort and a job well done!

Belle Empress is another horse that has taken her time to find her niche, but true long-distance staying handicaps are definitely the answer, and her victory at Exeter (6 Dec) over three and half miles was a great day for all concerned.   She is a super jumper and epitomises the stayer.  She followed up with a very good fourth in the Sussex National at Plumpton (5 Jan) having had a slightly rough passage through the race and she will now head for the Devon National later this month.  There is a physical limit to the number of times a stayer can run through the season due to the distance and bottomless ground that we have been encountering this season, but she has started to reward her owners and given everyone great fun. 

When the sun decided to come out!

We have had plenty of placed horses with the likes of Shang Tang, Thunderstruck, Killer Clown, Silent Assistant and Dagueneau all running well, and we have plenty more still to run, so there is no doubt there are exciting times ahead. Looking at our entries I think we are likely to have very few going to the Cheltenham Festival but will have a bigger team heading to Aintree – the races at both are always unbelievably competitive but with Punchestown coming hot on the heels of Aintree you sometimes get a slightly ‘easier’ option at Liverpool – here’s hoping!


A weekend to remember!

It always makes it easier going into a big Festival, (which is what the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival at Newbury is fast becoming) when the horses are in great form, and they had certainly been that throughout November.

To have a horse like Paisley Park in the yard is both a privilege and an added a pressure but is one that we are more than happy to embrace on every level.  Newbury on the Friday was possibly the most pressure I had every felt going to the races.  Paisley had achieved so much last season and caught the public’s imagination in a way that we have never experienced before, and, although we knew there would be improvement to come, we still didn’t want to let anyone down by producing him in a way that didn’t allow him to do himself justice.  He had eaten a lot of ‘pies’ across the summer (!) and it took a fair amount of slow fitness work to get him to change shape in any way at all.  Then once he started to come into himself and remembered he is a finely tuned athlete it was then a case of getting him on a lorry and away for a racecourse gallop.   Newbury were very kind to allow us to give him a gallop before their fixture on 7 November, but the way he behaved in the paddock making divots on their beautiful grass they may have regretted it!  He just needed to go and chill out again after having had the experience of the Cheltenham Festival and I think his trips to Newbury made a big difference in getting his head right for the start of this season.

We were so proud of how he ran, and under Aidan he travelled as well as he ever had, jumped beautifully and galloped all the way to the line, and in classic Paisley fashion as soon as he got to the front pricked his ears to suggest he was extremely happy with where he was.  There is no doubt he had a good blow afterwards and will improve for it, but it was a great race and lovely to see a horse as tough and genuine as Thistlecrack chasing him home.   Barry has been instrumental in the preparation of Paisley and he was every bit as nervous as I was, but every bit as proud.  Paisley has come out of the race unbelievably well and extremely fresh so the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas is firmly on his radar and hopefully his season will continue how it has started.

The relief of Paisley’s victory led to a few impromptu drinks at our local Silks on the Downs, so there were definitely a few sore heads the next day in the yard, and rightly so.  However, we kicked on and got through the morning and headed back to Newbury for De Rasher Counter in the Ladbrokes Trophy.   As I said before it is so great going to the races when you know your horse couldn’t be in better form, what we didn’t know was whether he was good enough to win a race like the Ladbrokes Trophy – and he answered that question in no uncertain terms!  He was given a lovely ride by Ben Jones and travelled and jumped beautifully and ran all the way to the line and was a huge result for the yard and a day never to be forgotten.  Rasher’s owners were all able to make it and the scenes of pure joy that followed are what racing is all about.

We are extremely lucky to be training from a yard with such a rich history as this one, and it made us very proud to have kept up tradition by producing a third winner from here of the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup).   Rasher has also come out his race very well and having been raised to a mark of 160, our first choice will be to have a look at the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January and decide from there whether he is likely to be a top class handicapper or potential Gold Cup horse – how exciting!

