Our season really feels like it has kicked into gear now – three runners in the past week, at three different tracks, and more entries planned for next week – although looking at the weather forecast (what do you call a period of summer weather after an Indian Summer??) the plans that we have in place may have to be redrawn as many of the intended runners would not want watered ground.
Monday we were at home, and enjoying the video updates that were coming in from Ravenswell Farm where Blue Bikini had a school over hurdles, along with Fortune Forever, who would go on to make her hurdles debut later in the week. Little did I know at the time, that over the course of the next five days that jumping would be the main topic of conversation in my world – it would be a big part of our week, and some of it not in a good way! A big reason for that was Dino Bellagio who Donald McCain declared in Bangor on Dee on Wednesday in a 2m novice hurdle, a race in which he would make his hurdling debut.
Tuesday, with Cheryl heading out to Crete for a holiday in the early hours, I headed to the Cotswolds – no break for me, but a really fun morning at a couple of yards. First stop Ravenswell Farm, to see the horses there. I think I would have had to leave home when Cheryl did (1.30am) if I had wanted to see Hidden Beauty work. She is in fine form, and a sure sign of that is how she acts on work mornings– Fergal describes her antics as ‘slightly disruptive’, and they have found that she is much better if she goes out in an early lot – which now means that she heads out with a smaller string at 6.15am. It is much better for her, although the report of her work from her trainer has to be treated with caution given that it was too dark to see how she went! She only does this on work mornings, every other day when she is on the round or schooling, she goes out normally with one of the lots. Looking at her, and hearing what the lads are saying about her work and her schooling she seems to be in a really good place, and we are really looking forward to running her. She enjoys Good ground, but she would not be risked on overly watered ground, so, again, given the forecast we may have to be patient with her for a week or two. Gallop maintenance is very important, and this week there has been extensive work done at two of the yards where we have horses, Olly Murphy had the diggers in turning his sand gallop over, and topping it up with more sand, which he actually brings over from Ireland, and Fergal was getting the hill gallop freshened up and turned over ahead of the busy winter months. On Tuesday this work was still on going, so the horses cantered on the round gallop and then headed over the back of the hill to the field, where they did twice up the hill on turf. This is where they go when the gallop is under snow in the winter, and it is a lovely change for the horses they really enjoyed it! First lot saw Mamoon Star stride up the hill, with another one that was once part of the team – Horaces Pearl, who we had from a yearling through to a 3 yr old, when he was called Big Yellow Boss. I’m not surprised his new owners renamed him! He has been given lots of time to mature by his owners Matt and Sally Burford, which he very much needed, but their patience was rewarded when he won a bumper in impressive style in Wincanton on his only start last season. Mamoon Star has really matured as you would expect, and he is looking and going very well. Greyval led the string up the hill, and Liam Harrison reported her to be in fantastic shape and all set for her seasonal bow in Chepstow next weekend. Volkovka came up on her own as usual, and she, like Hidden Beauty, seems to be in a much better ‘place’ than she was last season, she is settled, and moving so well, her schooling as been exceptional. Second lot I saw Maria’s Flame on the round gallop along with Blue Bikini and Fortune Forever, who was declared for her hurdles debut in Warwick on Thursday. Maria’s Flame is very well and has her first entry in Huntingdon on Tuesday in a Junior Bumper, but as I write the ground there has gone Good to Firm in places and she will not be risked on that – she will wait, and run later in the month. From Fergal’s I headed over to Ivy Lodge Farm to see the two horses we currently have there. Intrepide Sud is now back in work, he was having his hind shoes on, and was on the walker. He will be brought along slowly and carefully after his injury but should be back at Ravenswell in a couple of months. It was so good to see the yearling by The Grey Gatsby, he is an absolute stunner – along with his size and scope, he really has impressive substance and is a very athletic mover. He has an awful lot of growing to do, and I am surer than ever that the plan we have in place for him is both a good one, and the right one. There are a couple of shares left for sale in him, have a look at what we have mapped out for him on the FOR SALE page and get in touch, he could just be a nice little investment.
