One Giant Step
This week seems to have flown by! There is always plenty going on - and even though the latter part of the week has been spent huddeld over the computer plotting routes for some of the team - it reallys doesn;t seem like five minutes since I was last sat down writing the updates!
On Monday we started to the job of scouring the programme book for opportunities for a few of them - as you know we like to be patient with our horses, and at this time of year, we start to look towards the spring with a few of them. A few that have run over the winter have shown us that they would appreciate a sounder surface, so it is a matter of either waiting for the weather to turn in a few weeks or finding them the best opportunities through the remainder of January and February, to maximise their chances of success when the ground starts to dry up. There are also a few that could be considered for the spring festivals at this stage, based on the form that they have shown through the season, but they will either have to have their programme managed to enable them to get a run, or they have to be placed so that they can prove that they are up to the task of running at the most competitive meetings of the year. I am a firm believer that for a horse of ours to run at either Cheltenham or Aintree they have to have earned the right to do so - so they have to run in the right races, and their programmes managed carefully.
Monday was also spent sending out confirmations for shares taken in Reflexion Faite - our 2 yr old filly by Intello. who heads to Kevin Philippart De Foy in the next weeks or so. She is still down with Jason Maguire who is really happy with her progress - she is cantering away in the group with him, and getting up his gallop nicely. - Jason reports her to be 'flying along', and it was good to see her moving nicely in the video he sent over yesterday. Jason not only works really hard on the horses, and his attention to detail is second to none, his communication is also fantastic - with regular updates, pics and videos of the horses that are currently in his care. Communication is key to success in all walks of life, and the efforts of all the team at Ivy Lodge Farm are fantastic.
Reflexion Faite looking great and going just as well at Ivy Lodge Farm
We had a close eye on the bumper in Ayr on Monday afternoon, as it was a chance to get a proper guage on the level of the form of Dino Bellagio's winning debut at the same track back in November. On that occasion he had beaten a horse from the Lucinda Russell yard called Esprit De Potier a shade cosily, and we would get a handle on that form when EDP took on the older horses in the concluding bumper. We have seen what Dino can do at home, and he is a horse that Donald holds in high regard, and had expected to run very well in the Listed bumper in Cheltenham only for his saddle to slip after 100 yeards. After that we had discussed changing plans for him slightly and switching him to the national hunt juvenile hurdles as he has jumps so well, and they looked like easier options - but in a chat that we had on Monday we decided to wait and see what EDP did in the bumper to get a handle on the level of form, and make a decision after that. The result was pretty emphatic, EDP easily winning, and franking the form in no uncertain terms. Even the pundit on RacingTV saying that not only would Lucinda Russell be delighted but so to, would Donald McCain! A quick text to Donald and we arranged to have a chat in Doncaster on Tuesday.
Tuesday arrived, and we had a great day to look forward to - Hidden Beauty riunning in a strong looking novices hurdle in Doncaster with a big field, and Classic Ben returning to Exeter, a track he seems to go really well at. I collected Tom from Huntingdon in persistant rain - and it did nothing but hose it down for the entire journey up the A1. Not ideal when we had decided to head to Doncaster and take on the boys in a strong race, just so that she would get the better ground that she needs. Spirits in the car were ebbing away as every drop of rain hit the windscreen, and hit rock bottom when Fergal's travelling head girl, Jo called to say that they were stuck on a gridlocked M18 just south of Doncaster, and it was looking a bit touch and go that they would make it to the track in time with Hidden Beauty. Was this to be another occasion when we had got so close to running her, only for something unforeseen to stop it happening. I detailed on here a couple of weeks ago the plotted history of her career to date, and it has been nothing short of character building, and having been a non runner the last three times we had hoped to get a run into her since November - it was looking like she