We are now well into the new year – and as I didn’t get the chance to open the ‘notebook’ last week – there is much to catch up on. I last posted just as we were coming out of a spell of snow and sub-zero temperatures which left the racing programme in tatters, and as predicted, really concentrated entries and runners over the Christmas and New Year period, it made for bigger fields and more competitive racing – surely a lesson for the race planners – less racing for better prizemoney means a better product and a far better atmosphere on course!
The week before Christmas started quietly enough – no great dramas, Auditoria schooled well over fences ahead of her run in Hereford on the 21st, and we put the finishing touches to the deal that saw Steve purchase the remaining shares in the yearling by Blue Bresil out of Savingforvegas, along with snapping up the last share in Dino Bellagio – we wish him the best of luck with both – this is his first venture into ownership, and he has bought into a lovely family for sure!
On Wednesday we headed across to Hereford for their rescheduled Mares Chase Final with Auditoria. Worth a cool £35,000 it had been a plan for her for a while, and with stable jockey Sean Bowen not available on the day due to suspension we were very fortunate to get the services of Champion jockey Brian Hughes. Auditoria came into the race in good form, and although we were not sure that she was capable of winning as it looked a very tight heat, we did feel that she was well up to the task of finishing in the first three and picking up some very decent prizemoney. Auditoria jumped of in mid field, but was slightly hampered when another horse jumped across her at the first, which unsettled her slightly and she was a bit circumspect at the next couple, but she soon warmed to her task and jumped well from there on in. As they headed down the far side on the final circuit, Brian asked her for her effort, but sadly he said she couldn’t get her feet out of the sticky ground, and despite trying, she just couldn’t quicken and go with the front pair. As ever, Brian is not over hard on them when they are beaten – there is always another day, and the pair came home in fourth. Auditoria does handle a soft surface, but after cold snaps when the ground has been frozen, it becomes very tacky and dead when it thaws, and this tacky ground was certainly not to her liking. She is now well handicapped and returned to calmer waters, and on less holding ground she will soon be back in the winners enclosure. It was a good turn out of owners, and good to see so many of them before Christmas!
On Thursday Tintagel Queen had her last piece of work before her racecourse debut in a Newcomers National Hunt Flat race in Market Rasen on Boxing Day. As you will all be aware by now, she is a very tall mare, and has needed time to grow into her frame, and carry sufficient strength to do herself justice, but she has a fantastic pedigree, and has certainly been worth the patient approach. In fairness to her she is only just strong enough now, and her work has been slowly improving week on week as she matures. This last piece of work was certainly her best to date and told Olly that she was ready to run. Also on Thursday, Mamoon Star had a school down at Ravenswell Farm ahead of his run in Kempton on Boxing Day. He was in fine form and looked great ahead of what looked to be a stiff task, but one that we thought he was ready for.
With no racing on the run up to Christmas, it was all about the homework, and on Christmas Eve, Greyval had a very good schooling session in preparation for her hurdling debut on the 29th. She has been a natural from day one and was foot perfect again. We were all eagerly looking forward to her debut, as we think she is a lovely filly with a very nice future. After seeing her schooling, Fergal popped off for a days hunting, during which he managed to part company with his horse and end up sat on a wall! Reports are that horse, rider and wall were all unharmed – but the ribs of those that witnessed it were aching!
We had a lovely Christmas Day, and then it was all about Boxing Day – with three runners at three different tracks it was a busy one for sure. Mamoon Star kicked us off in Kempton, which is where I decided to go in the end. As mentioned in the previous news update, this was a stronger heat than is usual for this race, as the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices; Hurdle had been lost to the weather before Chrsistmas, and a couple of horses that were due to run there were diverted here. Mamoon Star was a very gutsy winner of his hurdling debut and with the right-handed track and the decent ground sure to suit we decided to let him take his chance. Sadly, heavy rain in the days prior to racing put pay to the decent ground, which wasn’t ideal – but we were still hopeful of a nice run. Paddy jumped off in mid field, but was, in truth, never happy. MS never travelling and not jumping with any fluency. It was soon clear that it was not going to be his day, and Paddy let him come home in his own time. Immediately after the race he put the performance down to the ground, which he said felt very soft and holding on him, but in the subsequent days, MS was found to be quite stiff, and although there was nothing ‘mechanically’ wrong with him, later blood tests were not quite right, which would explain his below par effort. Make no mistake he would not have won, the front two, who cut out the pace of the race are very good horses, and they basically blew the race apart from flag fall, posting very impressive fractions and completing the race just 3 seconds slower than the superstar that is Constitution Hill! MS is on a course of antibiotics and will be out again in a few weeks, when we will try to find some better ground for him.
Mamoon Star - huge thanks the official NBR photographer Debbie Burt for the pics!