Fun on the turf
On Wednesday we headed up to Bangor on Dee for the eagerly awaited hurdles debut of Dino Bellagio – although probably not so eagerly awaited by his trainer, who had warned that he may be a bit novicey over his hurdles early doors. Well, we were not quite prepared for what unfolded for sure! Dino looked great in the paddock – Donald had said he would improve for the run, but he was ready to start. He behaved impeccably and went to post nicely. When the tapes went up Brian had him settled on the inner, and all looked in order. Then we get to the first – which he jumped like he has never seen a hurdle before – let alone one that must have been on fire judging by the daylight he gave it! So having landed over the first it was on to the second, where hopefully, having learned from his first jump in public, he would be better – not so – a lot worse. A huge leap, with a massive dive to his right, cannoning into another runner. This was not good – we had no idea he would be this bad. He actually jumped the third ok, and we had a hope that he was finally learning, but then when he was not good at the fourth, Brian pulled him up. He just wasn’t travelling, and it was the only thing to do. Brian had him immediately checked by the vet that was following the field round, and they could find nothing amiss, and he cantered back to us waiting by the enclosures. Dino seemed fine and was again checked when he got back to the racecourse stables, and once again all seemed well with him. Not the start we had all envisaged for our little star, but he seems OK, He was ridden again for the first time since his run yesterday and all seems fine, but Donald will take his time and look into a few things a little more deeply before we see him out again. Not only did he give himself one almighty fright, but there may also be an underlying issue that added to it. Rest assured he will get the very best of attention for sure!
Dino looking a picture in the paddock
He seems fine afterwards
It was a long journey home – but I was cheered up significantly by a chat I had with Alan King. He had sent a video of the 3 yur old filly by Jukebox Jury that we have in training at Barbury Castle earlier in the day, and she looked to go very nicely indeed. I suggested to Alan that judging by the way she works and the horses she is working with that she must have an above average level of ability, and he agreed – ‘Just look at what she is working with – and she’s only three’. He said we should crack on and get her named, as he would be looking for races for her very soon! As you can see from the video where she is seen in the front on the far side, she goes really nicely, and really gets her head down and tries! She is upsides a 5 yr old bumper winner, with a 130 rated hurdler in behind along with a very highly regarded, unraced 6 yr old. She looks like being a lot of fun, and we have sold a couple of shares in her this week after folks saw the video on social media, and it will not be long before the remainder are snapped up – have a look at her on the For Sale Page and get in touch – you will not regret it – she will be making her debut in the next few weeks!
On Thursday we started off tracking declarations in Fontwell, where Olly had made a last minute decision and entered Auditoria. There were very few entries in the race just before it closed on Monday, and despite the trip being shorter than ideal, Olly felt it was worth putting her in in case it cut up to very few runners. It was a good spot, and he decided to declare her at 9.59am – with just 3 declared and 1 minute to go – as it turned out – 1 other trainer had the same idea, and there ended up with a field of 5 – but it was a good place to start her 23/24 campaign. Late morning, I headed up to Warwick – I spoke to Donald on the way and he reported that Dino seemed fine that morning, so the head scratching continued. At Warwick, Fortune Forever was making her hurdling debut in the opener, a mares novices hurdle over 2m. She had schooled very well at home, and although in time she will want at least 2m4f – this was a track she was familiar with, and it was the right race to start her in. She too looked fantastic in the paddock, and Paddy, having schooled her earlier in the week was looking forward to riding her. There did not look to be much pace on in the race, so he was keen to get her out in the front rank as she would be inconvenienced by a sprint, and being in rear would be the wrong place to be. At least this time the pair got to post in one piece – the last time Paddy had ridden FF she had stopped dead on the way to the start and fired him over her ears! As the tapes went up Paddy was very handy – in front! But that changed when they got to the first, where FF was very novicey and slow. For one minute I had visions of another Dino! To say her jumping was not the best would be an understatement, but she kept on battling, and was travelling better than everything as they left the back straight, with the front four pulling well clear of the remainder. Another mistake at the last cost her any chance, although she was probably booked for second anyway – as the easy winner had her held at the time, but she stayed on gamely to retain second place. As she pulled up, Ferg and I just looked at each other, and said ‘We’ll take that’. It had not been pretty – in fact it was one of the worst jumping displays I have seen in our colours – but I think after Wednesday, Dino holds that dubious honour, and will do for some time! After doing so much wrong, this was a very good start for FF, with the improvement that is sure to come in her jumping as she gains experience, and with a step up in trip sure to suit – it looks like it will be a fun season with her! Good to see so many of her owners at the track – it was a fun afternoon.
