Year Of The Rear

            Year Of The Rear – you may be expecting the kind of photos that appear on our social media around the time that Blue Bikini makes a racecourse appearance – not this time!

            Another week where there was plenty going on as usual. Monday spent in the office, since the turn of the year the racing industry has woken from its slumbers, and a whole host of trainers have decided that 2024 is the year that they need to look at getting a new horsebox. I have rarely known 2 busier weeks – with a host of trainers looking for quotes and valuations on their current vehicles. It is always good to chat with so many, and through the dealings that I have had with a few of them about their horseboxes, we have got to know them well. and have sent them a horse when we think that we have the right one to suit their stable and training methods. It is no coincidence that all of the trainers currently on our roster, have purchased a horsebox from me – one that escaped for too long was McCain – who managed to go over 12 months having a horse of ours in the yard, and not having a horsebox from me – glad to say that that situation has now been rectified, which I was quick to point out to a well-known trainer when he suggested that it was time that we had a horse in training with him when I ran into him at the bar on New Years Day. We will see how those negotiations go now that he has returned from Barbados!

It is fair to say that Whatsapp has been a game changer in the way that we are able to communicate with owners, clients and syndicate members. I can remember in the not too distant past when everything was done by phone – and I would call each and every member of a syndicate with updates about their horses – it was hugely time consuming, and with the numbers that we currently have in training it would simply be impossible to do now. Whatsapp is a great way of getting frequent and regular updates out to everyone, but as time has progressed, it has become our main way of communicating. Things can get a little bit confusing when everyone is getting in touch in so many different ways – email, Whatsapp, Messenger, X Message, text messages and Telegram are all methods used by folks to get in touch – so I have tried to simplify things a bit, and now try to get all communication going through Whatsapp – each horse having its own Group where I post updates – and it has been good to see members, as they have got to know each other, put together their own private groups where they can discuss their horses and arrange lifts to the races and other social events.  To this end I spent a good deal of Monday creating the Whatsapp group for Ridin Solo – a large group of folks that had been involved with a now defunct syndicate had been set up on Telegram, and many of the folks on there had got involved with Ridin Solo – but we have also had a huge number of members join from outside that group – so I felt that the right thing to do was to pull everyone together onto the one platform, and set up the Ridin Solo Whatsapp group – to which all new members can be added should they wish.

Ridin Solo got himself an entry in Wetherby on Saturday – he had been entered in Sedgefield on Friday – and although the races would come a week too soon for him – he has come out of his race in such good form, that it was worth popping him in the pair of them in case they were to cut up and be very winnable options for him. Always good to keep as many options open as possible.

Ridin Solo after work on Tuesday

Itchy Feet was another that was given an entry for a race on Saturday, but Olly decided to take him out before entries closed at 12.00pm. Itchy is in great form, and he has a number of race options through January – with the final one being this years renewal of the race that he won in Huntingdon last year. The plan is to have a look at two more races that could suit him as we go through the month, and if any of those look like good opportunities for him, then he could take his chance in one of them – if he has not run by the time the Huntingdon race comes around then he will go there for sure – after which he will follow the same path as last year, and head to Haydock for the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle in February before heading to The Cheltenham Festival, and then on to either Aintree, or possibly Punchestown – although Olly doesn’t know about my Punchestown idea yet!

Dino Bellagio was declared to run in Doncaster on Wednesday – his hurdles debut was nothing short of a disaster, and Donald and the team had done so much work in the 3 months since that Bangor start, that Dino must have been sick of the sight of hurdles. When you don’t know why something happened – it is difficult to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and no stone had been left unturned, and all the signs at home were that he was in a good place, and ready to go – so he was declared – now we would see!

            Tuesday started badly – Olly calling from Dubai where he was on holiday to say that Tintagel Queen had pulled up very lame after a piece of work that morning. The vet was on hand, and thankfully she was seen very quickly. Her injury, thankfully not as bad as first thought, but still a serious one – as she has put a small fracture in her pelvis and will miss the remainder of the season. Very frustrating, as we were only getting going with her, and had only put a nice plan in place for her the week before, one that would have seen her stepping up into Listed company in the spring. Thankfully her injury will cause her no ongoing issues, and after a period of box rest, and rehab at Ivy Lodge Farm, she will be as good as new. She is such a big mare, that the break will actually do her no harm at all and will give her the chance to develop and fill her frame even more over the summer. She will remain a novice next season, and we will be able to follow the same plan next season as this one – although she will return to training earlier and start out on the track earlier next season. One mare that will be out next week will be Fortune Forever, who has been working very well since her last run in Kelso. She now switches to handicaps and will also be given the chance to run over half a mile more as she steps up from 2m to 2m4f, which should suit her very well. She was entered in a mares’ handicap hurdle in Hereford on Monday 15th. Also on Tuesday I got to spend an enjoyable and quite long lunch with Steve, and existing client who has some very exciting plans for his involvement in the sport in the coming years - we have been talking about them for a while, but they are getting closer to fruition - so a slightly more in depth chat was required - we went through a few options - had a couple of pints and a really good lunch in the Bedford Arms in Oakley! 

