New Trainer On The Team

As I wrote last weeks epistle, England were in the process of winning a gripping first Test in India – seven days later, after a fantastic spell of bowling by Indian paceman Jasprit Bumrah yesterday, they find themselves up against it slightly – but you can never write this team off, which is what makes watching this England side so much fun!

Monday started with a couple of video clips from two different yards. Sally sent across a clip of Blue Bikini having a pop up the schooling strip at Ravenswell, and Alan King sent one of Rockola having her first pop over hurdles on grass at Barbury Castle. Both in great form, Blue Bikini would get an entry later in the week, and Rockola schooled so nicely we would make a slight change of plan with her when we all met up later in the week.

Blue Bikini schooling over hurdles 

Rockola schooling (near side) 

 Dino Bellagio, who had not recovered from his hind leg lameness that materialised after his run in Doncaster, made the trip down to the Newmarket Equine Hospital, where he would undergo a full body nuclear scintigraphic examination -a bone scan in plain English. With the tools available to him at the yard, Donald’s vet had been unable to diagnose the cause of the lameness, but the body scan would show that there was a significant injury to his left hind cannon bone. The next day, when Dino was less ‘radioactive’ he underwent further tests which identified a fracture, but not a fracture as you may imagine it – not the typical fracture you commonly see on an X-Ray, this an internal injury within the bone itself. The good news is that he will make a full recovery after a period of rest and rehabilitation at Ivy Lodge Farm. Sadly, we will not see him out again this season and we will just draw a line under the 2023/24 season with him. We had such high hopes for him, but it has not gone to plan, thankfully he will make a full recovery, be a year older and wiser, and  remain a novice for next season. It is no secret how much Donald and the team think of him, he has an awful lot of ability, and we had a plan mapped out for him this year that would have taken him to some very big days – but it didn’t pan out like that – but with this frustrating season under his belt, he can hopefully make up for lost time, and we can follow the route that we had planned for him last summer! He obviously sustained the fracture in the race in Doncaster, which explains why he travelled into the race so well, before stopping quickly – that race did show that he still has bags of ability and with a clear run he will be a very exciting horse for next season.

The rest of the day was spent trawling through books in search of a covering stallion for Savingforvegas.  She did not carry her pregnancy very far last year – so this year we have the freedom to travel her where we want to – and have decided to send her to France. She will travel to Normandy, where she is likely to be covered by exciting young sire Nirvana De Berlais, who is a dual Grade 1 winning son of Martaline. He is a big horse, and I think he is well matched with SFV.

            Tuesday and the day that last week’s handicap adjustments are published. Cloud Dancer was raised a further 3 to 125 without leaving the yard. He suffered a slight set back after his seasonal debut in Ascot where he ran a mighty race, which is a real shame as Gary had planned to have him out in a handicap a couple of weeks later – where he would have looked on a nice mark now, as he was originally allotted and opening mark of 120 after Ascot – the form of the Ascot race has worked out supremely well, resulting in Cloud Dancers opening mark of 120 rising to 125. He is back sound again now and will soon be back on track – he still has the option of novice hurdles, or could step into handicap company – we were certain that he would improve off the back of his seasonal bow in Ascot – and will certainly relish a step up in trip, so the future looks bright for him – can’t wait to see him out again. The other one to move in the ratings was Auditoria, who was dropped just 1lb after her run in Catterick – we were hoping she would drop a couple – but every little helps – she has come out of that race well, and the drop in the ratings will certainly help when she gets better ground in the next couple of months.

Tuesdays is a work morning in plenty of yards – at Ravenswell – Fortune Forever worked nicely, and she will step up in trip in another handicap in the next couple of weeks.


 One that did work really well was Intrepide Sud, and it is great to see him back and going so well. He has been off games for over 18 months but is back to his best and is ready to run! Donald McCain also gave our Racing Club horse, Ridin Solo a couple of entries next week – Carlisle on Monday and Sedgefield on Wednesday. The form of his hurdling debut is working out quite nicely, and Donald is quite confident that he will run a big race wherever he runs.

            Wednesday, we had a couple on the move – early in the morning Dino Bellagio was discharged from the Newmarket Equine Hospital and made his way down to Jason Maguires Ivy Lodge Farm, where he will have his rehab. As he was unloaded off of the lorry, Reflexion Faite was loaded back on it – and she made her way back to Newmarket. She has been in pretraining with Jason, and it was time for her to head back into training. Although she was heading back to Newmarket where she was trained last summer, she would not be staying there this time, she would be transferring to another horsebox and making the trip up the A1 to a new home. She has gone into training for the 2024 flat season with Nigel Tinkler in Malton. We have known Nigel for years and he is one of the most colourful characters in the game – never short of a story, and more importantly a very good trainer! Reflexion Faite will be well suited by the switch, and we are all looking forward to seeing her out again. Although she is a finely made filly, we think that she will be stronger this summer, and will be able to see out a more suitable trip. Thanks to Kevin Philippart De Foy and his team for their efforts last year – her move is no reflection on him as a man, or his abilities to train – it is simply a case of where a filly like her is better off being trained. There will be some fun nights in Malton over the summer for sure!