Barely time to get the debrief before Volkovka started her chasing career down in Wincanton, with Liam Harrison taking the ride. We had hoped to start her over fences in the autumn, but the dry weather and quick ground meant we had to be patient, and then, with no suitable chases for her, she was first seen over hurdles in Exeter, where she ran really well, just finding the trip too much on the track, after they omitted all of the flights down the back straight, putting to great an emphasis on stamina. Wincanton is a big track and takes some jumping, but her schooling had been good, and with it being a mares novices handicap, it was the right place to start. Volkovka jumped well, and turning in it looked as though Liam had produced her perfectly, only for the three around her to kick on again, and leave her a tad flat footed. She completed safely in fourth, and will benefit no end for her first run over the bigger obstacles. Watching on a phone in Kempton it looked like she need to step up in trip, but Liam felt a slight drop back in trip on a stiffer track would suit. She has been entered in a Listed chase for mares in Leicester next week, which looks like a very big ask – if she looks unlikely to finish in the first three, Fergal could well bypass that, and aim her for a more suitable handicap later in the month. She holds no secrets from the handicapper, and as she already has her black type, it is not the be all and end all to run in races in which she stands very little chance of success.
We hung around in Kempton to see Constitution Hill run riot in the Christmas Hurdle, and then headed off to beat the traffic, and try to get home to see Tintagel Queen make her debut in the last in Market Rasen. The traffic held us up slightly, and we were 15 minutes from home when we had to pull over and watch TQ on the phone in a gateway. Olly had the favourite in the race, a Blue Bresil gelding who I had seen work at home and who I knew was held in very high regard by both the trainer and the jockeys that had ridden him, so with Sean Bowen riding him, Lewis Stones was booked to ride TQ. Lewis is her regular rider at home, and he had done an awful lot of work with her, so it made sense to put him up. This race was against the boys, and on a track that wasn’t ideal for a big girl like her, but we felt that a nice surface for her was very important on debut, so that she got a nice experience, and so this was the right race to start her in. TQ behaved impeccably in the prelims and made her way very calmy to post. She is so tall, she even looked big against the boys and instructions were to settle in rear and stay wide off of the chopped up ground. She did everything that was asked of her, and as they turned out of the back straight Lewis felt the time was right to press the accelerator and take closer order. She swung down the hill and as the pace quickened 3 furlongs out she was bang there. As they approached the 2 pole it looked for a split second as though she was going to really put it up to the favourite, but just as you thought that, she started to flatten out, eventually being repassed for the minors and finishing a very creditable 5th beaten just over 6 lengths. For a big weak filly, that was only just ready to run, and who had been improving rapidly over the past few weeks this was a very satisfactory start – she will stick to bumpers this season, with her next start in mares company in a few weeks time.
On the 28th we headed down to Cornwall where we had taken an apartment in Padstow for a week with Matt and Sarah. I can only describe the trip down as ‘bloody painful’ – with the M5 closed for most of the day around Taunton, all traffic was diverted around the major A roads of the south west, including the A303 and the A30 – it took all day to get down to Padstow – but we did manage to stop in at the Strawberry Fields Farm shop just off of the A30 at Launceston – if you are every travelling that stretch, do pop in, it is the best Farm Shop I have ever visited, they have just about everything you can imagine – a butchery, a bakery and a super café/restaurant attached. It makes a fabulous pit stop.
We arrived in Padstow around 5.00pm and the long frustrating trip was soon forgotten when we saw our accommodation for the next week. We had booked The Grain Store on Padstow Harbour, and to be honest it was even better than we could imagine. Recently refurbished, it has fantastic harbour views from both the lounge and the main bedroom upstairs – right in the heart of the village, everything is literally on your doorstep, and we could not recommend it more highly!
It was a fabulous week – Padstow a mecca for ‘foodies’, and we were fed and watered well with visits to Steins Seafood Restaurant, along with Paul Ainsworth’s Café Rojano, and the amazing No. 6. The latter is right up there with the best places you will ever eat! Other places for great food are Prawn On The Lawn, for a seafood tapas type lunch, and Burger and Fish, which does just what it says on the tin! Sadly, one thing we didn’t eat was our own ‘catch’ – a sea fishing trip ended with a blank, but it was a fabulous morning off the coast, on the high seas!
The Grain Store, Padstow - Our home for the week!
A room with a view - this from the lounge window!
On Thursday Greyval made her eagerly awaited hurdling debut in Doncaster. She has done nothing but impress since her arrival from France, and although we had tried several times to buy her through the summer to get her in the ‘system’ earlier, this race is one that we have used before to debut our new juvenile fillies, and we were hopeful of a good run. As we were down in Padstow, Alex Fice looked after her owners, The Oakley Partnership up in Doncaster, and there was a good turn out to see her for the first time. She ran a cracker, travelling like a dream, and jumping really well. She was cruising at the entrance to the home straight, and Paddy just let her bowl on, with the short priced favourite being niggled in behind. She took it up going easily 2 out, but when out in front and cruising she jinked at the last and lost vital momentum, allowing the favourite past her and struggling to reel her back in, Paddy was very impressed with her, and felt that if he could ride the race again, he would win. Either way, it was a very impressive debut, she has posted the third highest rating of any juvenile filly in the UK and will now head back to Doncaster for the Listed hurdle there later in January. After that we will see where we end up with her – hopefully she will end up with some fancy targets.