What has been so rewarding is that the back-up team to Paisley and Rasher are every bit as strong. Hang in There was hugely impressive winning the Grade 2 SkyBet Sharp Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham (17 November) which was also a fantastic day.  He is not especially big but is as tough as they come and all he wants to do is please.  He jumped and travelled with enthusiasm and galloped all the way up the hill in rather unpleasant weather, but in no way did it stop him.  I think he is probably a horse that is better on better ground, but the fact he seems to handle pretty much any conditions means his versatility should stand him in very good stead.   Our plan is to head to Sandown in the New Year in the Tolworth Hurdle and see how far he can go in the two-mile novice hurdle division.  He has already shown in Ireland that he stays further, and he is a horse to be very excited about.

Another exciting novice is Éclair Surf who ran at Exeter (13 November) and is the complete opposite to Hang In There in that he is extremely tall and leggy and still very much a frame, but what he does share is an ability to travel and jump, but over some-what further.  He loved the soft ground and never really came off he bridle to win under Adam Wedge.  His future will lie over fences, but he is a horse we think very highly of so we will head for the Challow Hurdle at Newbury on the 28th December and see how far he can go.

Another nice novice who hasn’t got his head in front yet is Namib Dancer and who has run two fantastic races to finish second on both occasions.  He looked all over the winner at Wincanton (27 October) going well clear before the last before then making a complete horlicks of it, and then regrouped himself to still finish a clear second.  He then went to Kempton on ground that was a bit too soft for him and ran a great race just beaten by a horse with more experience.  He has plenty speed as well as size and scope and is one to very much look forward to.

Shang Tang is another who ran with huge amounts of credit when second at Chepstow (20 November) finishing like a train.  We wanted to start him off the right way by getting him to settle but when he missed the third last it just meant the winner got away on him, however I do not think he will be long in making amends.

The handicappers have also continued to shine, with the likes of Misty Bloom winning for our Bonita Racing Club at Wincanton (9 November).  She won easily and gave her team of owners a wonderful Saturday out.  Her next start is at Cheltenham this weekend and for a mare that started off on a pretty lowly rating it is so exciting to see how far she has come, and how time makes such a big difference to some of these horses.

Our American import – Highly Prized – who did us all proud across the summer, stepped out on slightly softer ground at Huntingdon (12 November) and took it in his stride by winning a valuable handicap. He has an incredibly high cruising speed and is very nimble from A to B over his hurdles and definitely puts his rivals to the test.  He won again impressively, with Ben Jones in the saddle, and I think is a horse that could take a pretty high order in two-mile handicaps. Even though Huntingdon was softer than he has experienced before I don’t think he is a horse that will want it too soft, and we will look at some of the more valuable spring contests as it would be fantastic to bag one for his enthusiastic owners.  He is a horse that likes to run fresh so we have just kept him ticking over in the hope that these storms will blow over and there might be some better ground at some stage before March!

The other end of the scale was Belle Empress who loves the mud to fly and the further the better, as demonstrated at Exeter (6 December) last week when she came home to win by a neck.   Her owners have not always had the best luck with their horse’s, and I was so pleased for them as well as Belle that she won and picked up a descent prize in the process.  There is no doubt she knew she had been to the races, 3 miles and 6 furlongs on soft ground is a long way to go and I think was more than happy to have an easy couple of days afterwards, but she is back now and we will look for a similar contest early in the New Year.

Pemberley is a horse close to my heart as I ride him regularly.  He is full of personality and although the distance at Hereford (27 November) was ultimately on the short side for him I was thrilled to see him get his head in front and once again we saw Ben Jones to great effect.  He has obviously modelled himself on Paisley based on the fact that as soon as he got to the front he pricked his ears, but he has a long way to go before he can truly claim equal status!

There have been some nice performances that haven’t resulted in victory but will certainly be improved on.  This included Fonsanta who jumped beautifully around Newbury in a novice chase finishing behind Champ and learnt so much and I am very much looking forward to him running next time.  Flemcara was only just ready to run at Sandown (7 December) following recovering from an accident in his field when on his summer holidays. The ground was desperate and it caught him out fitness wise, however Chepstow during the Christmas period is his next target.   Closing Ceremony was another I was delighted with at Newbury, he is a horse that has been difficult to keep sound over the years but his run was full of promise and that should set him up for Haydock on 21st December, which is a track he always saves his best for.