Horses may have been on the move on Wednesday, but one man that wasn’t was Fergal who was struck down with a really nasty chest infection. He went home after watching work on Tuesday and was confined to barracks until Friday. It must have been bad to keep him away from the yard. Even without him at the helm the ship still sails on, and with the Catterick ground going back to Soft, Heavy in places after heavy rain earlier in the week, Blue Bikini was not declared there, but she was entered in Market Rasen where the ground looked like being far more favourable next week. Greyval also seems to be back to her best, and she got an entry in Taunton on the same day, although she does have a further option in Kempton on the Friday. Later in the afternoon, Nigel Tinkler phoned to say that Reflexion Faite had arrived safe and sound, and that he was very much looking forward to cracking on with her. He was very impressed with the job that Jason Maguire had done with her – she looked fantastic!

            Thursday morning spent in the office, Ridin Solo entered in Sedgefield. In the afternoon I headed over to Newmarket to Park Paddocks for the Tattersalls February sale. I definitely did not have my bidding boots on – nothing at this sale to ‘float our boat’ we have a system of sourcing our horses now, and it does not involve the sales in Newmarket. Preferring to source our horses as youngsters, or if in training, from France, where the way they race means that the horses that we source from there are more likely to go on to success over hurdles over here. Even ones that don’t end up on our team are testament to the fact that the system works – although seeing one that we didn’t get over the line last year win at the Dublin Racing Festival yesterday was a tough watch – especially as it had won in Cheltenham earlier in the season as well!! Still, it proves that the system we have in place and the network of people that we have over there both work well!

While in Newmarket I did catch up with the vet that has been attending to both Dino Bellagio and Tintagel Queen. He will check in on Dino in a month at Ivy Lodge Farm, and he gave me an update on TQ who he had seen on Wednesday – he has now found that she has a fractured tibia, which has now shown up on X Ray. He has allowed her to be let down off of her pillar reins and will do an internal scan of her pelvis next week. He did try on Wednesday, but she was not too keen on that, and she will head down the road to another of Olly’s properties where the process can be carried out while she is in a set of stocks, which will be much safer for all parties. When the vet is happy with her, she will join Dino at Ivy Lodge Farm, to rehab there – she is another who has a very bright future – the season did not go to plan – but she remains a novice for next season and we can repeat the plan that we had for her this season which would have seen her step up into pattern company in the spring! She will be worth the wait!

            Friday was an early start, and a trip down to Barbury Castle to see Alan King, meet a group of Rockola’s owners and watch her work. Rockola would be working second lot – but things were not looking good as we headed to the grass gallop to see four work on turf first lot. The mist and fog rolled in, and there was not a lot to see. Thankfully as quickly as it rolled in it rolled out again, and we had a clear view of Rockola work three times up the hill at Sharpridge. She did it well, once again showing how tough she is – she really doesn’t want to be beaten in her work! Having watched her work, and after she schooled on Monday, Alan and I both agreed that she should head straight over hurdles. It is a huge ask for a four year old to take on their elders at this time of year even though they receive a huge weight for age allowance, and as there are no races restricted to her own age group for the foreseeable future, she is better off heading over hurdles where she can run in National Hunt Junior Hurdles and take on horses in her own age group. She has shown in bumpers that she has plenty of ability, and as her whole life thus far has been geared to run over hurdles this season it makes a lot of sense to make the switch. She has been schooling since she was a 2 yr old – and that will stand her in good stead. She has an entry in Doncaster on Thursday – she will school again on Monday, and work on the turf on Tuesday and if Alan is happy with her, she is likely to take her chance.

A misty start

Thankfully cleared

Rockola makes her way home after work

Rockolas owners meet superstar Edwardstone

           Saturday – and it was great to see Intrepide Sud get his first entry since he injured himself when winning a bumper in July 2022. Soft ground at this time of year is not going to be ideal, but we would rather start him back on some juicy turf which will be better for his legs, before progressing to the better ground in the spring. He has been entered in a novices hurdle in Bangor on Dee and will have further entries going forward.  Another one to get an entry was Greyval who was popped into a Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle in Kempton on Friday. The Red Sash Racing Club will have their second runner on Monday – Donald McCain deciding to declare Ridin Solo in Carlisle – he has won 3 of the last 4 runnings of the race, so he knows what it takes to win it, and his video update to Club members earlier in the week was very positive.

            Sunday – England have just bowled India out and need 399 to win the second Test – that will be a monumental effort, but with this England team – you never know! Greyval not declared in Taunton on Tuesday – she will head to Kempton on Friday where she will be ridden by Jack Hogan, Blue Bikini will head to Market Rasen on Tuesday – Connor Brace will be back in the plate! Sadly, Fern who gave her such a good ride in Catterick when she won before Christmas has to attend a course as part of her jockeys license, so is unavailable. Her claim would have been handy – but we know BB likes the track, loves the ground, and could well have more to offer over this trip – so hopefully we have a good day!

            Around the remainder – at Warren Chase – Itchy Feet is fine and will head to Haydock in a couple of weeks. At Ravenswell Farm, Mamoon Star is back and cantering away – he has had a mid winter break and will be back on better ground in the spring. Hidden Beauty and Maria’s Flame have had another easy week and the vet will check them both again in a couple of weeks time. At Ivy Lodge Farm – Old Blue Eyes is doing plenty of cantering and will shortly make his way back up to Donalds. Hopefully we will get to see him out in the spring. Our 2 yr old by The Grey Gatsby is looking great – he has wintered really well, and a decision as to which route he takes – training or sales, will be made in the summer. Either way he looks like he will do a job for his new owners. If he doesn’t head to the sales – he looks ideal for a junior bumper next year!

The Grey Gatsby Gelding - 2 yr old - a gorgeous horse with a big future! 

England have made a bright start to their 4th innings – fingers crossed it continues!

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