may make it four! Thankfully the next call from Jo was to say that they were on the move, and would make it to the track in good time. As we arrived the rain decided to ease up too, but the ground had changed slightly to Good to Soft, Soft in places, but I can assure you, that after all we have been through with her, and as Doncaster never gets very testing and holding, she was always going to run! Once again she looked amazing in the paddock - she has never been clipped since she has been at Ravenswell - she has such a quality skin, and like all of Fergals horses, she shone in the paddock. Paddy, who had travelled up for just the one ride, was at pains to say that this was just another rung on the ladder back for her - another step forward in her regaining her confidence after suffering atrial fibrillation in Cheltenham 12 months ago, and he would be very mindful of that during the race. Physically she has been A1 since it happened, but she is quite an intelligent mare, and she had remembered how it felt, and wasn't sure that she wanted to go through it again. She had shown that, when slightly reluctant to jump off on her first start of the season when she was carried out in Uttoxeter, but although the race went wrong that day, it had given her the confidence that she could race again, and on her next start she was much better, and on Tuesday there was no sign of her even thinking about not starting - a sure sign that the patient approach was working, and that she was getting close to showing us what we know she can do. She took a nice hold in the early stages, another sign that her confidence was high, and jumped far better than she had on her last start. Half way down the back Paddy switched her to the inner off of the chopped up ground, and then gave her one of his 'genius; rides, constantly switching her left handed and off of the hurdles track and onto the less chopped up chase track, where she would get better ground - dodging back right handed around the hurdles track markers when he needed to. He carried on the same tactic up the home straight, and although lonely and on her own, she had sauntered into a 4 length lead - a good jump at the last sealing it, and the pair coming home eased down for an easy win. Paddy may not be pretty in the saddle at times, but he is simply the best tactical jockey in the weighing room, and this was a very very good ride. Having a jockey with his level of tactical awareness and experience is worth its weight in gold, and as Paddy always has an eye on the future with the horses he rides, they really are in good hands. Sometimes the horses he rides may not quite get there under a waiting ride, or they are beaten with him taking a different path to the rest, but he is willing to try, and I can assure you, that the reason for him trying something out of the ordinary is for the benefit of the horse he is riding, and that will always stand them in good stead going forward. Despite us setting out with the thought that this would be another step along the path back to full confidence, it seems as though it was one giant step, and she is back doing what she does best, and showing us what we know she can do. She came out of the race fine, and she was another one who's next start will need careful consideration.
Hidden Beauty in the paddock - amzing that she is never clipped - she has such a quality skin!
Hidden Beauty - heading out.
Winners are grinners!!
Classic Ben headed south - he loves Exeter, and seems to go really well there. He doesn't win very often these days, but he is a model of consistancy, and always seems to pick up a decent chunk of prizemoney. He had run well on his seasonal debut in Uttoxeter in November, but his next planned outing had been lost to the weather, and with these staying chasers, who we are always asking to run over marathon trips, I don't think you can ask them to run too frequently, they always need a decent break between runs, and so, although he had an entry on Boxing Day, we decided to wait and get him back on track with his season plan - which basically revolves around staying chases in Exeter. The rain wasn't a problem for him, he doesn;t seem to mind deep ground, and with usual pilot Ciaran Gethings in the plate, we were hoping for a nice run in the fjrst three. CB did his usual, he travelled in a rythmn he loved and jumped great apart from last ditch down the far side, just as the race was starting to hot up, and just when he needed a good one. Although he didn't lose much ground, his momentum was checked and it defintely had an effect. he battled on up the hill, and was staying on well at the end to finish third. He had run well, and we are all looking forward to his next outing down there.