It was also good to see Fortunate George put some effort into his race last Saturday at Sandown.  He had started to resent wearing headgear so leaving it off definitely helped, as did Henry Platt’s 10lb claim.  George finished third in the Pertemps Qualifier and will also head to Ascot in a conditional jockey’s hurdle.  Henry has now had three rides for us finishing second and third twice on Water Wagtail and Private Malone and he is now aiming for the winner’s podium, and hopefully it will not be long in coming!

We cannot thank people enough for their very kind responses to our awesome weekend at Newbury.  We have had some lovely cards, emails and messages, some of which have been very humbling and hopefully the season will continue in the same vein and we can say thank you for many more!


Rolling into the jump season!

As we look out the window and see rain, rain and more rain you might think we’ve had enough of the wet stuff, however where it has been so dry for so long, for a lot of tracks, it has been fantastic.  It means we’ve had some lovely ground in the early part of the season which we have been lacking over the last few years and so have actually been able to get on and run horses without being wary of how quick the surface might be underneath.  It has made a big difference being able to get the horses fit and keep them rolling all the way to the races, whereas in some years we have had to stop and hold them for a while as there just hasn’t been the ground to run on.  Most importantly they do seem to be running well and look fantastic, so if we can keep this up for the whole of the campaign it will be a very enjoyable winter!

As it has been a while since I have updated the blog, I need to (embarrassingly!) go all the way back to the end of August to highlight Highly Prized  impressive win over hurdles at Newton Abbot (31 Aug), along with Manofthemountain, who was making his debut over fences and for us.  It was a double on the day and a lovely start to the campaign.  Irish Prophecy also had his first start after a significant wind op and it was amazing to see him gaining in confidence through the race. Although he got a little tired at the end, he got to the point of testing his wind, questioned whether he was going to get enough oxygen in, and when he did, he then ran on for another couple of furlongs before getting tired.  It was a big test for him and a very good result for us, even though he only finished fourth it gave us great hope he would continue to improve going forward.  He did just that at Wincanton (9 October) a month later when winning. It had been a long time between drinks and it really was a very satisfying day for his owner Nick Mustoe as well as the team here who have put so much work into him.  He has certainly been very pleased with himself since his victory and I am hoping he can just keep building on this and get back to the horse we always thought he could be. 

Lady Markby made her debut over fences at Worcester (1 September), she jumped beautifully and although the race was won by a highly rated novice, she still ran a binder to not be beaten far for second, finishing a very promising third.  However, sadly it transpired she had given herself a small area of tendon damage and I think the reality is that it will be the end of her career as a racehorse.  Having won a bumper and a hurdle and by Oscar as well as being from a nice family she will head to the paddocks and will hopefully have a chance of breeding something very nice.

September is a funny month as it’s the time of year where all the horses are still swans, the excitement is building, and with very little jump racing through this month it gives little chance for anything to disappoint! I did though make an error with The Sweeney when I ran him over three and quarter miles at Newton Abbot (9 September).  Although he is by Oscar he is not really bred to stay that distance, and despite travelling well he didn’t get home and it possibly took more out of him than I gave him credit for, as on his return at Fontwell (9 October) over a shorter distance he did not yield the result we were hoping for, and accordingly he is now having a well-deserved holiday.  Although not big, he is a smashing jumper and we will give him a school over fences once back from his break and probably head chasing with him.

Misty Bloom kept the show on the road by winning on her seasonal reappearance at Warwick (23 September). She has been an absolute star for our Bonita Racing Club and is so unbelievably consistent and with her usual terrier like characteristics she jumped beautifully and battled all the way to the line.   Having come out the race so well I sent her to Ludlow (9 October) a fortnight later where she ran another gallant race to finish third.   If the rain comes she will certainly handle the softer ground and will continue to run with credit throughout the year.  She is now qualified for the £50,000 mares challenger final at the end of the season at Haydock, which is the race she was second in last year and it would be lovely to think with a year under her belt and being stronger it could be a race she could win.

Having run on relatively quick going at Newton Abbot at the end of August, Manofthemountain went to Southwell (1 October) where he definitely encountered the opposite end of the ground spectrum.  The rain had been torrential and in a four-runner field where each horse had won their last start it looked a very competitive affair, however Manofthemountain bossed them from start to finish and ran out the comfortable winner. He is a horse we like very much and should have a bright future in staying chases. 

