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