After, what was definitely the best weekend we have ever had last weekend, Monday bought us back down to earth with a bump. We headed over to Hereford hopeful that we would see Volkovka put on a decent show and run well in their 2m handicap chase. She had been entered in both the 2m handicap chase and the 2m 5f novices handicap chase, with the latter being the favoured option, but when Ferg spoke to the clerk of the course at declarations on Saturday morning he described the ground as soft, holding and very hard work. Soft ground holds no fears - as that is what she wants, and we felt that with it being such hard work we would drop her back to the 2m option and change tactics with her - bouncing her out handy and making more use of her rather than holding her up as we have done throughtout her career with us, as she has been very keen in the past. Monday arrived - a bright and mild day - but the ground still being given as soft in Hereford so we set off looking forward to seeing Volkovka on the track again. She had put in a really good round of jumping on her first start around Wincanton, a track that would take a lot of jumping on your first try, and a similar display on more suitable ground, with a change of tactics meant that this was going to be an interesting afternoon. We soon knew our fate. The tapes went up, and there was an absolute cavalry charge to the first, it was like watching the start of the Champion Chase! There was no way she was going to go that speed into the first on only her second start, but she did her best, and got over it in a fashion, but travelling at that speed and being asked to jump fences with so little experience was a big ask. The pace was relentless, and despite Volkovka being game and genuine, she just couldn't cope with it, and as the race developed and she got more tired her jumping became very erratic, and Paddy rightly pulled her up. As they walked back in it was clear what the issue was - for ground described as Soft (changed to good to soft in places) there was a very clear lack of mud/dirt on any of the horses legs or in any of their joints - the fact of the mattter was, and this is backed up by the times, there was very little soft in the going, which Volkovka definitely needs. On what was essentially good ground, they were able to go at a helter skelter pace, and that was never going to suit her on just her second start over the bigger obstacles, on that ground she definitely needed to be running in the other race over the longer trip, where they would go slightly more slowly, and she would have been able to get into a rythmn and jump a lot better, had we have been given an accurate description at declarations we would have definitely not declared in the 2 mile handicap. To be fair to her, Volkovka did her best, but in hindsight, it all went wrong from the moment she was declared, due to being given a bum steer on the ground, and she was never going to be competitive from there. Thankfully she seems to be OK , and we will go again. She has lost none of her ability, and is back down to a mark that she will be winning off, her first start over fences in Wincanton on Boxing Day was a really good round of jumping, and she will be out again at the end of the month, and we will put the Hereford experience behind us.
From Hereford I headed down to Andoversford, not the ususal haunt of the Kilkeney, but just down the road at The Frogmill, a really nice room, and after a lovely lunch at the races it was just a couple of pints and a snack in the bar before heading up to watch West Ham beat Derby in the FA Cup. I was down there as we had a couple entered in Ffos Las on Tuesday, and I would have popped into Ravenswell to watch work in the morning before heading down to Wales, but both of the Ffos Las entrants were not declared, the ground still too soft for Hidden Beauty, and Gary decided that he would give Cloud Dancer an extra couple of weeks and send him over hurdles in Newbury instead. So just a Ravenswell work morning it was, and it was an excellent morning too! Mamoon Star looked in great order ahead of his run next week in Ludlow, his bloods were all wrong after his lacklustre effort in Kempton, but he looked in great form on Tuesday. Fortune Forever worked great, a mid season break away at Jason Maguires has done her the world of good,and really looks like being the making of her. She worked very well with a filly that has already won a bumper very easily, and it looks like the members of The Ravenstone Partnership could have a really fun spring with her! Hidden Beauty worked great as usual and as I type, has been declared in Taunton on Tuesday, and Blue Bikini worked nicely ahead of her trip to Hereford today - just one more thing on the Hereford going - ground that was given as Soft good to soft in places at 2.00pm on Monday, was suddenly Good, good to soft in places by 9.35am on Tuesday, when the going was published for todays meeting - just goes to show! in fact, the ground for todays meeting is given as Good, but Fergal has declared Blue Bikini in Taunton on Tuesday as well, as we were caught out on Monday and don't want to be caught out again! Greyval went out early on Tuesday morning, she was a little stiff after her run, but improved during the week, and after a bit of treatment from the vet on Friday she should be fine going forward. While at Ravenswell, we saw that she had been alloted an opening handicap marlk of 117 - which meant that we had a sit down and changed plans somewhat. Her next run was likely to be in a conditions race, but that has now changed and she is very likely to run in a handicap! Her Festival target could just change as well!