            Wednesday and we headed up to Doncaster to see how Dino would perform on his second start over hurdles. He couldn’t be any worse than on his debut, which ended at half way with him pulling up after four scary leaps! Donald had done everything he could – and in addition Dino had suffered a minor setback in the 3 months since Bangor so it had not been a simple build up with him. Donald had decided that he would pop a set of cheekpieces on Dino, which seemed to have focused his mind at home – but did so knowing that there was a good chance that with Dino being a keen going sort of horse anyway – they may just light him up a touch, and he could well run a bit keen in the race. In addition – Brian was keen to let him get a good view of his hurdles which meant he would be lining up in front rank and Dino would have no cover, which would not help Brian to keep the brakes on. Dino behaved impeccably, and jumped beautifully, but as expected he was always doing a bit too much throughout and ended up, after travelling very much like the winner turning in – getting tired and coming home in his own time. It was mission accomplished – as it was all about getting round – we have learnt a little more about him – next time the cheekpieces could come off, and he could be ridden with more restraint. He will improve no end for the run, and it was a solid foundation form which to build. After the race I said to the syndicate members that were there – it was a bit like having a Ferrari, adding a Nitros Oxide Injection system to it (The cheekpieces) and then making Brian drive it with his foot on the brake and the handbrake pulled up under his armpit!!

Dino Bellagio pre race

Heading to post under Brian Hughes

Post Race 

While at Doncaster I had a good chat with Donald about the plans for Ridin Solo, and we both agreed that he would not be declared at the weekend, and that he would get a little extra time. He is in great form, but I have always liked horses to have a nice length of time between runs unless circumstances dictate otherwise and there are no other options – as I have always said, patience is always repaid – and Ridin Solo will be out again in 10-14 days’ time. On the way home I caught up with Olly Murphys head man – Ger Tumelty for an update on Tintagel Queen – who was comfortable , eating and being a very good patient – she had been pillar reined – where she is tied up, with ropes on either side of her head to both adjacent walls, which prevents her from lying down, as horses can do untold damage to a fractured pelvis by getting down and then getting up again. Being a good patient gives her the very best chance of as speedy a recovery as possible. Having left the races before the concluding bumper I was keen to see how one had got on in the last – Off The Jury, a full brother to our own Rockola, and a horse that we had bought as a foal and sold as a 3 yr old and who had won his debut point to point in good fashion in the spring before selling for 170,000 euros. It is a real coincidence that both him and Rockola ended up in the same yard – and it was good to see him run a race full of promise to finish second under his owner/rider, amateur, David Maxwell. He looks to have a nice future, and like Rockola, certainly looks capable of winning a bumper. Alan King is back next week, and I will get a full update on Rockola on his return, but she is back cantering, after a mid winter break, and should be out again in February.

            Thursday and I checked in with Donald to see how Dino was, and although he had come home, eaten up and done everything you could have wished for post race, sadly he was not sound – he was slightly lame behind. The vet was in the yard and checked him over – and thankfully he could not find anything clearly amiss with him – he advised to put him away until after the weekend and look at him again early next week. Hopefully he has just pulled himself about in the race, and a few days off will see him right – it doesn’t seem too serious at this stage – but he is another one that has been found to be lame behind this season – hence the year of the rear!! Hidden Beauty fractured her pelvis in early 2023 and was a little sore in that area again last week, missing the chance to run in Doncaster. Old Blue Eyes gave himself a small injury to his pelvis in November but is back on song now and cantering away with Jason Maguire.Tintagel Queen suffered the same this week, and of course, although not a pelvic injury, Volkovka suffered a career ending infection in a hind leg a few weeks ago, and actually left Ravenswell Farm on Wednesday to continue her life as a broodmare, and she will be covered this spring. We wish her new owners the very best of luck with her, and I will keep everyone up to speed with how she is doing in her new career. Huge thanks to those members of her syndicate that have agreed to take shares in the other horses that we have – we thank them for their continued support and wish them well with their new horses!