One day we did get to the races during our break was Cheltenham on New Years Day, where we had three runners. Itchy Feet ran in the 3m2f handicap chase under top weight, and ran well to be sixth after making several mistakes on the way round. This race was not originally on his ‘dance card’ but his original target race was lost to the freeze and it served a purpose and opens up a very exciting option for him later in the season should we chose to go that route. Our two remaining runners were both in the Listed 4 yr old bumper at the end of the day. Dino Bellagio was going into it with what we felt was the strongest form, and as he had improved at home since his debut, where Donald had left plenty to work on, we were all hopeful of a good run. Sadly it all went wrong very quickly as his saddle slipped after just 100 yards, and it was effectively game over. He has come out of the race fine - put a line through it and move on – he is an exciting young horse, and his syndicate members all had a fantastic day out in Cheltenham. The other one in the race for us was Cloud Dancer – our first runner with Gary Moore, and one that was making his debut and taking advantage of this being the last bumper restricted to his own age group. Cloud Dancer had received some very encouraging reviews from Gary and Jamie early on, but he had got sick, and his progression had levelled off. Back healthy he came back to form at home, and Jamie was sure that he needed to run to gain experience and take him up to the next level. Jumping off in mid field, he was very, very green, and was soon being pushed along in rear. To say he was utterly clueless was an understatement, but he had not had a racecourse gallop and it was not a surprise that he should react the way he did. The good news, is that having looked like he was going to be tailed off at the top of the hill, when the penny finally dropped at the bottom of it, he really got his head down and fairly charged up the hill to finish 7th. Jamie was delighted with him, and said that with a step up in trip, and the experience under his belt we would see a far better performance next time.He will be aimed at another bumper.
Itchy Feet in the paddock
Itchy Feet post race
It was a great day in Cheltenham, thanks to the team there for accommodating our large groups, although there was a mix up with ticket collections from the marquee. Back down to Padstow – and a few well-earned pints in the Shipwrights – a good day!
On Monday, Fortune Forever headed back into Ravenswell Farm. The decision was made to keep her to bumpers this season, and she has had a lovely break since her last run in November. She has put on plenty of condition and looks fantastic. She will now be brought back up to full fitness and have at least two more runs in bumpers this spring before embarking on her hurdling career in the autumn.
We came home last Wednesday, and it was straight back into work. Due to unforeseen circumstances, one of our members had been forced to relinquish his shares, and we were busy filling those spots. Lots of them have already been taken, but we do have a single share available in Auditoria, and Blue Bikini – both are very well handicapped and will be out again around the end of the month. Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org. Or 07909 518902. We have also officially launched our new flat syndicate, and with plenty of shares already spoken for, we were busy dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. Great to welcome even more new faces to NBR, and we are looking forward to our first syndicate morning in Newmarket when Reflexion Faite arrives there in a couple of weeks. The Kevin Philippart De Foy yard is in fantastic form, and we can’t wait to get going with our first flat horse! There are a limited number of shares remaining – take a look at her in the For Sale page – she is really coming along great, and Jason Maguire is very pleased with her, as was Kevin when I sent him a video of her cantering earlier this week.
This coming week looks like being fun. On Tuesday Classic Ben heads down to Exeter for a 3m handicap chase, Stuart reports that he is in great form, and we are looking forward to seeing him back on the track – he is another who’s last run was abandoned, so we decided to be patient and wait for this race which was always part of his plan when the season started. On the same day Hidden Beauty heads up to Doncaster, where she should encounter the better ground that she needs. It has been a topsy turvy season with her, but hopefully this will put her back on track – it looks like a decent renewal of the novices’ hurdle. But she is very well, and like her syndicate members – itching to get out again! On Wednesday Volkovka has the entry in Leicester – we will look at declarations before committing, and with Dino Bellagio bouncing at home, Donald has given him an entry in Sedgefield on Friday – I will speak to Donald tomorrow, and discuss.
Hopefully I can squeeze a visit to The Elms this week to see the stock there, it will not be long before the two 3 yr old fillies will be heading down to Jason to do their ‘secondary school’ and the sales horses will be starting their prep before you know it. The yearling half sister to Hidden Beauty will remain in Cheshire for the time being, she is settled in a barn with her friends, and I have decided to leave her at Peel Hall for the foreseeable future.
That’s it for this bumper edition – if you made it this far – well done. We will be back to normal next week!
See you then!