Wednesday was a day back at the ranch - office duties and the usual boring admin.
Thursday we headed over to Fakenham to see Auditoria run in their 2m 5f novices handicap chase. Audrey had run well in two mares chases with big pots, and had picked up place money in both - we had hoped to get a little nearer the front in the £37,500 final in Hereford, but sadly that day the ground was what they said - very testing, and she just couldn't get her paws out of it, eventually finishing a distant fourth. On Thursday, back in calmer waters, dropped slightly in trip on better ground and with blinkers fitted she ran really well to be second. Had she not got in tight to both the fourth and second last she may well have won - but either way - they are there to be jumped and she ran very well although one place better and we would have been the benficiaries of a £1000 bonus that the track have introduced this season - for any trainer that gets a double at a meeting, he/she and the owners of the horses involved both earn a £1k bonus - more good thinking from a well run little track! Audrey came out of her race in good order, and Sean Bowen was very quick to find her next race for her at the end of the month - he is quicker at finding races than cars!
Friday was a day off - and another of our trips down to London for lunch. A trip with a difference this time - rail strikes meaning we went by mini bus! Boys on tour. A good trip made in good time, and an excellent lunch in support of ex England Rugby star Lewis 'Mad Dog' Moody's charity. Moody was joined by his Leicester team mates Geordan Murphy and Leon Lloyd and it was a terrific lunch! We even managed to get home at a reasonable hour for us!
Saturday - a fantastic day of sport, the first day of The Dublin Racing Festival - the start of the Six Nations, good domestic racing and West Ham at Newcastle - I didn't go far! Apart from an England loss in the rugby - it was a good day! On Saturday evening we said goodbye to a dear old friend, when Molly Childers left The Elms to go to her new home in Ireland. Her owners took the difficult decision to sell her, and she will be living in Ireland from now. She was a wonderful racemare for them, and has given them Finbar - a bay colt by Falco, but after the sad passing of Kevin who adored her - it was felt that the right thing to do was to let her go. We wish her new owners the very best of luck with her!
Today we head to Hereford again to see Blue Bikini make her long awaited return to the track. She suffered with atrial fibrilation in the autumn, and was given a break to get over that. She is now A1 and working really well. This will be all about confidence, and if she has it, she should run well. With last weeks debacle re ground - Ferg has also declared her in Taunton on Tuesday just in case we get there today and think that the ground is not as described. Hidden Beauty ids also declared in Taunton and is an intended runner, can't wait to see her out again - she seems right back to her best after her bout of AF!
Around the rest - Itchy Feet has come out of his race really well - and now heads to the Cheltenham Festival - he was raised 5lbs to 143 when the handicap amendments were published on Tuesday, and will give his owners lots of fun - he will be aimed at the Grade 3 handicap hurdle in Aintree that opens Grand National Day after Cheltenham so they will certainly be going to some big gigs! There may be just a single 10% share remaining - get in touch quickly if you are interested - his details are on the For Sale Page. Tintagel Queen is in great form and will be out again in a couple of weeks although no race has been earmarked for her yet - it will be another bumper. Cloud Dancer heads over hurdles in Newbury, and Classic Ben heads back to Exeter. Dino Bellagio is bouncing after his win in Doncaster and he is another heading to the Grand National meeting in Aintree where he will run in the Grade 2 bumper that closes the card on Grand National day!
He recived this lovely gift from a fan this week - If the BHA want to bet more youngsters interested in racing perhaps they should concentrate more on the horses! Thank you Olivia
Next week looks busy - a few runners, overnight stays, and a couple of yard visits.
Pop by next Sunday for a catch up!