            Friday one of our owners was in at Ravenswell and sent glowing reports on a couple of the horses in work there – he spied Fortune Forever doing a nice piece of work, and was really taken with Intrepide Sud, who was flying up the hill! With a day at home it was time to get the Blue Bikini trophy auction underway – having set up the picture and glass tumblers that she won to photograph and send out to her owners to get the auction underway – it was nothing short of a disaster when I managed to let the box that contained the glasses to somehow come into contact with the floor, which didn’t end well for the glasses! Well done to Ryan who had the top bid – which will be heading off to The Injured Jockeys Fund next week – he will receive a replacement pair of tumblers – not these ones!!


After - oops!

            Saturday and a chance to catch up with Fergal who had no runners on the day and who was back from a break in his native Ireland. We went through all the team at Ravenswell – He, like Jack has been very pleased with Intrepide Sud , and although he can’t give me an exact date when he will be ready to run again – he says he is not far off a run – it will be good to see him back – I had planned on him going straight over hurdles – but will discuss the option of another bumper run when I am in at the yard on Tuesday morning. Hurdles still the more likely, as his jumping is something to behold! Maria’s Flame is bouncing, and although she was a huge disappointment in Newbury, absolutely nothing came to light as to a reason – so we just have to put it down to the ground and move on. She worked great on Saturday morning and will have a couple of entries in juvenile hurdles in a couple of weeks. Where she ends up will be decided when I sit down with Ferg on Tuesday. Greyval has had a quiet spell after a flat run in Newbury, at the time I had put the performance down to her being a 4 yr old in against older mares, but Fergal is less sure about that and is convinced that he has not had her quite right this season – hopefully she will bounce back as she gets a bit of sun on her back. Hidden Beauty was ever so slightly lame earlier in the week and missed the chance to go to Donny. She will be checked again on Tuesday, and hopefully she will be given the green light to resume full work. Blue Bikini worked really well on Saturday morning and has an entry in Ludlow next week. She relished the step up to staying trips when she won in Catterick, and the dry forecast is very much in her favour. If the meeting escapes the big freeze and gets the go ahead, she should run very well again in a race that looks tailor made for her - could her incredible run continue?

Down at Ivy Lodge Farm, Reflexion Faite is looking fantastic – and is back in full ridden work. Old Blue Eyes is back cantering, and the plan is to get him back to Bankhouse as soon as possible so that we can either get a run into him this spring – or he can have a racecourse gallop which will complete his education and he will be ‘oven ready’ for the autumn.

Reflexion Faite


Old Blue Eyes is feeling well! 

Old Blue Eyes in a more sensible mood. 

Mamoon Star is having a spell off work but will head to Laura Collett to do some flat work and dressage before returning to Ravenswell for a spring/summer campaign – better ground will see him in a much better light for sure. Down at Gary Moores, Cloud Dancer is back doing plenty of work, and will be out again soon. It was good to see Junkanoo go so close in a very decent novice hurdle in Kempton yesterday. CD’s form is rock solid and he is a really exciting horse for the future! At Warren Chase – Auditoria has had her flu jab over the new year – and has had an easy few days afterwards – there are plenty of options for her, and she may well be seen over hurdles when she reappears in the next couple of weeks – I will leave that decision up to Olly. Two really good results from yesterday’s racing – James Best winning the Classic Chase in Warwick – James is a fantastic bloke – and I was delighted for him! Also, really good to see Romeo Coolio win the bumper in Fairyhouse for KTDA Racing. Romeo Coolio is another graduate of our pinhooking schemes – and a horse we have always loved – we sold him at the 2022 Derby Sale in Fairyhouse, and he went on to win his sole start in Point to Points very easily for Donnchadh Doyle before being sold for £420,000 at the Cheltenham Festival Sale last year. Funny how things turn out – but he was purchased by Dave Page and Dave Rabson – who we know well – Dave Page having actually been involved in our pinhooking syndicates – but as it turns out – not the one that owned Romeo Coolio. Everyone that has ever had anything to do with Romeo Coolio has always spoken of him in the most glowing of terms – they think the world of him, and he looks to have the very brightest of futures!

Romeo Coolio and the team - it is a real thrill to have been associated with such a talented horse - I hope he does everything they think he can! 

            Tomorrow we head to Hereford, Tuesday into see Fergal and to start filming the first of our ‘In behind’ features that will be available to all the members of The Red Sash Racing Club in the members area of the website – really excited about this, and the first episode will be very informative and lift the lid on a few things that we hear a lot about in racing, but that very few actually get to witness, which should lead to a far greater understanding of the horse, and racing as a whole. All you have to do is head over to – purchase a share in Ridin Solo and you will get access to all of these interesting features that we will be bringing to members – which is sure to vastly increase your understanding of racing and the horses that run for us!  I will get to at least one more yard as well, and hopefully Ludlow later in the week.

            Fingers crossed the big freeze doesn’t mess things up for us!

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