Fortune Forever in the paddock
We will take second
The journey home less so – Just before I left the track, I had popped up to see Olly Murphy in his box, and the conversation had got round to cars, and Range Rovers in particular. I had mentioned that mine had been good to me over the years with very few problems – Oh how I wish I had kept my mouth shut! 7 miles from home – and pulling away from a set of traffic lights and there is an almighty pop from under the bonnet – an immediate loss of power – a strange ‘sucking’ noise and plenty of smoke out the back! Not good. A quick call to my mechanic mate Adrian – who assured me it was OK to drive to his yard. Well, it got there, although I may have destroyed half a rainforest somewhere! What we had thought on the day was a broken turbo hose, turned out to be a busted inlet manifold. A 5.5 hour fix, and according to Jaguar Land Rover, a 7 month wait for the part! Luckily my man is on the ball and we will have one by Tuesday! In the meantime, I get to drive around in a ‘courtesy car’ – which he even supplied in our colours!
Friday, and an early start for Itchy Feet, who headed for an away day gallop. For his entire life he has worked with Thomas Derby on these away days, and once again he worked really well – he’s in fine form! I will head over to Warren Chase next week and discuss race options with Olly. I have a little plan – and I think it might just work! As per Alan Kings instructions earlier in the week, we cracked on and got the suggestions for a name in from the owners of the Jukebox Jury filly. As I still own a share, I got to have a go! We had some good ones, and it was good to see so many of the syndicate get involved – when the votes were counted on Saturday it was Rockola that won – Rockola were jukebox manufacturers back in the day – and the ‘La’ gives a nod to her dam La Pelodette – It’s a good name – but I would say that – as it was my suggestion! Imagine if Donald Trump owned a share!!It was also fantastic to get an update on our other horse by Jukebox Jury – Cloud Dancer who is really going well down with Gary Moore. He is a different horse this time round, and I am really looking forward to seeing him back on track very soon. He schooled this week and was as good as ever, and the experience he got on the track last season will see him in good stead this year – so there will be huge amounts of fun to be had with him!
On Saturday we headed down to Fontwell to see Auditoria have her first start of the season. As mentioned, this race was not on her dance card originally, but it was a great spot by Olly, and he was pretty confident she would go close. Sean Bowen down for just the one ride. With only 5 in the race, one out of the weights, and a couple of chase debutants, the plan was to buck out in front and use her excellent jumping over this trip which was a bit shorter than ideal. She looked terrific in the paddock – winning the best turned out award and after the jumping performances I had watched this week, it was lovely to see her pop round in front and really enjoy herself. She was foot perfect, and her owners never had a moments worry. Rounding the top bend I thought that the plan had worked perfectly, but the favourite loomed, and heading to the last the writing was on the wall - with Audrey finishing second. A great start to the season and there will be heaps of fun to be had with her this winter – she goes on all ground, any track, and never lets us down – she picks up a cheque virtually every time she runs, and she runs every month! What is not to like? The perfect syndicate horse! I have a share available in her should anyone like to join in – just get in touch! She has come out of her race fine and is enjoying a morning in the paddock at the yard!
Auditoria and Jordan in the paddock
Heading to post
Lovely round of jumping
The happy couple
I have often said that the fun of managing syndicates is the people you meet as well as the horses we run – and yesterday it was good to have the time to sit and have lunch with a good group of Audreys owners – some we just don’t see enough of! It was over the course of lunch that I discovered that one of them had once had my dream job – they had been the person that selected Playboy Bunnys!! I mean – really!! What a gig! Not only did they select the Bunnys, but they also ferried them around the country to events that they were appearing at! I want that job, they tell me you even got to ‘fluff a Bunnys tail’ You see – you meet the best people when you get involved in our syndicates – sign up and enjoy the ride!
Around the remainder of the team all, is well – at Warren Chase, Tintagel Queen is starting to get her figure back – and shed the summer excess. When Olly is happy with her condition, he will start he faster work. Up at Bankhouse, Old Blue Eyes is still having an easier time of things, he is only 3 and a very nice horse, so Donald will take his time with him and not rush him. In Newmarket Reflexion Faite has an entry in a 6f nursery in Newcastle on Friday. She was not 100% sound yesterday morning, a slight foot infection the probable cause, if so, that should be cleared up by tomorrow and she will be good to go – if she is held up any longer, she may have to miss her engagement.
All in all, a satisfactory week, Dino a disappointment, but at least he seems to be OK at this stage. Fortune Forever ran really well with the promise of so much more to come, and Auditoria ran really well, and reaffirmed why she was kept on the team – for good days out – great fun – and the chance to meet a Bunny Fluffer!!
Who will we run into next week – if you have had a job that can beat that then let me know!
If at first you don’t succeed – you’re running at about average!