Wednesday was spent with the head back in the programme book. Olly Murphy is away on a mid season break in Dubai, and was obviously bored, as he rang to give me an update on all the horses at Warren Chase. Auditoria is fine, and will be out again in a couple of weeks - not sure if that will be over hurdles or fences. Brian Hughes who had ridden her the last day was sure that she would be seen to better effect on better ground, so where she runs, and what she runs in may well be determined by ground rather than discipline. Tintagel Queen has come out of her debut run really well - and Olly is delighted with her. She will be given plenty of time before her next run, but Olly is confident that if all goes well she is up to winning a mares bumper this season before going hurdling in the autumn. The one we discussed at length was Itchy Feet. He had run well in Cheltenham on New Years Day, and before the race, we had discussed the possibility of entering him in the Grand National. The handicapper dropped him 3lbs to 142 after Cheltenham, a mark that woukd leave him right on the cut off for getting in a National, so we had to look at options for him over hurdles to preserve his handicap mark. The original plan had been to run in the £165,000 Fleur Du Lys Chase in Lingfield next weekend, and he still may get an entry in that, but he has been entered in the staying handicap hurdle on the Friday, and may get a spot in the 2m 4f hurdle on the Sunday. He would then get an entry in the Grand National. and would switch back to Fences in late February after the National weights have been announced. All good fun - Itchy would be any price for the big one, but he was purchased to give his syndicate a tatse of the big time - and what bigger race than the Grand National - there is still one 10% share available should anyone fancy owning a runner in the Grand National! firstname.lastname@example.org - 07909 518902.
Thursday it was good to get over to the yard and see Andy and Claire at Atacanter horseboxes and go through some things with them. Also good to show the stock to a potential new client, who I thnk was very impressed with what we had to offer!
Friday we started discussions with one of our syndicates regarding a potential sale. We have a customer in Ireland who has bought horses from us in the past, and they were enquiring about one of the team. Maybe a deal will be done.
Saturday - great racing across the country - but too much of it - hard to take in what is happening when you are fired from one meeting to the next as they pull up! The first in Kempton was on interest to us. Arclight who had beaten our own Greyval when they both made their hurdling debuts in Doncaster between Christmas and New Year was running in a 4 runner fillys 4 yr old hurdle in Kempton. She was odds on to make it two from two, and when the second fav unseated at the first she had a simple task of doing so. The race proved little, and she now heads to Doncaster on the 27th where she will lock horns with Greyval again, in the Listed juvenile hurdle there. Greyval in great form at home!
Cloud Dancer has come out of his race in great form, and I will chat through some options with Gary next week. He is likely to run in a bumper next time - and build on the promise he showed on debut in Cheltenham. The experience will not have been lost on him, and a step up to two miles will surely suit too!
The result of my chat with Donald is that Dino will have another run in a bumper this month, really to test where we are with him in that sphere. If he runs well in one against older horses, he is likely to remain in bumpers for the remainder of the season, and we will target a nice one in the spring. Should he come up short, he will switch to national hunt juvenile hurdles and take in a couple of them in February and March before heading off for a summers break and starting off in novice hurdles next autumn with some vital experience under his belt.
Down at Ravenswell Farm - Fortune Forever has settled back into her routine, and is cantering away nicely. She was a very promising third on her last start in mid November after which we decided to give her a good long break to fill out and strengthen. I know that a few of the trainers of the fillies and mares that finished around her that day really like theirs, and I think it was strong form, and it is interesting that the second and fifth from the race have been entered in the Listed bumper in Market Rasen on Friday. Mamoon Star was found to be under the weather after his run on Boxing Day. He was the first one in a string of them that ran below par, and although he would not have won in Kempton - he is way better than his finishing position, and he remains a lovely prospect going forward. With Leicester abandoned discussions about Volkovka running there were not necessary - she will have chase entries going forward.
It was great to get a video of Blue Bikini putting in a fantastic piece of work this week. It has been a frustrating time with BB. 12 months ago she contracted a very nasty respiratory infection that resulted in her missing the rest of the winter months and her favoured soft ground. Her run in Newton Abbot in the early summer was just about getting a bit more experience into her as she was out of novice company with very few runs under her belt. She then suffered with atrial fibrillation in the autumn in a piece of work, and although she recovered quickly she was given plenty of time to get over it, and had a spell away at Ivy Lodge Farm. This weeks work, with dual Cheltenham bumper winner (including Listed), Bonttay, shows she is right back on song - she will have entries in the next 2/3 weeks - can't wait!
Blue Bikini near side - working with Bonttay
Next week I hope to get to a couple of yards, and also try to get to the stud to see the young stock - I am sure I will see a big difference in last years foals!
A cold snap coming, wrap up warm, and catch up next week!