Jubilympics made her debut for us at Warwick (3 October), she has decent form in the past, but just lost her way a bit last season which did result in a favorable handicap mark. She jumped beautifully, travelled well and finished a very gutsy second.   She is out again tomorrow and hopefully will step forward again.  Tough and genuine fillies and mares are a joy to train as they come out and run their race each time and I think she is very much cut from the same cloth as Misty Bloom.

Jemima P also made her debut over hurdles on the same day and although running green she was certainly an eye catcher.  I don’t think we will see the best of her until she goes over a fence however, she should be able to get her head in front over hurdles.

The beginning of October has certainly been as busy as September was quiet.  We moved on to Fontwell (5 October) where Freedom Run was a very encouraging fourth and who is another lovely mare in the Bonita Racing Club.   We then headed to Stratford (7 October) for the seasonal debuts of Boreham Bill, Gunfleet and Celtic Joy.  Ideally I never choose to run two horses in the same race, but when you have a pair that want similar conditions and before the season gets really started and options are more plentiful you have to take opportunities when they present themselves and so Boreham Bill and Gunfleet took each other on.  Boreham Bill on this occasion ran out a lovely winner, with Gunfleet a fast finishing fourth beaten six lengths, so it was difficult not be extremely happy with them both.  Bill seems to be a different horse this season, he is relaxed and has kept his condition and has done everything in a way that suggests he could be in a better place and Henry who rides him every day has done a very good job with him.  He will head to Cheltenham on Friday where he will be take on a stronger field again and it would be lovely if he could show them all a clean pair of heels as well.   It was also a massive confidence boost for Gunfleet, who I don’t think really enjoyed his last few runs, and I think the race helped him get him back on track mentally as much as anything as he finished out the race brilliantly and seems incredibly happy after it, which is a big change from last season. I think this should set him up for a more enjoyable campaign all round.  Celtic Joy in the handicap hurdle ran a beautiful race and was just beaten by a speedier type.  He galloped all the way through the line, and I could not have been happier with him and as it happened was the perfect warm up for his debut over fences at Kempton (20 Oct) at the weekend.  I was so delighted with his performance there, with still so much improvement to come from him with his chasing technique it was the perfect start to his career over the larger obstacles winning a shade cozily.  The crew are back dreaming of the Claret Cloak days – let’s hope they’re right!

The thing about racing is it’s a great leveler and boy did we get levelled with Hang In There at Exeter (10 October)! He is the most lovely horse – a real athlete, and at 2/1 on, and making his debut for us in a novice hurdle we just felt it was the perfect starting point.  So, as you can imagine there was a fair bit of frustration when Adam Wedge got knocked off him by a 100/1 shot running down the first hurdle.  You win some, you lose some, but that was frustrating.  Thankfully he came out of the race well and being sensible he jumped the second without his rider he then took the view to go around each hurdle as a much easier option.  He still finished several lengths clear with his head in his chest but missing his all-important rider! I am pleased to say he will be back out tomorrow, in a tougher race but he does seem really well so hopefully we can at least get further than the first this time.  

One of our very nice novice hurdlers; The Domino Effect, made his debut at Hereford (15 October), but he was just too green to do himself justice on the track. Having not been through the point-to-point academy and with only one run in a bumper he just seemed to find it all a bit too much.  He travelled and jumped well in the early stages of the race, but lost his pitch midway before staying on after the last.  I have no doubt he will leave this run a long way behind him going forward but there is no doubt some horses need more education than others, which he can only gain by going to the track.   Belle Empress also had a nice pipe opener, jumping in the main very well over fences, and once the ground gets a bit softer I hope she will be back in the winners’ enclosure.

De Rasher Counter’s target is very much the Ladbroke at Newbury at the end of November and so to preserve his chase mark he travelled to Uttoxeter to run in a stayers handicap hurdle and get some much needed match practice.  He jumped his hurdles beautifully until the third last where he just left his back end behind and a combination of that and starting to get tired put an end to his winning chance.  He had a nice blow after and Ben Jones who rode him was delighted with him and I think it will have brought Rasher on enormously – roll on the Ladbroke! 

It was a busy weekend for us with Thoor Castle heading to Market Rasen (19 Oct) and becoming our first runner for Trevor Hemmings.  Having watched Mr Hemmings’ horses running for many years we were very proud to see his colours on one for us and she is a mare that I think will give us a lot of fun.  Having won a point to point in Ireland over three miles she was just tapped for toe turning in by some very smart mares but stayed on in determined fashion to finish fourth and I think will only improve.  Hopefully it won’t be long before it is not just a runner in the famous colours but a winner as well.  Doc Penfro also made his debut for us at Stratford.  He is a fine big horse who has had knee issues in the past but shows plenty at home.  He had done his pre-training work with Timmy Murphy and he came in looking magnificent so it was lovely to get him back to the track and see him run such a nice race.  He travelled well in to the contest and although the winner won easily he should have been a nice second had it not been for a proper Horlicks at the last – fourth was where we ended up but ultimately he will improve no end on this run and if we can keep his knees right he is another exciting prospect for the coming season.  Private Malone knows more about racing than any of us and I have a feeling that could be the problem!  He has been in such good form at home and so we were hopeful of a good run with him but having jumped really well, once it all got a bit harder and he got a little tired he weakened out of the race and Leighton sensibly pulled him up.  He is most definitely entering the ‘last chance saloon’ and I will leave no stone unturned with him but as he is the best ride and the sweetest natured horse, I have no doubt that if he does decide that racing is not for him, he will be very easy to rehome.

I had already mentioned Celtic Joy’s victory at Kempton yesterday but to double it up with Vendredi Trois made it a very special day.  VT has been with us a long time now and to see him flying the fences and sticking his head out all the way to the line was a very memorable moment.  Adam Wedge rode them both and having another winner on the day gave him his first ever treble so it is hard to imagine for any of us a better start to the season.

Now all we have to do is keep it rolling…..

Photo: Misty Bloom and Laura Scrivener and taken by Hope McSnowy


Holidays are over

The holiday season is well and truly over and having had a lovely summer, with the majority of the horses out and relaxing it always comes a bit of shock to the system when they come back in fresh, fat and well!

The horses have all summered fantastically, it was a lovely time for them with plenty of grass and not many flies – an ideal combination.

As ever with us our summer campaign is always on the light side.  But those that have been in and running have done us proud.  The Sweeny has won two £20,000 handicaps at Market Rasen.  He is so tough and terrier like and for him there is no doubt his wind operation made a big difference, I am not the greatest fan of wind ops unless they really need them, and the confidence he has gained in having it done is remarkable.  He is not very big, but he is all heart and will head back to the races in the not too distant future.

Prophets Prayer has knocked on the door all summer and will run this week where hopefully the door will finally open for her over hurdles and she can get her head in front.  Shiroccan Roll is another who ‘s form is coming back and having run two much better races he is also one that should be back in the winners enclosure before too long.  There are a few that are also just about ready to run and so bit by bit the yard is starting to emerge from its summer recess. 

We have had a few flat horses this summer which has made an enjoyable change.  Le Torrent finished second on both of his starts, and Vixen also finished in the runner up spot and then disappointed slightly in her last two starts.   I am hoping we will have her back on track next time.

As ever this is the time of year of dreams. The strength in depth of horses that we have in the yard this season is far beyond anything that we have had before and that has given a real buzz around the place. Barry and I, and the whole team cannot wait for the season to start properly with so much to look forward to.


Five to Follow – The Result!

Congratulations to Gordon MacIntosh – the winner of our 2018/19 Five to Follow competition!

Gordon scored an impressive 85 points, with Mike Powell in second with 76 points and in third Anne Lavelle (well done mum!) on 75.

Well done and thank you to everyone who took part. Details and entry forms for the forthcoming competition for the 2019/2020 season will be available in late summer. To view the final leader board please click here.


Deserved summer hols for Paisley

The star that is Paisley Park enjoying his summer holiday and looking rather fabulous for it!


Summer holidays

Some lovely snaps, taken by Jules who works in the office of some of the boys and girls enjoying their very much deserved summer holidays.

For more holiday snaps and of Bonita Racing Stables please visit our gallery here.